Agenda Item No




The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources):  8th January 2013


Report in response to "Call-in" on Civic Offices Council Chamber Access Improvements


Report of the Managing Director


Purpose of the Report

1.             To respond to the questions posed in the "call-in" document on the Council Chamber access improvement works.


1.             That Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee accept the response to the "Call-in" as outlined in this report.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             That this scheme may be progressed.


2.             A Cabinet report was submitted on 3rd December 2012 Cabinet minute no: C1928, which was subsequently called-in.

3.             The report is a response to the issues that were raised in the "call-in".

Relevant Issues and options

4.             The main purpose of the project is to improve the access into the Council Chamber. The works to deal with improved access comprise of :-

  • removing the tiers by installing a suspended floor
  • installing a stair lift
  • replacing the furniture - required as the existing chairs do not allow adjustment in height or back position
  • the cost of these is estimated at £ 210,000.

5.             Additional works comprise of:-

  • installing floor sockets to allow Members to plug in laptops
  • replacing the wall finish to include acoustic panels to improve the sound quality in the Chamber
  • additional store rooms
  • replacing the existing ceiling and lighting.
  • The cost of these is £40,000.  It is more cost effective to carry out these schemes at the same time as the larger works.

6.             Options on the Chamber have been drafted previously and the current proposal was felt to be the best option to ensure that the Chamber is accessible to all.  A number of different options were considered to ensure that the Council Chamber was accessible. These ranged from:-

  • Installing stair lifts - the stair lift option meant that none of the tiers were of a sufficient width to allow a wheelchair to access them, and reduced the width to the stairs. Only gives access for limited numbers of users and to one level only. Due to the nature of the support rail and the fact that the steps in the Chamber do not line through with the entrance steps multiple rails would be needed to facilitate access to other levels and would preclude access across the Chamber. It could also be seen as discriminatory as location for access is in a single position.
  • Removing all the tiers within the Chamber to have a single floor level - this reduced the height to the Chamber significantly and would not allow sufficient head height through the entrance doors.
  • Installing platform lifts - this option would still only gave limited access to the Chamber and had an impact on the seating arrangement within the Chamber.
  • Installing external lift - this option had the least effect on the existing Chamber layout but would be seen as secondary discrimination particularly when viewed with the current entry provisions of the Civic Offices and any pre-meetings which would require a disabled attendee to use an external route which materially differed from other attendees.

7.             Replacing the furniture with fixed furniture was considered but this would have restricted the use of the Chamber and would not have been compliant for a wheelchair user.

8.             Replacing the lower tiers with a new suspended floor will allow new floor electrical and IT sockets to be introduced improving the functionality of the Chamber to hold a variety of meetings.

9.             The existing ceiling is of a homogeneous nature (constructed of interlocking tiles which cannot be individually removed) and causes maintenance problems. It is proposed that a new modular ceiling be installed, this would allow for a system of lighting to current standards and for ease of maintenance access which the current ceiling precludes. The new lighting would be of a low energy type with automatic controls to reduce the carbon footprint and comply with the Council’s Policies on Energy Use and Conservation. The cost of replacing the ceiling and lighting is £20,000. This will reduce maintenance costs by £1,000 / year and energy costs by £2,000 / year giving it an overall pay back of 6.6 years.

10.        The proposal is to ensure that the Chamber is usable for all citizens, staff groups and members. At present the Chamber is inaccessible to wheelchair users and as such leaves the Council open to action being taken against it for discrimination. Any member of the public could ask for an Equality Impact Assessment to be undertaken in the Chamber and it would be seen that the Council is not compliant with its own Equality Policies.

11.        The works are the Council's demonstration of its intent to change the built environment in line with its Disability Equality Scheme and its duty under the Vale's Single Equality Scheme.

12.        The flexibility of the proposed works will allow for the Chamber to be a multiple use facility allowing it to be use by all members of the community for a variety of uses.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.        A Capital budget of £250,000 will need to be provided for the works.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

14.        The volume of the Chamber will be reduced with a corresponding lowering of energy needs this will be further enhanced by the use of low energy controlled lighting. All materials used will be as far as possible be from sustainable resources and be recyclable.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.        The proposals will make the Chamber fully accessible for all and prevent action being taken against the Council under the DDA and also allow for public scrutiny and open governance.

Crime and Disorder Implications

16.        There are no Crime and Disorder Implications.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.        The direct Equal Opportunity Implications as a result of this report and the works contained within is the creation of a facility which is accessible to all. Initially there is no direct effect on Welsh Language Issues however space has been provided for a possible interpretation booth.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18.        To make best use of our assets and ensure that the Council's service delivery in terms of its assembly areas is accessible to all and compliant with the relevant statutory requirements.

Policy Framework and Budget

19.        The Disability Equality Scheme is Council Policy and has been used as a basis for this report.

20.        A budget needs to be established within the Capital Programme.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.        Consultations have been held with Democratic Services, the Registration Service, ICT.

Background Papers

Cabinet Report

"Call in" Document


Contact Officer

Jane Wade, OM Property


Officers Consulted

Operational Manager - Democratic Services


Responsible Officer:

Sian Davies, Managing Director