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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 20 October, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Central South Consortium Legal Agreement

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To seek agreement to enter into a new School Improvement Services legal agreement for the Central South Consortium.

Recommendations

1.         That delegated Authority is given to the Managing Director in consultation with the Leader of the Council and the Head of Legal Services to agree and finalise the new Agreement.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To expedite the new arrangements for the Central South Consortium set out in the new draft Agreement.

Background

2.         Local Authorities across Wales established Consortium arrangements for delivery of Education services.  The focus of these services is on the Central South Consortium delivery of school improvement services.

3.         The Central South Consortium comprises Bridgend, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Vale of Glamorgan Councils.

4.         At the meeting on 21 October 2013 Cabinet agreed a legal agreement for the Central South Consortium comprising two parts: firstly, the joint education service providing statutory school improvement activities on behalf of local authorities and, secondly, the traded LINKS service providing training, development and support activities funded in the main through delegated school budgets and grant income.

5.         The Welsh Government published the National Model for Regional Working in February 2014 setting out requirements for the operation of consortia determining the:

·           mission, values and principles of effective school improvement;

·           the scope of regional consortia;

·           delivery of respective regional consortia and local authority functions;

·           governance and accountability;

·           the organisation and operation of consortia.

6.         The Joint Committee of the Consortium agreed a business plan for the current year that was consistent with the National Model: this plan was endorsed by Cabinet at the meeting on 12 May 2014.

7.         Cabinet is now asked to agree entry into a new legal agreement which is consistent with the National Model and business plan.

8.         It is proposed that the Council enters into a new agreement for the provision of a school improvement services ("the New Agreement’). The New Agreement would replace the two existing agreements currently in place relating to the provision of a Joint Education Service ("JES’) and a Learning and Innovation Network for Schools ('Links’).

9.         As stated in the body of the report  the requirement for the new agreement stems from the issue of the Welsh Government Guidance document National Model for Regional Working (no: 126/2014).   The New Agreement is similar in approach to the existing JES and Links agreements but there are some key changes especially around governance.   The governance structure is detailed in paragraph 12 of the report and is based on a Joint Committee model. The structure provides that the work of the School Improvement Service will be overseen by a Joint Committee of the constituent local authorities.  The Joint Committee will have responsibility for approving the budget, business planning and performance management of the service. The Joint Committee will have the delegated powers to make decisions which affect the delivery of and resources available to school improvement. It should, however, be noted that notwithstanding the conclusion of the New Agreement the Council retains its statutory responsibilities and accountability for schools and school improvement.

10.      A key change in the New Agreement is the role of the Executive Board, which advises the Joint Committee on operational delivery of the joint service, as guided by the steering groups and whose role includes to manage, oversee and support the service.

11.      Many of the provisions of the New Agreement replicate the provisions of the existing agreements, which provisions the Council has previously accepted .In brief :-

·           the scope of the services to be provided are set out in schedule 1. 

·           the 'Additional Intervention’ part of the Services will be focused on schools in most need of support irrespective of in which authority they reside.

·           the agreements provide for a host authority (RCT) and the support services are to be provided by RCT (for example financial /administrative/ legal advice)

·           the term of the Agreement is such that the Agreement shall continue unless all parties to the Agreement agree to terminate the Agreement.

·           the agreement contains a mechanism to enable a party to withdraw but the same involves the giving of lengthy notice periods (2years plus) and may result in substantial costs to the party wishing to withdraw. It is understood that the rationale for the lengthy notice period is to give all parties the requisite time to work through the implications of one party withdrawing.

·           Not withstanding the differing  percentage financial contributions, each authority enjoys the same voting rights on the joint committee.

·           the agreement contains an information sharing framework.

Relevant Issues and Options

12.      Following the publication of the Government's national model, Central South Consortium produced a Business Plan which set out the vision priorities and targets for the region.  It established the working arrangements of the consortium and also allowed for the agreement of separate annexes with each authority to govern the separate commissioning arrangements in place in each case.  The Business Plan confirmed the termination of the LINKS Service and also confirmed the governance model for the consortium.

