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URGENT BY REASON OF THE NEED TO KEEP MEMBERS APPRISED OF THE EVOLVING POSITION REGARDING REGIONAL COLLABORATION

 

Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet 7 September 2011

 

Report of the Leader

 

Update on Collaborative Working

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To update Cabinet on progress on collaborative working and to seek endorsement of the Council's preferred arrangements for regional collaboration. 

Recommendations

1.             That Cabinet endorses the contents of a letter to the Minister for Local Government and Communities on the Council's preferred arrangements for regional collaboration based on the South Wales Police area.

2.             That Cabinet endorses the model for Education collaboration based on the wider Central South region.

Reasons for the Recommendations

To ensure a flexible approach to collaboration that enables the Council to work with a range of partners in order to deliver improved services and maximise efficiencies. 

 

Background

2.             The Simpson report ("Local, Regional, National: What Services are Best Delivered Where?"), published in March 2011, was significant in accelerating the pace and extending the ambition of public service collaborative working in Wales.  The report, broadly welcomed by the Welsh Government and Councils, proposed a flexible approach to methods of collaborative service delivery on a service-by-service basis.  On 8 June a Council submission detailing the Vale's comprehensive response to the Simpson Review, and alluding to other WG-commissioned reviews of Education and Social Services structures, was endorsed by Cabinet.  This report updates Members on developments since then.  

Relevant Issues and Options

3.             Notwithstanding Simpson, the Council has embarked on a number of collaborative arrangements with other organisations.  A major initiative is the Memorandum of Understanding with Bridgend Council, agreed by Cabinet on 1 December 2010.  A number of projects are being progressed under the aegis of a joint Programme Management Board.  Appendix 1 is a report to the Board meeting of 5 September 2011 and details the good progress being made.

4.             The Council continues as a member of the Connecting South East Wales Board, and is playing an active part in two large-scale regional collaborative projects: Prosiect Gwyrdd in respect of waste management and the South East Wales Improvement Collaborative (SEWIC) for social services.

5.             Prosiect Gwyrdd is a partnership between Caerphilly, Cardiff, Monmouthshire, Newport and the Vale to agree a solution for treating waste after recycling and composting have been maximised for each area.

6.             SEWIC is a partnership between all ten South East Wales Councils to improve the provision and commissioning of social services in the region.  A feasibility study has been conducted which identifies additional potential areas of collaboration across the SEWIC region - between local authorities and with wider key stakeholders such as NHS partners, Housing and the Third Sector.  As a result, the SEWIC Board has agreed to take forward six major new projects.  This programme will help to provide the local authorities with an additional means of delivering service modernisation and cost effectiveness.

7.             Local collaboration under the aegis of the Vale Local Service Board (LSB) continues to progress well.  The Minister for Local Government and Communities recently wrote to all LSB chairs notifying them of his intention to introduce a number of reforms to the way LSBs work (Appendix 2).  The Vale LSB has already completed or embarked on these changes, and Appendix 3 is a letter to the Minister that was sent by the Chair of the Vale LSB in response.

8.             The Council is collaborating closely with Swansea Council on implementing and developing the Oracle eBusiness Suite of applications, in which both Councils have made significant investment.  Although this investment has delivered significant business benefits to both Authorities, continuing to support, maintain and develop the suite comes at a significant cost.  Both Councils believe that there are better prospects of benefits to be gained in collaborating over the medium term, with a view to a joint approach to current updates and the joint procurement of a totally new replacement Oracle system, likely around 2016/17.  The Councils have agreed to share development plans and to identify those area where collaboration can be explored in a shorter timescale.

9.             Given the accelerating pace of the collaboration agenda, there is hardly a Council service that is unaffected.  There is accordingly a real challenge for managers to get to grips with a new way of managing, and to aid in this respect a note, "Collaborative Working - Guidance for Managers" has been developed (Appendix 4).  

10.        Members should be aware of a less welcome development in the Welsh Government's thinking about how regional collaboration should be progressed.  The Simpson report stressed the need for an approach which treated each service individually and allowed Councils to collaborate flexibly in differing consortia as best suited the circumstances.  However, the Minister released a statement on 21 July (Appendix 5) which outlines a much more prescriptive regime.  According to this proposal, Welsh Councils would be divided into six regions, aligned with Local Health Board boundaries, with collaboration confined to the Councils within each region. Cardiff and the Vale is being proposed as one such region.  Appendix 6 is the letter sent by the Leader rejecting such a restrictive arrangement.      

11.        The Vale of Glamorgan Council is a member of the Central South Education Consortium in partnership with Caerphilly, Bridgend, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff.  The collaboration has developed in response to an explicit challenge from the Welsh Government to establish effective and resilient arrangements. On 13th April, Cabinet agreed to progress collaboration arrangements towards a Joint School Improvement Service, subject to agreement on a final business case.  Cabinets in Rhondda Cynon Taff, Caerphilly, Merthyr and Bridgend agreed the same approach at that time. Central South has recently been subject to a recent "stocktake" by the Welsh Government School Standards Unit where the progress achieved and the commitment to joint working was recognised. 

12.        The July update on Education Collaboration is attached at Appendix 7. Discussions are continuing, but as of 26 August, the position has been complicated by a request from Caerphilly to leave Central South [and to seek to join the South East Wales Consortium]. The potential for Cardiff to join Central South is an option which is being explored by the Chief Executives and Directors of Central South.  The stance taken to date by the Vale's Chief Executive and Director is that there are no objections in principle to Cardiff replacing Caerphilly, but in response to suggestions, a possible exclusive collaboration with Cardiff has been rejected as not being in the Vale's interests for agile collaborative working.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

13.        None as a result of this report

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

14.        None as a result of this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

15.        None as a result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

16.        None as a result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

17.        Corporate Plan action CL11 "Develop operational partnerships with other Councils to promote shared service provision" refers.

Policy Framework and Budget

18.        This is a matter for executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

19.        Staff and Trade Unions will be kept fully abreast of developments and consulted on proposals as they are made.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

20.        Corporate Resources

Background Papers

Appendices attached.

 

Contact Officer

Huw Isaac, Head of Performance and Development, 01446 709760

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer:

Chief Executive