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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Community Liaison Committee 23 October 2012

 

Report of the Managing Director

 

Charter between the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Town and Community Councils

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To evaluate the existing Charter between the Vale of Glamorgan Council and town and community councils and to make proposals to revise the charter following the local elections in May 2012.

Recommendations

1.             To note the evaluation of the existing charter.

2.             To agree the proposals for a review of the charter and the development of the action plan.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             In order to progress the principles of the charter.

2.             In order to commence the review of the charter and the development of a new action plan.

Background

2.             The Community Liaison Committee agreed the charter (appendix 1) between the Vale of Glamorgan Council and town and community councils in November 2007. It was subsequently agreed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Cabinet in February 2008. The action plan was agreed in February 2009.

3.             At its meeting of 31 July 2012, the committee was advised that a new charter and action plan should be developed following the local elections.

4.             The charter outlines the aims on which the unitary council and town and community councils wish to work together for the benefit of local communities, whilst also recognising their respective responsibilities as autonomous democratically elected statutory bodies. The charter and its action plan cover the areas of recognition, local governance, consultation, information and communication, joint working and engagement, land use planning, practical support, ethics, financial arrangements, delegating responsibility for service provision, sustainability, community strategy, local elections, action plan development monitoring and review.

5.             Twenty-two town and community councils are signatories to the charter. The following are the non-signatory councils:

  • Colwinston Community Council
  • Llandow Community Council
  • St Donats Community Council
  • St Georges and St Brides Super Ely Community Council

Evaluation of the Charter

6.             A questionnaire was circulated to Vale Council officers and to clerks of the signatory town and community councils. Although not statistically valid due to the low numbers taking part in the survey, it provides a general view on the strength of feeling regarding the charter.

7.             The general feeling is that relationships between town and community councils and the unitary council have improved somewhat in recent years; no one surveyed felt that relationships had worsened. This may or may not have been as a consequence of having the charter in place.

8.             Signatory town and community councils strongly feel that they are not represented on key partnerships within the Vale, although there was an action arising from the charter to increase access to key partnerships.

9.             There are mixed views from town and community councils regarding the usefulness of Community Liaison Committee meetings. A view remains that the Vale Council doesn't listen sufficiently to the views of (particularly) community councils. They would particularly like more input into planning decisions and discussions. However, town and community councils are consulted on every single planning and related application and where they respond (not in all cases) their views are considered alongside other material factors.

10.        When consultation is undertaken, town and community council feel that they do not receive enough notice to make a response. However, the time given on planning consultation is statutory and allows for only 21 days.

11.        Although they are regularly asked, town and community councils rarely request items to be placed on the agenda. Although they suggest that officers don't attend meetings regularly, few officers are actually requested to attend.

12.        There are mixed views on consultation with town and community councils about decisions affecting local communities; a number of officers admit to not consulting, and a number of town and community councils feel that they aren't consulted. There is more work to do in this area.

13.        An area of good practice is the Town and Community Council Planning Liaison group, whereby all town and community councils are invited to send two representatives per council to discuss matters of mutual interest, with the town and community councils being able to raise items for discussion. This forum also serves as training and development opportunities. It has had only mixed attendance, however, it provides an opportunity to raise concerns and issues. 

14.        Several town and community councils feel that communication with the unitary council remains poor due to delays in the contact centre and the lack of named contact officers. There are also complaints about long delays awaiting an officer to respond. Town and community councils would like a more direct route than through the contact centre, which is sometimes seen as a barrier.

15.        Only half of those responding from town and community councils have attended meetings for clerks. Those who do attend find it very useful. Less than half of respondents have had training on planning issues (as proposed in the charter). Of those who have attended training, this is provided either by the Vale Council or from One Voice Wales.

16.        Most town and community councils have participated in site visits (land use planning) but complain that they feel excluded by not being able to speak. They would also like a representative to be able to speak at Planning Committee meetings. Most say that they regularly receive copies of planning decisions made affecting their area.

17.        Only one service has received a request for a delegation of services. Several town and community councils have taken up support services provided by the Vale Council, including IT, legal, personnel and training support.

18.        The provision of induction training to newly appointed elected members in town and community councils is variable. Several newly appointed clerks have also not received any training.

19.        Town and community councils on the whole feel that they can get timely and appropriate advice on ethics. A code of conduct handout for newly elected members was suggested as being a helpful addition to this service. The Vale Council is facilitating and funding training sessions for town and community councillors and clerks by OneVoice Wales.  Despite there being no cost involved for the councils themselves, relatively few elected members are attending.

20.        Most town and community councils feel that they are becoming more proactive on green issues. Nearly all have adopted more electronic ways of working.

21.        There were mixed views as to whether there has been more interest by the general public in the work of town and community councils. Most agreed that elections ran smoothly, although some complained that election charges were high, considering that some seats were uncontested.

The Way Forward

22.        The general feeling is that the charter has been helpful in identifying responsibilities and increasing communication and improving relationships. It has also been helpful in identifying areas where opportunities for engagement have been increased. Town and community councils that have taken up these opportunities have generally found them to be worthwhile.

23.        It is therefore proposed that a working group be established to consider any required revision of the charter, followed by a new action plan. The previous format, with 3 community council clerks, 2 town council clerks and 5 Vale Council officers, appeared to work well.

24.        The following timetable is proposed:

  • Request for clerks and officers to be involved in charter revision (Oct/Nov 2012)
  • First meeting arranged to review the charter (Dec 2012/Jan 2013)
  • Revised charter (first draft) to Community Liaison Committee (29 January 2013)
  • Draft charter to VoG cabinet for consideration (4 March 2013)
  • Revised charter (second draft) to Community Liaison Committee (20 March 2013)
  • Final charter to VoG cabinet for agreement (8 April 2013)
  • Revised charter to be considered by individual town and community councils (May/June/July 2013)
  • Request for clerks and officers to be involved in action planning (August 2013)
  • Action plan developed (Sept/Oct 2013)
  • Action plan considered by Community Liaison Committee and VoG Cabinet (Nov/Dec 2013)

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

25.        There are no immediate financial implications as a result of this report.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

26.        Sustainability has been a key priority for the charter.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

27.        Charters are written partnership agreements which are not legally binding.

Crime and Disorder Implications

28.        None arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

29.        None arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

30.        Community leadership.

Policy Framework and Budget

31.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

32.        Town and community councils were consulted on the actions attributed to them. 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

33.        Corporate Resources

Background Papers

A Shared Community – relationship building and charters for unitary authorities and community and town councils issued by the Welsh Assembly Government

 

Charter and action plan between the Vale of Glamorgan Council and signatory town and community councils.

Contact Officer

Beverly Noon (01446 709746)

Officers Consulted

Head of Performance and Development

Director of Visible Services and Housing

Monitoring Officer

Director of Development Services

Head of Strategic ICT

Head of Financial Services

Operational Manager - Democratic Services

Operational Manager - Customer Relations

Operational Manager - Human Resources

Democratic Services Officer

Web Editor

Training Manager

Responsible Officer:

Sian Davies

Managing Director

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