Top

Top

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 1st December, 2011.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson (Chairman); Councillor J.C. Bird (Vice-Chairman); Councillors R.J. Bertin, N.P. Hodges, J.W. Thomas and R.P. Thomas.

 

Also present:  Councillors Mrs. A.J. Moore and N. Moore (local Ward Members), Councillor P. Church (Cabinet Member) and Councillor G. John; Messrs. J. Farrington and B. Fisher (Tenants Panel / Working Group).

 

Representatives from Dow Corning Ltd: Messrs J. Coldman, M. Squire and R. Taylor.

 

Representative of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service: Station Commander Mr. M. Evans.

 

 

638     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks, E.T. Williams and Ms. M. Wright; Mr. G. Amos and Mrs. D. Hill (Tenants Working Group / Panel).

 

           

639     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes held on 2nd November, 2011 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

640     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

641     INCIDENT AT DOW CORNING: 1ST OCTOBER 2011 (DLPPHS) AND (REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION) -

 

The Chairman welcomed the representatives from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Dow Corning Ltd (the Company). to the meeting.  Following introductions, the Chairman explained the order of proceedings to deal with consideration of the matter.  Accordingly, the Chairman invited Councillor Bertin to comment on his Request for Consideration.

 

Councillor Bertin referred to his Request for Consideration as submitted, including making reference to the event that took place on the above date.  He set out his rationale for making his Request to the Committee in addition to the relevant bodies involved with the incident being invited to attend given the level of public concern raised directly with himself.  He was concerned that a failure had occurred within the company to follow procedures which had resulted in South Wales Fire and Rescue Service not being appropriately notified of the incident.  He also commented on the fact that the klaxon had been sounded causing alarm to residents and that some residents had not been appropriately notified who were registered with the automated communication system.  Consequently, taking account of the above, he sought assurances from the Company representatives that such occurrences would not be repeated in the future. 

 

The Head of Public Protection, in referring to the report within the agenda, prefaced his comments by acknowledging that the Company had accepted that the Off-Site Emergency Plan had not been followed.  In referring directly to the report he indicated that the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999 (COMAH) stated that sites which were considered to present the great risk of major accidents taking place were required to produce such an off-site emergency plan to produce a multi-agency response by the emergency services, etc.  He further indicated that the Off-site Emergency Plan for the Company had last been reviewed and updated in line with COMAH regulations in 2010.  In addition, the Plan had recently undertaken a validation exercise during March 2011 which was attended by Council officers, South Wales Police, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Welsh Ambulance Service, the Environment Agency (EA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the relevant other Chemical Companies involved in the Plan.  Also, the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) was currently working with the COMAH group and Barry Chemical Complex to develop training that would ensure that the Off-site Plan was embedded into organisational procedures. 

 

His attention then turned to the events of the day concerned and to the fact that the EA has informed the CPU on 7th October 2011 that they would not be investigating this incident under COMAH.  However, they would be looking at the incident under normal procedures in the first quarter of 2012.  In addition, a meeting had also been held on 25th October 2011 where representatives of Dow Corning had given a time line on the incident, details of which were set out in the report.  At that time the Company had advised that the Off-site Plan had not been initiated due to the following factors:

  • the incident was over within a short period of time
  • none of the leaked material crossed the south boundary fences
  • fence line monitoring was in place and
  • the omission itself was visible.

The Company had recognised that there had been a communications error made by site staff which they felt was down to “human nature”.  To this end, he indicated that the Company was now developing an escalation process to remove the “human nature” out of the procedures by developing standard terminology / templates.  The emergency response was also being reviewed with the possibility of introducing a “tier fire service response” to the site. The Company had also acknowledged that a training gap had been identified as a consequence of the incident and this was being addressed accordingly. 

 

Latterly, he commented on the failure of the “informer” communication system for public information operated by the Company which had failed to notify a small number of residents / business on the contact list due to a technical problem with the system. 

 

In order to address some of the issues encountered as a consequence of the incident he indicated that the Council’s CPU had advised Dow Corning of a possible opportunity to investigate the use of the Council’s contact centre which was currently providing a service for Cardiff International Airport.

 

In conclusion he indicated that the Council’s CPU would enable the Barry Chemical Complex Emergency Off-site Plan 2011 to be amended to include a procedure for activation and possibly the use of the Council’s Contact Centre as a means to undertake the warning and informing of the community was currently being discussed with parties concerned. 

 

The Chairman then invited the representative of South Wales Fire and Rescue to comment on the incident.