13.      In summary the consortium model will be governed by:

A Joint Committee which has a reduced membership of Leaders of each Local Authority or their nominated representative, the lead Chief Executive (which will revolve annually), the Managing Director and the Chair of the Executive Board (see below). Joint Committee members will agree a Chair and Deputy Chair which will revolve annually. It is envisaged that the Joint Committee should meet termly. The Joint Committee will in turn appoint:

An Executive Board which comprises: the Lead Director of the Consortium, the Managing Director, a nominee of Welsh Government, a representative Leader or Cabinet Member from the Joint committee (not the Chair), and up to five external experts to be appointed through a national advert and process. The Executive Board will meet every half term. The Executive Board exists in an advisory capacity and will be guided by three steering groups:

·           Directors steering group – meeting monthly, chaired by a Lead Director (which will revolve annually).

·           Schools representative steering group – meeting each half term.

·           Governors group – meeting termly.

14.      This model has been agreed by both the current Joint committee and the Welsh Government.

15.      The basis of using the Welsh Government Indicator Based Assessment model of allocating the costs of the Consortium between authorities remains with a proposal that there is a review of this arrangement in the 2016/17 financial year.

New legal agreement

16.      The legal framework for the current consortium arrangements are provided for in two agreements relating the provision of a Joint Education Services ('JES') and a Learning and Innovation Network for Schools ('Links').

17.      A revised legal agreement has been drafted and is appended at Appendix 1 in its draft form and would replace the two existing agreements. The requirement for the new agreement stems from the issue of the WG Guidance document no: 126/2014, date of issue: February 2014.

18.      The new draft Agreement is similar in approach to the previous agreement but there are some key changes around governance, which have been previously outlined in this report, and the termination of the LINKS Service.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

19.      The new draft Agreement sets out in the contribution basis mechanism which determines the base contribution for the services provided by the Central South Education Consortium (CSC).

20.      The Schedule within the New Agreement sets out the need for the CSC to set a budget that is financially sustainable and as a default position should not set a budget that will result in a deficit position. Consideration needs to be given as to the appropriate notice that the Council must have if there is a request for additional monies in a particular financial year. In considering its budget strategy the Cabinet needs to consider in return the notice it must give the CSC in respect of expectations of contributions for future financial years.

21.      The New Agreement also provides the receipt of Grants that are now to be discharged by the respective consortia across Wales rather than individual Local Authorities. The schedule highlights that the CSC will determine the allocation of grants across the region including individual schools.

22.      The importance of continued financial probity of the CSC is essential and the legal agreement highlights the responsibility of the S151 Officer of the host Authority (RCT) to ensure that all responsibilities are discharged and that appropriate financial reports are provided to the Committee and constituent authorities.

Human Resources Implications

23.      Whilst most staff working with the Central South Consortium are already employed by RCT, there remain a small number whose contracts of employment are with Cardiff.  The New Agreement confirms the need for these remaining staff to transfer to RCT as the host authority and this will be achieved through a TUPE transfer.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

24.      High performing schools make a significant contribution to economic prosperity and to vibrant and sustainable communities.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

25.      The Council has the requisite legal powers to facilitate the collaboration and creation of the Joint Committee. These powers include Sections 101 and 102 of the Local Government Act 1972, sections 19 and 20 of the Local Government Act 2000, section 9 of the Local Government Wales Measure 2009 and Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970. These powers include the ability to delegate functions, the ability for two or more authorities to discharge any of their functions jointly, and where this occurs, to do so via a joint committee, and/ or by their officers and the ability to supply administrative, professional and technical services.

26.      It will be necessary for the final version of the new Agreement to be executed by the Head of Legal Services

Crime and Disorder Implications

27.      There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

28.      The on-going work of the Consortium prioritises support for Welsh Language development.

Corporate/Service Objectives

29.      Improvement outcomes and well-being for all learners.

Policy Framework and Budget

30.      This is a matter for Executive decision by the Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

31.      Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

32.      Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Jennifer Hill

Director of Learning and Skills

 

Officers Consulted

Mike Walsh, Legal Services

Carolyn Michael, Finance

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill

Director of Learning and Skills

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