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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 3 June 2013

Report of the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture & Sports Development

Grants to Community / Voluntary Organisations: Review of Services Offered to the Council by Valeways

Purpose of the Report

1. On 28th March 2012 Cabinet considered a report seeking approval for the award of funding to Valeways. In addition to agreeing funding for Valeways of £20k for one year Cabinet resolved that a review of the services offered to the Council by Valeways should be carried out to ensure value for money. Cabinet minute C1675 refers. 

2. The aim of this report is to consider the services offered by Valeways, review value for money in respect of this service, and consider a further request for grant aid.

Recommendations

1. That the report is noted

2. That Cabinet considers awarding a final one off core funding grant of £10 000 subject to Valeways entering into a deed of grant.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. To apprise members of delivery of services by Valeways

2. In order to provide core support until Valeways establishes a more sustainable business model.

Background

3. Formed in 1996, Valeways is a multi-partnership charity that supports teams of mixed ability volunteers to improve and maintain access to the Vale’s public rights of way.

4. Valeways was previously provided with £30,000 of funding per annum for a 3 year period. This ended on 31st March 2012. Cabinet on 28th March 2012 resolved that Valeways be granted a further sum of £20,000 by Deed of Grant for one year from 1 April 2012.

5. Cabinet also resolved that a full review of the services offered to the Council by Valeways be undertaken.

Relevant Issues and Options

6. The delivery of services by Valeways is primarily undertaken in the following ways:

Walk and Clear Events

7. These aim to contribute towards maintenance and improvement of the Public Rights of Way Network by undertaking light clearance as well as by identifying and reporting maintenance needs to the Council. The events are typically guided walks in which a group equipped with small hand tools undertake minor maintenance. Valeways’ Deed of Grant requires that Walk and Clear events include coverage of all routes promoted by Valeways.

8. From 10th April 2012 to 4th January 2013 reports were received from Valeways in relation to 55 instances of walk and clear events. Volunteer hours were not reported for 4 of these events. The remaining 51 described approximately 256 volunteer hours, this including a single instance linked with Business in the Community attended by 11 volunteers and accounting for 55 hours. Of the 55 instances reported direct action was taken on 26 occasions, this mostly comprising light clearance. Of the 55 reports, 31 events took place in part or in full on promoted routes. This included repeat visits to some walks, most popular of which were the Bonvilston Circulars (visited 8 times) and different parts of the Millenium Heritage trail (5 times).

Volunteer Work Parties

9. Valeways contribution to maintenance of the network via walk and clear is usually limited to a modest level of intervention rather than heavy clearance. The quality of the information relayed from the reports varies significantly. This is from precise information on the location and condition of structures requiring repair, to ambiguous or vague reporting for which identification of the route being walked or issues being reported was difficult. Reporting and targeting of work has been recently highlighted in discussion and it is anticipated that both will be improved.

10. At present walk and clear reporting may be benchmarked against typical feedback received from other user or interest groups. In this case the quality of information received is roughly that which could be expected to be reported generally or from user groups employing standard forms. Scope exists to develop this further.

11. The extent of works undertaken during walk and clear can be limited by its nature though the scheme could assist with delivery of higher standards on promoted routes. More focussed work and parties are capable of heavier clearance and may be benchmarked against work undertaken by the Ramblers Association (as below), though are more ad hoc. The Walk and Clear schedule is administered and managed by Valeways by reference to the terms contained in the Deed of Grant.

12. The Ramblers Association undertake fortnightly (approx) clearance during the growing season. Some plans exist for extending this to winter months. The parties typically attract 6-8 volunteers and are not funded or supported directly by the Council (though some liaison with the group as to their activities is conducted); members involved are encouraged to also join Valeways for insurance purposes. The Ramblers also monitor and clear the Northern section of the Millennium Heritage Trail.   

13. Prior to December 2011 Valeways employed a Volunteer Coordinator who led teams of volunteers in delivering practical works on the ground. The officer was, however, made redundant and volunteer work parties ceased. Parties have recently been re-established on a one day a week basis. In this respect, Valeways role has primarily been administrative support in the recruitment of volunteers and monitoring of hours. Valeways have also retained ownership of a stock of tools which are stored in a container on Council premises for no fee (Court Road Depot).

14. Coordination, management and preparation of work, including transport to site and leading the team on the ground has been undertaken by Council staff. A Land rover previously provided by grant for Valeways use is now maintained from the Council Cleansing budget. Materials and structures used on site are funded in part by the Local Authority Partnership Grant awarded to the council by Natural Resources Wales (formerly the Countryside Council for Wales), by other grant funds or by maintenance budget.

15. Volunteer work parties make a positive and direct impact on the ability of the Council to satisfy its statutory duties. In its current format the Council takes a lead in delivering the scheme with the remaining administrative burden following recruitment being relatively low. Recruitment was fulfilled by Valeways. In addition Valeways have recently been awarded a grant of £12,000 from Environment Wales for recruitment of a volunteer coordinator. The grant is against project costs of £24006.45 and dependent on match funding including £6500 of in-kind volunteer time, £4856.35 reliant on a grant of core funding and £650 of in-kind management time.