 

The Committee received Station Commander Meirion Evans who indicated the following.  South Wales Fire and Rescue had been advised via a 999 call at 06:59 from the public that the klaxons at the chemical complex had sounded.  Having regard to the need to identify which alarm had been activated due to the unclear nature of the information provided by a member of the public, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service would have contacted the chemical complex to ascertain details of such, however the incident had been closed shortly after the member of the public’s call at 07:04 having been contacted by the Company that the incident had been resolved.  He indicated that the Off-site Plan required the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to be notified but this had not occurred on this day and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service were currently in discussions with the Company in regard to a tiered response to the site in the future.  He also indicated that this was a Level 3 event hence the need to notify South Wales Fire and Rescue however, he alluded to the fact that the Dow Corning fire team were well trained and competent to deal with such events on site. At this juncture Mr Taylor confirmed that the incident merited a Level 3 response (a Level 2 response would initiate a reduced response but a requirement to attend). He alluded to regular liaison meetings which took place between South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and the Company with training being provided by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to Dow Corning staff under the requirements of COMAH. 

 

The Chairman then invited representatives of Dow Corning Ltd. to comment on the incident.

 

The Committee received Mr. Squire (Environmental, Health and Safety Manager) who confirmed that the Health and Safety Executive had been notified the same day of the incident and that the incident had not been treated under COMAH.  He confirmed that a follow up investigation would be undertaken as part of quarterly meetings with the HSE and EA to assess the events of the day concerned.  He confirmed that there had been a pressure gauge fault which had been the source of a leak which had been contained on site.  A programme of replacement was underway.  He wished to assure the Committee that the incident had been one which was minor in nature and localised with no injuries as a consequence on or off site.  He confirmed that the klaxons had been sounded to make staff and the public aware as a precautionary measure given that there was always the potential for the incident to escalate. 

 

In terms of the environmental and health and safety risks Mr. Coldman (Loss Prevention Engineer) informed the Committee that the weather conditions on the day of the incident were quiet / still and that the local areas of Palmerston, Cadoxton and Sully were prioritised due to normal prevailing weather conditions.  As part of the communication requirements set by the HSE these were well established and the Company communicated with 6,000 households and businesses in the Public Information Zone.  However, he acknowledged that not all residents / businesses had been contacted due to technical information with the “Informer” system.  He reminded the Committee that there was a standing invitation to all residents within Barry to register with the Informer system. He confirmed that the Company was currently in discussion with the installer of the above system regarding future maintenance testing requirements of the same. At this point Councillor Bird suggested that all Councillors should register their contact details with the Informer system.  Mr. Taylor also confirmed that the Company had 50 responders (10 responders per shift on site) who were responsible for providing significant fire protection and to monitor any release from the site.  In regard to the incident on the day, he confirmed that a foam blanket had been laid down within an eight minute period of time on notification of the release. 

 

In commenting on the events of the day Councillor Hodges acknowledged that the Company had accepted that there had been a problem with the Informer communication system which had resulted in residents not being notified of the incident.  As far as he was concerned the issue was a matter of risk management and sought assurances that in the future that all agreed Plans were followed and monitored and reviewed to ensure that they were up to date and compliant.  Mr. Coldman confirmed that Plans were constantly under review including safety elements.  Mr. Squire further indicated that investigations on the day of the incident were still ongoing and the Company hoped to learn from the lessons of this event but he reminded the Committee that the Company had a very good record with safety and alluded to a recent “Gold” award received from ROSPA. 

 

Councillor Bird referred to matters contained in the report, in particular reference to a “training gap” and sought clarification from the Company of the nature of these deficiencies.  Mr. Taylor indicated that this related to the lack of awareness of employees to follow agreed procedures i.e. initiating the Off-Site Plan and training was currently being provided including drills undertaken to reinforce the Plan.  He also acknowledged that the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service should have been called prior to the sounding of the klaxon. 

 

Councillors Mrs. A.J. Moore and N. Moore spoke on the matter with the consent of the Committee with both acknowledging their good work with the Company, specifically in regard to their capacity as serving on the Community Advisory Panel.  However both expressed concern that some residents had not been contacted and that South Wales Fire and Rescue Service had not been informed.  In addition to this, they also felt that there was apparent confusion with the general public’s understanding of the terminology used relating to systems that were put into operation in the event of a release.  Latterly they expressed a view that any agreed future tiered response to such events should apply to all operators on the chemical complex site.

 

The Principal Civil Protection Officer confirmed that any future revisions to the Off-site Emergency Plan would apply to all operators on the chemical complex site. 

 

In response to a question from Councillor Bird Mr. Squire agreed that any report from the EA and the HSE into the findings on the events of the day would be made available to the Scrutiny Committee as soon as practicable. 

