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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources): 20 December 2011

 

Report of the Chief Executive

 

A Compact for Change between the Welsh Government and Welsh Local Government

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To seek the views of Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee on the proposed Compact between the Welsh Government (WG) and Welsh Local Government (WLG).  

Recommendation

That Scrutiny Committee considers the proposed Compact and makes recommendations to Cabinet.

Reason for the Recommendation

To ensure that the views of all political groups are taken into account before Cabinet responds to WG.

 

Background

2.             The Simpson report ("Local, Regional, National: What Services Are Best Delivered Where?"), published in March 2011, included as one of its main recommendations a Compact between WG and WLG setting out how the actions to ensure collaborative working as set out in the report would be implemented.  Since March, negotiations have been continuing between WG and the WLGA on the nature of the Compact, and a draft went for agreement to the Partnership Council for Wales, on which the Vale Council is represented, in its meeting of 5 December.  The proposed Compact is attached as Appendix A.  The Partnership Council endorsed the Compact, subject to its being referred to all Welsh Councils for ratification.  The Compact is being referred initially to Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee for views before going to Cabinet for a formal response to WG.   

Relevant Issues and Options

3.             The Compact is divided into two sections:  a preamble, in which the principles underpinning the Compact are set out; and the Implementation Contracts, which detail the specific services the Compact will cover.  The Implementation Contracts, which include major initiatives such as the Education Consortia and Social Services regional commissioning, cover areas where there has already been significant progress.  The Vale Council endorsed these specific proposals in its response to the initial Simpson report recommendations (Cabinet minute C1331 dated 8 June 2011 refers), and there are no changes to what was previously proposed.

4.             The preamble has been the subject of some discussion, and the proposed draft is more balanced in respect of the various roles of WG and local government.  As such it is worthy of recommendation.  However, from the Vale Council's perspective there remain some caveats. 

5.             Page 2, paragraph 3.  "There may be occasions when the case for change may be less strong or broadly neutral for one partner in collaboration than another.  Relative scale of benefits should not be a reason to avoid working together where the outcome for public services will meet the criteria above".  In general, this principle is accepted:  even if the benefits for the Vale are at best neutral, collaboration is welcomed where others would benefit.  However, where collaboration would mean either a reduction in service quality or an increase in cost for the Vale, then Vale citizens would be rightly critical.  And ultimately, it is to them that the Vale Council is responsible.  It is considered that the Compact should make this clearer in respect of all Councils.  

6.             Page 2, paragraph 4.  "There is a shared expectation that future collaborative working will be aligned to this footprint".  This refers to the "regional footprint" that the Minister for Local Government and Communities announced in the summer, and which created a Cardiff and the Vale region for collaboration.  The Council's concerns with this approach have been expressed to the Minister (reported to Cabinet on 7 September), and it is disappointing to note that the Compact formalises what the Council considers to be an ill-advised and unnecessarily restrictive approach.  There are continuing concerns that any future collaborative projects with other Councils (including extending arrangements with Bridgend and Swansea) would be vetoed as a result of Cardiff's non-involvement.

7.             There is a requirement by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission that all major undertakings, such as the Simpson Compact, are subjected to an Equalities Impact Assessment.  Enquiries have established that no such assessment has been conducted in respect of the Compact.  WLGA advice has been sought on the advisability of doing so and is still awaited. 

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

8.             There are no resource implications arising from the Compact itself.  As business cases continue to be developed for the specific service areas subject to the Implementation Contracts, reports will be brought to Members as appropriate.  These will highlight financial, employment and Climate Change issues.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

9.             None as a direct result of the Compact itself.  Legal advice will be sought individually as the Implementation Contract projects are progressed.

Crime and Disorder Implications

10.        None as a direct result of the Compact.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

11.        Paragraph 7 above highlights concerns about the need to conduct an Equalities Impact Assessment of the Compact.  Welsh translation services will be the subject of an Implementation Contract (page 14 of the Compact).

Corporate/Service Objectives

12.        One of the Council's corporate priorities is "To work with partners to promote good governance and ensure a coordinated approach to delivering the shared vision for the future of the Vale".   

Policy Framework and Budget

13.        This is a matter for Executive Decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

14.        Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee are being consulted to ascertain views for a Cabinet response to WG.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

15.        Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

A Compact for Change between the Welsh Government and Welsh Local Government 

 

Contact Officer

Huw Isaac, Head of Performance and Development

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer:

Chief Executive