16. Other volunteer work party schemes operating on Public Rights of Way include parties led by Council’s Heritage Coast Rangers team based in Southerndown and the Ramblers Association work party referred to above. The Heritage Coast team leads groups of 1-4 volunteers undertaking work approximately 3 days a week. This is in addition to ad hoc groups attracting up to 20 volunteers. Heritage Coast Rangers undertake coordination, management, preparation and delivery of the works. Administration of volunteers is also undertaken by the team who report a relatively small burden following set up.

Publication of Leaflets

17. The creation and maintenance of an up to date information resource is a Council Rights of Way improvement Plan (ROWIP) aim and is principally delivered through creation, revision and publication of promotional material. As noted above Valeways trustees and volunteers have produced 20 leafleted walks that promote walking and use of the Public Rights of Way network within the Vale of Glamorgan. These leaflets are primarily distributed by Valeways though copies are also distributed by the Council at events.

18. A number of routes are promoted within the Vale of Glamorgan that are not administered by Valeways. The Council manages and develops these internally or otherwise subject to grant availability.

19. In terms of benchmarking, whilst it is acknowledged that administration of existing promoted material, including Valeways material to a limited extent, is a function already undertaken by the Council, the administration of Valeways leaflets by the organisation reduces the burden on the PROW Section, particularly in relation to the creation and revision of promoted routes, which is research intensive.

Website

20. Valeways’ website hosts downloadable copies of Valeways walking leaflets as well as information on walking in the Vale and the Valeways walking programme. The website is a useful resource and important presence for Valeways as an organisation. In terms of value to the Council, no duty is fulfilled by its presence though the availability of information helps satisfy some ROWIP aims. The most useful aspects are static (i.e. walking guides) though obviously only relate to Valeways produced walks. The Valeways site was professionally constructed though is now maintained by volunteers. The static elements could be hosted or replicated on Vale of Glamorgan Council sites with relative ease.

Walking Festival

21. Valeways have run a walking festival for the last two years promoting routes and walking within the Vale of Glamorgan. The festival is a useful event in terms of encouraging active lifestyles and marketing the Vale of Glamorgan (though is not a service required by statute). The Council currently supports the walking festival by channelling Local Authority Partnership Grant money from Natural Resources Wales into its marketing. Last year this was matched with a bid by Valeways for an Events Grant from the Council.

Walking for Health

22. Valeways also contributes to the Walking for Health programme. This scheme supports public health goals and is subject to its own grant award independent of the Council.

23. Valeways’ anticipated core costs for 2013/14, at £28k are approximately £8k higher than last year and provide for the employment of 2 no. part time workers dealing with administration and funding opportunities. This is more than double the administration support of last year accounting for the increase in costs. The funding arrangements expired at the end of the financial year and Valeways have applied for further core funding for 2013/14. As noted above a grant of £12,000 has recently been received by Valeways which has match funding implications. Attached as Appendix 1 is Valeways’ request for funding support.

24. From the above, it is clear that Valeways makes a modest contribution to the Rights of Way functions of the Council and also contributes to broader agendas. There are direct grants potentially available to resource delivery of many of these activities and these continue to be made available to the organisation as appropriate. The current request seeks funding for core running costs of the organisation. These core costs are not currently supported for other walking/walking promotion groups.

25. In previous years Valeways has proposed to develop other sources of income and establish itself on a more sustainable footing. Despite many years of core financial support, evidence suggests that no progress has been made in this respect. Last year a reduced core grant of £20 000 was awarded, in part to encourage the organisation to travel in this direction, but the organisation appears to be growing its core costs again with no comparable growth in sustainable income. The group has opportunities to resource core costs via specific project funding, other grants and income opportunities such as sponsorship, but needs to establish itself a more businesslike approach and account for core costs within its project activities. Funding for specific deliverables, projects or services via Council operational budgets, grant regimes, or other bodies could include a contribution to core costs, and if sufficient demand is made on the organisation’s services, all core costs will be covered.

26. I would therefore recommend that if any core grant is given to Valeways it respects this need and is reduced to a maximum of £10 000. This should be for one further year only to provide an incentive to develop a sustainable business model, and this message is clearly communicated.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

27. Any grant approved will be funded from the corporate policy revenue budget

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

28. Maintenance of the Public Rights of Way network and promotion of walking encourage sustainable travel.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

29. Support of Valeways in 2012/13 was by deed of grant and this would be needed again if Cabinet resolves to support in 2013/14

Crime and Disorder Implications

30. None

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

31. None

Corporate/Service Objectives

32. Valeways Core funding assists in the delivery of certain statutory duties and Rights of Way Improvement Plan objectives

Policy Framework and Budget

33. This matter is for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

34. As this review covers the whole of the Vale, no Ward Member consultation has been carried out.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

35. Economy and Environment

Background Papers

None

Contact Officer

Bob Guy, Operational Manager Countryside and Economic Projects - 01446 704623

Officers Consulted

Legal Services (Committee reports)

Tony Williams, Accountant

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services

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