 

In summing up the Chairman thanked representatives from Dow Corning Ltd. and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service for attending the meeting.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the incident that took place at Dow Corning Ltd. on 1st October 2011 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of action taken to date by the Council’s Civil Protection Unit and Dow Corning Ltd.

 

 

642     HINKLEY POINT POWER STATION - CIVIL PROTECTION ARRANGEMENTS (REF) -

 

The above matter had been considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 2nd November 2011.  Cabinet, at that time, had been notified that a review of all nuclear sites within the UK was being undertaken which could result in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) updating current guidance relating to off-site plans.  The risks associated with nuclear power stations were being considered both nationally and internationally.  This had been following the Japanese tsunami an the resulting crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant when there was a 20km evaluation zone and between 20km and 30 km had sheltering or voluntary evacuation around the plant. 

 

In order to address the regional risk Somerset Local Authorities’ Civic Contingencies Unit had produced an Off-site plan for Hinkley Point A and B Nuclear Licensed Sites which referenced Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) set at 3.5km with extended release Scenario up to 15km. 

 

The HSE and the ONR produced advice on the DEPZ and also considered the extendibility zone, these criteria looked at the not reasonably foreseeable accident.  National guidance on this was 4km for evaluation and 15km for Shelter, in addition the Food Standard Agency and the Environment Agency provided information on food restriction and drinking water which could be up to 40km. 

 

The Council had well established generic Emergency Response procedure for responding to emergencies and incidents that affected residents and communities within the Vale.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Civil Protection arrangements in place for Hinkley Point Power Station A and B be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of arrangements that were in place in respect of the above matter.

 

 

643     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2012/13, INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2012/13 AND INITIAL HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT BUDGET PROPOSALS 2012/13 AND REVISED BUDGET 2011/12 (REFS)  -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the references from the meeting of Cabinet on 16th November 2011 in respect of the above matters be noted and be considered jointly with agenda item numbers 10, 11 and 12 later in the agenda.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order to inform Cabinet of the comments of the Scrutiny Committee before making a final proposal on the budget.

 

 

644     CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED ADDITIONAL LICENSING SCHEME FOR HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION (REF) -

 

The above matter had been considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 16th November 2011. 

 

At that time the Cabinet’s approval was sought to consult on the introduction of an Additional Licensing scheme for certain Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) within the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

The Cabinet in June 2007 had previously approved the HMO Mandatory Licensing Policy.  As part of that Policy the Council continued to carry out pro-active inspections of higher risk HMOs to determine whether they were applicable for Mandatory licensing and to take appropriate enforcement action under the Housing Act 2004 Part 1 - Housing Health and Safety Rating System.  The Cabinet had also been notified of the number of licences issued since that time and the degree of enforcement action taken to ensure compliance with the above legislation.

 

The Council’s recent review of the Housing Renewal Policy confirmed that the private rented sector, including traditional HMOs and converted building, had a higher proportion of significant hazards and were in a poorer state of disrepair.  To assist in determining the priorities for future enforcement action an updated risk assessment and review had been undertaken of all known HMOs in the Vale of Glamorgan which identified 241 known HMOs.  To address the risk identified under the above review the HMO Licensing Enforcement Plan set out mandatory licensing arrangements and the proposal for additional HMO licensing for certain areas within the Vale of Glamorgan to deal with issues identified in this housing sector.  Cabinet were also informed of a breakdown of the key risks and risk assessment scores for HMOs detailed in the annex to the Cabinet report (Annex B, Appendix 1). 

 

A Barry Town wide additional licensing scheme would have a number of merits but would require significant additional resources to deliver the objectives over the five year period of the scheme.  The Scrutiny Committee noted that the Council had already committed to improving the housing and surrounding environment within the Castleland Renewal Area through its declaration in 2010, the designation of this area for Additional Licensing would complement and support the aims and objectives of the Renewal Area.  The designation would also complement further proposed supplementary planning guidance and financial assistance which had recently been approved for declining properties in the upper part of Holton Road, Barry.  As for the consultation exercise itself, it was noted that the dates would run from December 2011 to the end of January 2012 during which time invitations to comment on the proposed scheme would be sent to all known stakeholders and interest groups in the Vale of Glamorgan to provide an opportunity for commenting.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the HMO Licensing Enforcement Plan and the proposed introduction of an Additional Licensing Scheme for HMOs in the Castleland Renewal Area be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the need to improve the management standards and condition in private rented accommodation and to meet legal requirements to consult on the proposed declaration of additional licensing scheme for HMOs.

 

 

645     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2012/13 (DLPPHS) -

 

Set out at Appendix A to the report were full details of the progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th September 2011

 

The Welsh Government had announced the provisional 2012/13 General Capital Funding on 18th November 2011.  The 2012/13 capital settlement represented a 6.8% cut in funding over the previous year’s allocation.  This had been reflected in Appendix B which also included a forecasted cut for 2012/13 of a further 11.5% with this figure also used year on year to 2016/17.   

 

Cabinet, on 13th February 2008, approved that the Director of Finance, ICT and Property, in consultation with the Cabinet Member responsible for Finance, be given delegated authority to transfer supported borrowing between General Fund and the Housing Capital budgets as appropriate.  The Council had requested a transfer of £560,000 for 2012/13.  A transfer of £280,000 each year had been assumed in Appendix B for each subsequent year to 2016/17.   

 

The Major Repairs Allowance (MRA), which was a grant that provided capital funding to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), for 2012/13 had not been announced by the WG.  Cabinet would be advised once the announcement was made.  However, an assumption had been made which was set out in Appendix B to the report that the grant would continue at the current allocation of £2.7m. in 2012/13. 

 

In addition to funding from the WG, the Council would finance part of the Capital Programme from its own resources, e.g. Capital Receipts and Reserves.  Set out in Appendix B was the proposed 2012/13 Capital Programme for Public Protection and Housing including allocations already approved by the Council. 

 

Analysis of Net Funding Required for the Indicative 2012/13 Capital Programme

 

HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT

£’000

£’000

Housing Reserves                                                        

5,046

 

Housing Capital Receipts                                                

757

 

Supported Borrowing                   

560

 

 

 

  6,363

Net Capital Resources

 

  6,363

 

With regard to Capital Bids for 2012/13 it was noted that due to the anticipated reduction in future capital funding and in order to review historic priorities, all those budgets previously included in the indicative future Capital Programme should be withdrawn, other than those schemes which would be contractually committed by the end of March 2012.  Officers had been asked to re-bid for those sums that they still regarded as a high priority as part of the 2012/13 bidding round.  It was noted that the number of bids submitted was far below previous years.  Bids will also be evaluated in accordance with sustainable development criteria for the final capital proposals.

 

The Budget Working Group had prioritised bids based upon the recommendations of the Corporate Asset Management Group (CAMG).  The method of prioritisation used in the Council’s Capital Investment Strategy was set out in the report for information. 

 

As in the case of the consideration of the Initial Revenue Budget Proposals, similar arrangements were in place for the Scrutiny Committees to pass their comments to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) who would, on behalf of all the Council’s Scrutiny Committees formally respond to Cabinet by no later than 20th December 2011.  However, Scrutiny Committees were being asked to consider the indicative Capital Proposals and the priority given to new bids in the light of extremely limited resources that were available.  The total net capital expenditure of the proposed programme in Appendix B over five years was £105m. 

 

Managers would be asked to revisit the schemes listed in Appendix B and to confirm final cost and spend profiles prior to the final proposals being considered by Cabinet by no later than 17th February, 2012.  Cabinet’s final Capital Programme proposals would be considered by Council no later than 7th March, 2012.

 

If the schemes set out in Appendix B to the report were approved, the effect on General Fund useable capital receipts would be shown as detailed in the below table:

 

General Fund Capital Receipts

£'000

Anticipated Balance as at 1st April 2012

9,638

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2012/13

(1,021)

Anticipated Receipts – 2012/13

439

Balance as at 31st March 2013

9,056

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2013/14

(4,506)

Anticipated Receipts – 2013/14

170

Balance as at 31st March 2014

4,720

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2014/15

(597)

Anticipated Receipts – 2014/15

0

Balance as at 31st March 2015

4,123

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2015/16

(1,074)

Anticipated Receipts – 2015/16

448

Balance as at 31st March 2016

3,497

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2016/17

(52)

Anticipated Receipts – 2016/17

438

Balance as at 31st March 2017

3,883

 

A Project Fund existed to finance capital and revenue projects.  The table below indicated the projected position of the fund. 

 

Project Fund Balance

             £'000

Anticipated Balance as at 1st April 2012

4,299

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2012/13

       (450)

Anticipated Receipts – 2012/13

     124

 

 

Balance as at 31st March 2013

 3,973

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2013/14

        0

Anticipated Receipts – 2013/14

      70

 

 

Balance as at 31st March 2014

 4,043

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2014/15

        (1,200)

Anticipated Receipts – 2014/15

      70

 

 

Balance as at 31st March 2015

2,913

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2015/16

0

Anticipated Receipts – 2015/16

70

 

 

Balance as at 31st March 2016

2,983

 

 

Anticipated Requirements – 2016/17

0

Anticipated Receipts – 2016/17

30

 

 

Balance as at 31st March 2017

 3,013

 

The above balances needed to be seen in the context of significant pressures for spending which were not yet included in the Capital Programme.  These pressures included the backlog of school, highways and buildings improvements. 

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the amended 2011/12 Capital Programme for the period 30th September 2011 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the proposed Capital Programme for 2012/13 as detailed in Appendix B be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1&2)  In acknowledgement of the budget proposals and to allow the matter to be further considered.

 

 

646     INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2012/13 (DLPPHS) -

 

The Council was required, under statute, to fix the level of Council Tax for 2012/13 by 11th March 2012 and in order to do so would have to agree a balanced Revenue Budget by the same date.  To be in a position to meet the statutory deadlines and requirements for consultation as set out within the Council’s Constitution, much of the work on quantifying the resource requirements of individual services needed to be carried out before the final Revenue Support Grant (RSG) settlement was notified to the Council.  The Council’s Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) represented the Welsh Government’s (WG) view of the relative resources required to provide a standard level of service in each local authority in Wales and its primary use was to allocate RSG to these authorities.  For 2012/13 the Council’s provisional SSA was £204.895m.   

 

The Council had also been provisionally advised by the WG of its 2012/13 allocation in relation to RSG (£114.128m) and NNDR (£36.744m).  Together, these sums constituted the Council’s Aggregate External Finance (AEF). 

 

The Council would also receive a sum provisionally set at £1.253m via the Outcome Agreement Grant (OAG) for 2012/13.  This grant was an unhypothecated grant (i.e. not earmarked for particular services).  It was noted that the Council was not necessarily guaranteed to receive the full amount of the OAG.  The amount for 2012/13 would be determined by a rating score of the Council’s performance in achieving its 2011/12 Outcome Agreement targets.

 

With regard to the revised budget for 2011/12, Appendix 1 to the report set out the necessary transfers to the original estimate for this period which were required to be made as follows (there was no overall effect on the net budget of the Council):

  • Asset Rents, International Accounting Standard (IAS) 19, and Recharges etc. - these relate to accounting items and expenditure outside the control of Services. They reflect charges to Services for the use of capital assets, changes to inter service recharges, superannuation increases not required and adjustments in respect of pensions to comply with accounting standards.
  • Transfers - to reflect mainly transfers of functions and responsibilities between services. This related to
  • -           savings made by Public Protection of £30,000 and Finance ICT and Property of £150,000    transferred to Private Sector Housing.

The following table compared the amended budget with the projected outturn for 2011/12 and took account of the necessary transfers to the original estimate for the same period as detailed in Appendix 1:

 

 

2011/12

2011/12

Variance

 

Amended

Original

Projected

 (+)Favourable

Service

Budget

Outturn

 (-) Adverse

 

£’000

£’000

     £’000

Public Protection

2,390

2,390

0

Private Sector Housing/Community Safety

2,771

2,771

0

Total

5,161

5,161

 0

 

It was noted that the above services were projected to outturn on target.

 

The Budget Strategy for 2012/13 as in previous years required all Directors to make the following provisions:

  • Supplementary estimates would only increase the base budget if Council had given specific approval to this effect. Increases met by virement within a year would not be treated as committed growth.
  • Directors should find the cost of increments and staff changes from their base budget unless the relevant specific approval had been given for additional funding.
  • The effect of replacing grant from outside bodies that had discontinued would not be treated as committed growth. In addition, before any project or initiative that was to be met either wholly or partly by way of grant may proceed, the exit strategy must be approved.
  • Certain items of unavoidable committed growth would continue and these include the effect of interest changes and the financing cost of the Capital Programme, increases in taxes, increases in levies and precepts charged by outside bodies and changes to housing benefits net expenditure.
  • Services would be expected to identify and achieve recurrent efficiency and other savings, including (but not restricted to) those identified in the Medium Term Financial Plan.
  • It was envisaged that the costs of service development would need to be met from within the respective Directorates.

A summary of the overall base budget for 2012/13 was set out in Appendix 2 of the report and this had been arrived at by adjusting the 2011/12 budget for items such as inflation and unavoidable growth. 

 

Asset Rents, IAS 19 and Recharges etc. related to accounting items and expenditure outside the control of the relevant Services.  These reflected charges to Services for the use of capital assets, changes to inter service recharges, superannuation increases not required and adjustments in respect of pensions to comply with accounting standards.

 

Transfers - to reflect mainly transfers of functions and responsibilities between services.  These related to

  • savings made by Public Protection of £30,000 and Finance, ICT and Property of £150,000 transferred to Private Sector Housing.

In addition to the above matters, an adjustment to the 2011/12 base budget related to the following:

  • to remove the estimated April 2011 pay award for employees earning less than £21,000.

The Medium Term Financial Plan included savings targets for Services for 2012/13 to 2014/15 as set out below

 

Annual Efficiency Savings Targets

2011/12

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

TOTAL

 

     £000

     £000

     £000

     £000

     £000

Legal, Public Protection & Private Housing

      590

         69

         18

         83

       760

 

The savings of £69,000 for 2012/13 as shown above were included in the estimates. The initial savings were approved by Council on 28th February 2011 (Minute 957).

 

A list of this Committee's 2012/13 cost pressures as identified by Services was attached at Appendix 3.  These were not shown in any order of priority.

 

Attached at Appendix 4 were the proposed 2014/15 savings shown for this Directorate.  More detail was required on these savings and their impact would be considered as part of the budget review following the elections in May 2012.

 

The Scrutiny Committees were now being consulted on the proposals with any comments / recommendations being submitted to the Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee as the lead Scrutiny Committee.  The response of all the Scrutiny Committees must be made by no later than 20th December 2011.

 

It was noted that it was also proposed to consult on the Council’s initial budget proposals with the Local Service Board partners. 

 

In terms of the role of the Cabinet Budget Working Group, this Group would be holding a series of meetings with the relevant Cabinet Members and officers to consider the budget proposals.  Any recommendations from this Group would be submitted so that the Cabinet could make its final budget proposal by no later than 29th February 2012; before making its recommendation the Cabinet Budget Working Group would consider the comments made by all the Council’s Scrutiny Committees.

 

The Cabinet’s final budget proposals would be considered by Council on 7th March 2012. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issued it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the amended budget for 2011/12 as set out in Appendix 1 to the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the initial revenue budget proposals for 2012/13 be noted subject to the cost pressures set out in Appendix 3 of the report being prioritised as indicated below and referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for consideration:

  • Priority 1 – LPPH2 - Public Protection - Food Safety:  2.5 full time equivalent Environmental Health Officers to address the current shortfall which had been identified in the Council’s Food Law Enforcement Plan 2011/12.  This additional resource is required to ensure the Council is able to deliver its statutory responsibilities in respect of food safety and infectious disease control.

          Addressing the shortfall at this time is important for the following:

          -      Currently we are unable to meet the level of enforcement specified in the Food Standards Agency

                 (FSA) Code of Practice and therefore vulnerable to severe criticism in the event of an e.coli outbreak

          -      The Welsh Government through FSA Wales is looking to band local authorities in Wales on their

                 performance in delivering food law enforcement.  (Currently we do not have sufficient resources in

                 our revenue budget to meet the FSA Code of Practice.)

          -     Currently we are significantly under resourced in comparison to Bridgend Council who have fewer

                 food premises than the Vale.

  • Priority 2 – LPPH3 - Trading Standards:  DEFRA funding for animal health reduced for 2011/12.  This Section is at present funding the shortfall for the current financial year.  However the Section has been required to make additional savings to its budget and DEFRA indicate that a further cut of a similar amount would be made in the next financial year.  Consequently this post which was originally funded by DEFRA will be funded mainly by the Authority.  It is anticipated that the external contribution for 2012/3 towards the post will be approximately £6,000.  Furthermore the skill set for this post is unique and it has taken two years to train the officer to the appropriate standard.  Training is ongoing.  If the funding is lost and the post cut, no one could take up the duties for at least 18 months.  In addition the shortfall would not leave sufficient revenue for outsourcing the function.
  • Priority 3 – LPPH4 - Coroners: The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board have reviewed the provision of Mortuary Support Services and Post Mortem fees charges.  The additional cost of providing the service will be approximately £70,000.  Cardiff Council will bear the majority of the costs - £50,000, the increase accruing to the Vale of Glamorgan will be £20,000.

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of the Scrutiny Committee’s responsibility for monitoring the budget.

 

(2)       In order that the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) is informed of the comments of the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) prior to making a final proposal on the budget.

 

 

647     INITIAL HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT BUDGET PROPOSALS 2012/2013 AND REVISED BUDGET 2011/2012 (DLPPHS) -

 

Each local housing authority was required under Section 74 of the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act to keep a Housing Revenue Account.  Section 76 of the above Act required local authorities to set a budget for their Housing Revenue Account (HRA) on an annual basis.  The budget must be such that the Housing Revenue Account was not in deficit at the year end.  In addition, local authorities were also required during the course of the year to review their HRA expenditure and income and if, on the basis of the information available, the account was heading for a deficit, they must take steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent such deficit.  Such a deficit would be carried forward and must be made good the following financial year.  Each local authority should endeavour to have a working balance on the HRA, for any exceptional circumstances that may arise. 

 

The level of rent increases was based on the Subsidy Determination issued by the Welsh Assembly Government, however, this was not due for release until January 2012, although a provisional figure was due during December 2011.  An estimated average rent increase of 3%, based on the latest Business Plan, had been included in the 2012/13 initial budget proposals.  Appended to the report was the revised budget for 2011/12 and set out below was a summary table comparing the original budget with the proposed revised estimate.

 

 

2011/2012

Original

Budget

2011/2012

Proposed

Revised

Estimate

Variance

Favourable (-)

Adverse (+)

 

£’000

£’000

 

£’000

Housing Revenue Account

(2,176)

(2,204)

(28)

 

The net increased surplus of (£28,000) in this budget was due to several reasons. The housing repairs budget had reduced by (£500,000); central support recharges reduced by (£126,000); capital costs had reduced by (£73,000) as a result of increased receipts; the Hostel refurbishment and staff restructure was expected to save (£100,000); and other small budget savings amount to (£5,000). These savings had been offset by an increase in capital expenditure from revenue account (CERA) of £751,000 to finance the planned capital improvement programme.  As a result there had also been a decrease in anticipated interest earned on HRA balances of £25,000.

 

The Budget Strategy for 2012/13 outlined that in order to establish a baseline, services should prepare revenue budget for next year based on the cost of providing the current level of service and approved policy decisions.  This meant that the cost of price increases and pay awards should be included. 

 

Due to the nature of the HRA in that it was ring fenced and any growth had to be funded from the balance, no cost pressures had been formally identified.  The budget was presented in the traditional objective analysis format.  The proposed 2012/13 budget was detailed in Appendix A to the report and encompassed budget areas in respect of HRA (General); e.g. General Management; Special Services; Housing Repairs Fund Contributions; Central Support and Operational Building Charges and Capital Financing. 

 

The charges for rent and other services provided by the Housing Service were reviewed annually and would be subject to a future report once the information had been received from the WG.  Detailed below was a summary of the original budget for 2011/12 with the proposed budget for 2012/13. 

 

2011/2012

Original

Budget

Inflation /

 Pay Award

Committed

Growth /

Savings

Estimated

Rent

Increase

2012/2013

Proposed

Budget

£000

£000

£000

£000

£000

(2,177)

32

5,252

(442)

2,665

 

A provision for general inflation was included and an allowance was made for a pay award of 1% for 2012/13.  A 1% increase in pay amounted to approximately £12,000.

 

Committed growth of £5,252,000 was due to a number of factors, namely:

  • An increase in Capital Expenditure from Revenue Account (CERA) to finance the housing improvement programme £5,132,000
  • An increase in increments and staff changes to support the delivery of the housing improvement programme £219,000
  • An increase in the provision of HRA Subsidy payable to WG based on the latest guidance issued £121,000
  • An increase in Central Support recharges as a result of increased resources required to deliver the housing improvement programme £194,000
  • An increase in the bad debt provision as per latest business plan assumptions £60,000
  • An increase in the provision of software upgrades and licence fees to drive forward and monitor the asset database and housing improvement programme £50,000
  • A reduction in county court recharge income £26,000
  • An increase in the incentive to move scheme £24,000.

 

The above areas of growth had been offset by:

  • A reduction in Housing Repairs £440,000
  • A reduction in Capital Costs £70,000
  • A reduction in insurance costs £39,000
  • An increase in water commission income £22,000
  • Other budget adjustments and savings totalling £3,000

As indicated in earlier reports considered, Scrutiny Committees were being consulted on the budget proposals with the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) being the lead Scrutiny Committee who would be required to respond to the Cabinet on the budget by no later than 20th  December 2011.  Cabinet’s final proposals on the budget would be considered by the Council on 7th March 2012.

 

The Housing Revenue Account working balance at 1st April 2012 was £14,330,000.  The Council would not be informed of a provisional rent increase until December 2011.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the revised budget estimate for 2011/12 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the initial budget proposals for 2012/13 be noted and referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).

 

(3)       T H A T the suggested increase for rent and other services be subject to a further report to this Scrutiny Committee once information became available from the WG.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of monitoring the budget for 2011/12.

 

(2)       To allow further consideration by the Scrutiny Committee prior to the Cabinet making final proposals on the budget.

 

(3)       In acknowledgement of the statutory deadline to notify tenants of the new charges as required by Statute.

 

 

648     COMMUNITY SAFETY PERFORMANCE MONITORING (DLPPHS) -

 

The report set out progress towards targets for Quarter 2 which indicated that there had been a 12.9% reduction in all crime compared to 2010/11.  Specific progress in meeting targets for 2011/12 were set out below:

  • Most serious violence: Target 49 incidents, Actual 38 incidents – Achieved (23% below target)

Approximately 45% of the incidents of most serious violence during this period were alcohol related. 

  • Serious sexual offences: Target 31 incidents, Actual 36 incidents – Not Achieved (16% over target)

In approximately 83% of the cases the offender was known by the victim and in approximately 20% of cases the offender was a partner.  In approximately 31% of cases the offender was a family member or extended family member. 

  • Domestic Abuse: Target 17% repeat victims, Actual, 9% repeat victims – Achieved (8% under target)

The number of repeat cases was decreasing at a better than expected rate.  Campaigns over the festive period, which generally saw a spike in domestic incidents, would aim to keep the level of repeats low whilst also promoting the importance of reporting incidents to the Police and other agencies.

  • Criminal Damage: Target 809 incident, Actual 609 incidents – Achieved (25% under target)

Almost 50% of the offences of criminal damage related to vehicle damage.  Festive campaigns would address the issue of residents leaving valuables in their vehicles.

  • Burglary: Target 212 incidents, Actual 133 incidents – Achieved (37% under target)

Priority and Prolific Offenders (PPOs) were being identified upon leave from prison to ensure that the current low level of burglary was not affected.  Additionally festive Safer Vale messages would make residents aware of the need for vigilance over the festive period, especially in relation to presents being on display.

  • Robbery: Target 14 incidents, Actual 13 incidents – Achieved (7% below target)

The majority of incidents of robbery were personal robbery.  The overall level of robbery in the Vale of Glamorgan is very low. 

  • Antisocial Behaviour: Ongoing

The antisocial behaviour team had engaged with residents in hotspot areas of antisocial behaviour to increase reassurance and promote reporting.

 

The antisocial behaviour team now included an active mediation presence at the Barry Fire Station. 

  • Metal thefts

Operation Regulate had been undertaken in the Vale to tackle metal thefts.  Scrap metal dealers have been visited to ensure compliance with regulations.  Schools have been given appropriate crime prevention advice and residents have been urged to use the bulky collections service to reduce the number of scrap metal thefts from back gardens.

  • Priority and Prolific Offenders (PPO) / Integrated Offender Management (IOM) – Ongoing

IOM is currently being implemented in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the progress towards meeting the Community Safety targets for Quarter 2 be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To enable the Committee to monitor progress towards meeting crime and disorder targets.

 

 

649     HOMESWAPPER SCHEME UPDATE (DLPPHS) -

 

The Committee was apprised of current progress in regard to the above scheme since its implementation in September 2010. 

 

The Council currently had 363 tenants registered on HOMES4U awaiting a transfer to alternative accommodation.  It was noted that the majority of these tenants were of a low priority and were unlikely to secure an allocation in the future. 

 

The Homeswapper scheme provided an online registration service for all social housing tenants who were looking for a mutual exchange.  There were currently 39 Welsh Housing Organisations signed up to the service.  This service provided access to over 10,347 tenants in Wales and the scheme operated nationwide with over 235,000 tenants registered.

 

Prior to the adoption of the scheme in September 2010, there was both limited information and opportunities for those tenants who wished to move via mutual exchange to a more suitable property.  In the preceding 12 months since the adoption of the scheme a total of 50 mutual exchanges had been processed.  This totalled 100 individual moves which exceeded the take up in previous years and in addition, over 260 tenants had now registered for the scheme in the last 12 months.  The benefits of joining the Homeswapper scheme were detailed in the report. 

 

Overall the Homeswapper scheme had provided an opportunity to improve the way the Council managed its stock and complemented existing allocation schemes.  In April 2012, the Housing Benefit Reforms would be introduced and whilst the full impact of these were not yet known, it was anticipated that tenants who were under-occupying their homes would be restricted in claiming housing benefit, therefore increasing their rent.  It was thought that this in turn could lead to an increase in rent arrears for those tenants who were unable to manage to pay more towards their rent and may also lead to an increase in evictions due to higher levels of rent arrears.  Accordingly, the scheme would be a key element in assisting tenants moving to more suitable accommodation and preventing potential evictions and homelessness.

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the positive contribution of the Homeswapper scheme provided in facilitating tenant mobility be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In acknowledgement of the Council’s efforts to assist tenants to move to more suitable accommodation through the scheme.

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook