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VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

Minutes of an Extraordinary Meeting held on 23rd January, 2013.

 

Present:  Councillor Eric Hacker (Mayor); Councillors Richard Bertin, Janice Birch, Rhiannon Birch, Jonathan Bird, Bronwen Brooks, Lis Burnett, Philip Clarke, Geoff Cox, Claire Curtis, Rob Curtis, Pamela Drake, John Drysdale, Kate Edmunds, Stuart Egan, Christopher Elmore, Christopher Franks, Keith Geary, Howard Hamilton, Val Hartrey, Keith Hatton, Nic Hodges, Jeff James, Hunter Jarvie, Gwyn John, Fred Johnson, Dr. Ian Johnson, Maureen Kelly Owen, Peter King, Kevin Mahoney, Anne Moore, Neil Moore, Andrew Parker, Bob Penrose, Anthony Powell, Audrey Preston, Rhona Probert, Gwyn Roberts, John Thomas, Ray Thomas, Rhodri Traherne, Steffan Wiliam, Margaret Wilkinson, Clive Williams, Christopher Williams, Edward Williams and Mark Wilson.

 

 

763     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

Councillors Jonathan Bird, Geoff Cox, Audrey Preston and Rhodri Traherne declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 7(c): Vale of Glamorgan Local Development Plan 2011 - 2026: Way Forward and Revised Delivery Agreement. 

 

Councillors Jonathan Bird, Audrey Preston and Rhodri Traherne left the meeting during consideration of that item.

 

 

764     MINUTES -

 

The minutes of the meeting held on 5th December, 2012 were approved as a correct record.

 

 

765     ANNOUNCEMENTS -

 

The Mayor made the following announcements:

 

(i)         He referred to having attended and enjoyed a number of Christmas concerts and carol services.

 

(ii)        He had made the annual Mayor's visit to Flat Holm.

 

(iii)       The Mayor's Christmas Raffle had raised a total of £828 and he thanked Members for their support.

 

(iv)       He reminded Members of the fortnightly Charity Coffee Mornings held, support for which was always welcomed.

 

(v)        He had sent congratulatory letters to the following residents in the Vale of Glamorgan who had received New Year's Honours:

 

·         John Geraint Davies, CBE

·         Terrence Lynn Williams MBE

·         Anthony Hughes MBE

·         Eileen Younghusband BEM

·         Brian Meadows MBE.

 

(vi)       He informed Members that two fund-raising events were being organised, details of which would be circulated in due course:

 

·         Wednesday, 17th April, 2013 - Charity Golf Day at the Welsh National Golf Course, Vale Hotel.  All proceeds would go to Prostate Cymru

·         Saturday, 27th April, 2013 - Charity Concert with the Liberty Big Band at the Memorial Hall, Barry.  Proceeds would go to Help for Heroes.

 

(vii)      He reminded Members of the event taking place on 26th January, 2013 at Art Central, Barry to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.  The theme this year was 'Building Bridges', with the Council's theme being the 'Gypsy, Roma Traveller Communities'.

 

(viii)     The Leader referred to the fact that former Councillor Jennifer Cole had recently passed away.  Members stood in silence as a mark of respect.

 

(ix)       The Leader, in referring to recent extreme weather conditions, thanked Council staff for their efforts in dealing with the situation.  He commended staff throughout the Council and particularly those in the Visible Services and Development Services Directorates and staff who had been involved, for example, in co-ordinating transport for both the young and old and ensuring the safety of vulnerable people.  He also expressed sympathy to those people who had been subject to flooding, particularly those in Llantwit Major.

 

(x)        The Cabinet Member for Children's Services was pleased to inform Members that the pipework at Albert Primary School had been fully repaired and the school re-opened.  During its unfortunate closure, children had been accommodated at the Penarth Tabernacle Church and the Penarth Leisure Centre.  He thanked the Head Teacher and parents for their support and co-operation throughout the closure.

 

 

766     PETITION -

 

The following petition was received and passed to the relevant Director:

 

·         Petition from residents expressing concerns regarding the access to Bute Cottage Nursery from Bute Lane, Penarth (submitted by Councillor Rhiannon Birch).

 

 

767     COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION SCHEME (MD) -

 

In introducing the report, the Leader alluded to the fact that, in addition to the report circulated with the agenda, Members had also been provided prior to the meeting with supplementary information, following the Ministerial Statement made on 17th January, 2013 and the amendment to the prescribed requirements and default scheme Regulations.  Given the change in stance by the Welsh Government, the Council was, in effect, being asked to consider recommendation (1) of the supplementary report together with recommendations (1), (2) and (3) from the original report.

 

On 17th December 2012 Cabinet considered a report on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme proposals for consultation and resolved (Minute C1940) :

 

(1)       T H A T the national scheme be adopted with the following discretions -

·         that the Council should continue to allow extended payments up to a maximum of 4 weeks;

·         that the Council should continue to disregard War Widow and War Disablement pensions in assessing income for Council Tax Reduction;

·         that the Council should continue to allow backdated benefit for a period of up to 26 weeks.

 

(2)       T H A T the scheme is put forward for consultation and for consideration by Council in January 2013.

 

(3)       T H A T in the light of the timescale, the Council’s urgency procedure is used. 

 

The National Assembly for Wales approved the Regulations for the Council Tax Support Scheme on 19th December 2012.  These Regulations prescribed the main features of the Scheme to be adopted by all Councils in Wales.

 

There were two sets of Regulations, as follows 

 

·         The Council Tax Reduction Schemes (Default Schemes) (Wales) Regulations, which established a single national framework scheme which would be imposed on any council that failed to adopt its own scheme by 31 January 2013, and

·         The Council Tax Reduction Schemes and Prescribed Requirements (Wales) Regulations, which set out the national requirements that each billing authority must satisfy and also enable additional areas of local discretion that authorities might wish to implement.   

 

The Regulations now included a clause which limited their effect to one year only.  New Regulations for 2014-15 and subsequent years would need to be laid by 1st January 2014.

 

The Regulations allowed discretion to enhance the process for notification of decisions above the minimum requirements.  It was considered that the national scheme as proposed supported all the information required to notify claimants of decisions 

 

The Council had undertaken consultation on the adoption of the scheme.  Because of the tight timescales between the making of the Prescribed Requirements Regulations and 31 January 2013 (by which date the scheme had to be adopted), consultation had been truncated to a period between 21st December 2012 and 16th January 2013.  The consultation exercise had been applied by all Welsh Councils and had been based upon the best information available at the time (even though the Local Government Revenue and Capital Settlement 2013/14 and the precise amount of funding for Council Tax support were not known at the time).

 

The Council undertook an Equality Impact Assessment in relation to the decisions to be made regarding the exercise of discretions.  In addition to consultation with existing Council Tax Benefit customers, the Council also consulted with local interest groups. 

 

The general conclusion reached from the consultation was that respondents were supportive of the Council’s approach to the areas of discretion.  Where responses included comments about the national scheme, these were forwarded to the Welsh Government.  Generally, comments about the national welfare reforms and changes to council tax support were negative; however, these changes were outside the control of the Council. 

 

Responses to the Equality Impact Assessment were again supportive of the Council's approach to areas of discretion.  Although there would be adverse affects connected with the implementation of the scheme, the Authority had to implement the legislation.  The effect of the scheme would be monitored throughout the financial year.  

 

The UK Government had transferred responsibility and resources for Council Tax Reduction to the Welsh Government.  The Welsh Government was funding local authorities, who were responsible for delivering Council Tax Reduction thorough the Revenue Support Grant.  Originally, an amount of £222m had been identified for Council Tax Reduction in Wales following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, with an amount of £7,946,965 being allocated to the Vale of Glamorgan Council in the final RSG settlement.

 

The Council was obliged to make a Council Tax Reduction Scheme under the Prescribed Requirements Regulations.  Although the legislation provided for a default scheme to apply in the absence of the Council making a scheme, the Council was, nevertheless, under a statutory duty to adopt its own scheme, even if it chose not to apply any of the discretionary elements.

 

On 19th December 2012, the National Assembly for Wales passed Regulations to implement new arrangements to support those who were on low income pay their Council Tax in 2013-14. The 2012 Regulations set out that the maximum level of support that eligible claimants could receive would be 90 per cent. This reflected the transfer of funding from the UK Government. 

 

Notwithstanding the above, at a Plenary Session on 22nd January, 2013, the Welsh Government decided to increase the maximum level of support from the current 90% to 100%. This meant that claimants would receive the full amount of support for their Council Tax liability to which they were eligible, unlike the 2012 Regulations, where all claimants receiving support would have had to pay a proportion of their bill. The Welsh Government would provide an additional £22 million to local authorities to implement the change.

 

The Council Tax Reduction Schemes (Prescribed Requirements and Default Scheme) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations came into effect on 23rd January, 2013.

 

The Regulations amended the Prescribed Requirements Regulations and the default scheme regulations as follows –

 

·         increasing the maximum council tax reduction a person can receive from 90 - 100%. 

·         up-rating figures used to calculate non-dependant deductions (adjustments made to the maximum amount of council tax reduction a person could receive to take account of adults living in the dwelling home who are not dependants of the applicant)

·         up-rating figures used to set the applicable amount (the amount against which an applicants income was compared to determine the amount of council tax reduction)

·         up-rating the disregard which applied when calculating a person’s income.

 

The up-rated figures had been calculated following the Chancellor's Autumn Statement in line with increases in the cost of living and earnings.

 

The Regulations also corrected errors in both sets of Regulations, now allowing billing authorities to make a payment of Council Tax reduction, where appropriate, although in general Council Tax reduction would reduce a claimant’s liability to pay Council Tax.

 

A number of technical errors relating references to the Jobseekers Allowance Regulations 1996 and the Tax Credits (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2012 had also been corrected.

 

As indicated above, an amount of £222m had originally been identified for Council Tax Reduction in Wales following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.  An amount of £7,946,965 had been allocated to the Vale of Glamorgan Council in the final RSG settlement.  A further £22m had now been provided by the Welsh Government   On the basis of the RSG distribution, the Council’s share of the additional £22m would be £787,537.  This would give a total grant of £8,734,502.

 

Based on the maximum liability rate of 100% (as set by the Regulations), the current caseload (11,085) and existing council tax levels (for 2012-13), the cost of council tax support to run the proposed scheme would now be £8,704,729.

 

The Government funding for the scheme for 2013-14 was £8,734,502. 

 

The Leader, in referring to the decision of the Welsh Government to reverse its earlier decision, felt this would be a great relief to the individuals concerned. 

 

Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson, in also welcoming the 'u-turn' referred to Plaid Cymru having previously called for such a change.  He sought clarification:

 

·         that nobody except those referred to in the changes would be any worse off under the new system

·         whether there were any alternative discretions than those proposed (albeit he supported such).

 

He also sought clarification regarding the Second Adult Rebate, the consultation exercise and the number of letters issued to claimants. 

 

Given the technical nature of certain of the questions, the Leader undertook to provide a written reply.  However, he confirmed that the consultation exercise included some 11,000 plus Council Tax benefit recipients.  At this point, he thanked Clive Teague, Head of Financial Services and his staff for the work they had undertaken.

 

Councillor Franks asked why, having previously indicated he did not support the actions of the SNP Government in ensuring that the discount was continued in Scotland, the Leader had now changed his view.  He also sought an indication of how much officer time in terms of finance had been taken up.

 

The Leader stated that, whilst obviously disappointed regarding the reduction originally intended, his previous comments had reflected the fact that the reduction had been imposed upon the Council and the Welsh Government at that time by the Westminster Government and, that they were indeed, cutting that particular funding regime.  He had never considered such cuts to be proper. 

 

He accepted there had been many meetings about the impact of the welfare reform, and that there would be many more imposed upon the Council.  However, in terms of officer time, this would form part of the normal duties of the officers of the Council, irrespective of how much work that entailed particularly as far as senior managers were concerned.  Officers took their duties responsibly and they would view the additional workload as part of the role required. 

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Council note the making of the Council Tax Reduction Schemes (Prescribed Requirements and Default Scheme) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations, 2013 by the Welsh Assembly on 22nd January 2013.

 

(2)       T H A T the Council note the making of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and Prescribed Requirements (Wales) Regulations ("the Prescribed Requirements Regulations") by the Welsh Assembly on 19th December, 2012.

 

(3)       T H A T the outcome of the consultation exercise undertaken by the Council on the introduction of the Council Tax Support Scheme be noted.

 

(4)       T H A T the Council adopt the national scheme with the following discretions -

 

·         that the Council continue to allow extended payments up to a maximum of 4 weeks;

·         that the Council continue to disregard War Widow and War Disablement pensions in assessing income for Council Tax Reduction;

·         that the Council continue to allow backdated benefit for a period of up to 26 weeks.

·         that the Council adopt the minimum requirements specified in the Regulations when issuing notification of decisions on Council Tax reduction.

 

 

768     REQUEST TO GRANT EXTENDED LEAVE OF ABSENCE TO A MEMBER (HDS) -

 

Given that the Member concerned, Councillor Mrs. Maureen Kelly Owen, was  in attendance at the meeting, there was no need for this item to be considered and it was therefore withdrawn.

 

 

769     HOUSING BUSINESS PLAN (REF) -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute Number C1943, 17th December, 2012, be approved.

 

 

770     INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2013/14 (REF) -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute Number C1953, 17th December, 2012, be approved.

 

 

771     VALE OF GLAMORGAN LOCAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN 2011 TO 2026: WAY FORWARD AND REVISED DELIVERY AGREEMENT (REF) -

 

Councillor Burnett, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation introduced the item, as referred from Cabinet on 14th January 2013. 

 

After in-depth consideration by Cabinet of all options available, a way forward to produce a sustainable development plan was recommended.  The report had been referred to the Scrutiny committee (Economy and Environment), who endorsed it, and the Planning Committee who noted it.  The Cabinet Member referred to the Local Development Plan (LDP) as being an important statutory document which would determine the location of various land uses until 2026.  It was essential that the final adopted LDP contained the right mix of development in the Vale of Glamorgan, and that it was fully supported by the necessary infrastructure. 

 

The next stage of the LDP process would have been to consult on the alternative development sites that were submitted as part of the Deposit Plan Statutory Consultation process.  However, whilst the LDP's preferred strategy of 2007 was sound, the representations for a Deposit Plan led to questions over the approach taken to implement that strategy.  In particular, concerns related to the need for the necessary infrastructure to support growth and the issue of air quality within the Vale of Glamorgan to be addressed by the LDP.  While changes could be made to the existing Plan, given the regulations within which LDPs were produced, it was likely that in order to address the concerns expressed in the representations the changes required would go well beyond that which would be possible.  In addition, as it would be up to an independent Inspector, and not the Council, to decide whether to incorporate the changes into the Final Adopted LDP, there would be no guarantee that changes would be accepted.  This was considered to be a significant key risk as it would influence the direct ability of the Council to deliver a sustainable LDP.

 

Alternatively, as the Preferred Strategy was considered sound, to come up with a different strategy would be a costly and high risk decision which would mean justifying why current strategy which focused on national planning policy, sustainable transport, the local of the regeneration opportunities and proximity to services was not appropriate.  Further concern of such an approach was that it would result in a substantial delay in adopting an LDP and would lead to potential difficulties when assessing new planning applications and defending decisions at appeal.  There was also a possibility that the Welsh Government could take over the conclusion of the LDP and enforce that Plan on the Council.  This again was a significant risk. 

 

As a result of discussions with Welsh Government officials it had been confirmed that it was possible to produce a replacement Deposit Local Development Plan and consult on it.  On balance, this option was considered to be the most appropriate and reasonable for the Vale of Glamorgan.  It meant that, subject to approval by Council at the meeting, the work on a Deposit LDP produced by the previous administration and published for consultation before the May election would not be progressed and that work would start on a replacement Deposit LDP.

 

Subject to agreement of the revised timetable by the Welsh Government it was anticipated that a replacement Deposit LDP would be published for statutory consultation in autumn 2013.  The Cabinet Member also pointed out that one of the issues raised during consultation held in February to April 2012 was the complexity of the process.  Future consultation would be as accessible as possible and ensure the widest possible engagement.  A series of update sessions would also be held in advance of carrying out the formal consultation on the replacement Deposit LDP and details of these would be made available as work on the replacement plan progressed.

 

Councillor John Thomas, Leader of the Conservative Group felt that, if the current Administration wished to spend a great deal of unnecessary time and money producing a new Local Development Plan then that was their decision.  However, he considered it clear that, to provide the same number of houses, with the strategy remaining unchanged, the result would be a similar document to the one which already existed.

 

He then referred to an issue he considered had not been satisfactorily addressed by the Cabinet Member.  The Cabinet report of 19th November 2012 (at paragraphs 10, 11, 12 and 13) gave, in his view, the clearest of impressions that the Welsh Government considered the Plan to be poor.  Quoting from the report “that the Deposit LDP fails to meet the expectations of the Welsh Government”, he alluded to a letter at Appendix A which detailed a long list of issues the Welsh Government wished to see addressed and observed that, when this list was read, one might well think that the Plan was not very good and clearly the Welsh Government was not at all happy with it.  However, he felt this did not reflect the true picture, given the content of a further letter contained in the documentation to Cabinet on 16th November 2012 from Rosemary Thomas, to whom the author of the other letter was responsible.

 

His main concern, however, related to paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of the 16th November letter, again from which he quoted concerns on how comments made by the Welsh Government were conveyed in the report to Cabinet, seemingly to give the impression this was the main reason for revisiting the Deposit Plan.  He stated that the letter had gone on to say that, whilst it was correct that the Welsh Government had made representations, the significance attached to such and arising from them appeared to have been over emphasised.  Certain comments made were applicable to many LDPs and had been satisfactorily resolved.  There did not appear to be any “insurmountable issues.”  Councillor Thomas referred to the Cabinet report as again stating the Plan failed to meet the expectations of Welsh Government and yet the aforementioned letter had stated that there did not appear to be any insurmountable issues.  He suggested that the Cabinet Member had either shown incompetence in failing to check whether there were really any major issues with the Plan or, more seriously, had deliberately misrepresented the Welsh Government representations in order to build the case for a new LDP.  Councillor Thomas considered this decision to be a waste of officer time and money and he confirmed that he could not support the recommendations.

 

In conclusion, Councillor Thomas requested that a Recorded Vote take place at the end of the debate.

 

Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson referred to Plaid Cymru having expressed their concerns about the LDP and Deposit Plan as published in 2012.  He had previously expressed concerns, during the public consultation process, regarding a variety of issues, including housing locations, determinations of schools, infrastructure problems, airport access and others.

 

He referred to there having been three options presented to Cabinet (to scrap the LDP, continue with it or to roll back), but to Council simply being recommended to ratify Cabinet's decision.  He alluded to his concerns expressed previously regarding projected housing requirements and to it being difficult to assess whether the amount of housing recommended was appropriate.  He quoted the policy as being to build 9950 houses with a 10% contingency and to the estimated population increase in the Vale of Glamorgan between 2006 and 2026 being from 123,000 to 143,000.  According to these figures the anticipated population growth in the Vale was greater than of the development of new estates at Pencoedtre, Rhoose Point, Pontypridd Road and the Waterfront.  However, he alluded to the census returns in March 2011 as showing a population actually of 126,300 not the estimated 128,100.  Having also quoted other figure / projections, he considered, therefore, the population growth figures to be unrealistic.  He concluded, therefore, that this could lead to the building of some 10,000 house for a population increase of around 9,000. 

 

He referred to the need to ensure the Councils’ housing policy met need, rather than be market-driven and suggested that, if the revised population figure was used, approximately 40% fewer houses would be required.

According to local housing market allocation, the need was for portable social housing units of one and two bedrooms.  Building those types of housing, as opposed to luxury homes, should be the priority in the Vale of Glamorgan.  By necessity, much of the required housing should be in towns where services were available and there was good public transport.  Barry was the largest town and, he considered, should carry the largest burden.  Building should occur on brown, not green, field sites.  He hoped the need to look once again at the current projections was recognised as part of the new Local Deposit Plan.

 

Councillor Franks, Leader of the Plaid Cymru Group, considered that none of the criticisms contained in the letter from Rosemary Thomas, alluded to above, had been addressed whatsoever. He referred to the lack of mention in the Cabinet Member’s introductory remarks to the number of houses that any future Plan would seek to provide.  He also mentioned the differences between projected population growth existing.  He felt there to have been no explanation as to why figures from a “different economic age” were being relied upon.  He quoted from the 2007 draft Preferred Strategy in terms of employment, and economic growth and development projections which he considered were no longer sustainable.  He felt that in terms of employment, population, housing needs and infrastructure (e.g. a Dinas Powys By-pass) requirements, there were numerous unanswered questions. 

 

Councillor Penrose considered the previous Plan to be flawed.  As far as the options submitted to Cabinet were concerned, he felt the option of continuing with that version was, therefore, not feasible.  He further felt that to start the whole process again would be too expensive.  As such, the only option was that of a replacement Plan.  However, he was of the view that further work and reconsideration would need to take place in terms of issues such as employment projections.  The need to address infrastructure needs was also important.  Finally, he asked that the issue of identifying / providing a permanent gypsy traveller site, in order to meet the needs in the Vale of Glamorgan, be addressed, as soon as possible, within the LDP process.  

 

For accuracy, the Leader pointed out that, in recommendation (1) before Council, the date should, in fact, read 25th January 2012 (and not 23rd January).   He referred to unsuccessful opposition Members’ attempts to debate / defer the issue at that meeting and to it being, at that time, a “fait accompli”.  As far as he was concerned, he still believed in the course of action being recommended (given that, in his opinion, the Deposit plan as previously produced was in many respects flawed).  He alluded to a lack of transparency regarding this issue under the former Administration. 

 

In terms of housing locations, the draft Strategy had provided for a South East Zone, including St Athan, but it also allowed for development in primary / secondary / tertiary settlements.  He had concerns with the interpretation of the strategy and that this would need addressing when working on a replacement Plan.  He contended that elements of the strategy had not, in his view been progressed into the former Deposit Plan.  He referred to the concentration in Penarth but not Cowbridge and both were supposed to have been considered similar.  In essence, the previous plan had ignored the importance of the primary/secondary settlements.

 

In relation to the Welsh Assembly Government correspondence, the one letter referred to had been submitted to Cabinet on the day of receipt.  It did, indeed, contain concerns, but they were those of an Assembly Officer, but it was the Council that was responsible for the production of the Plan.  The current Administration was clear in its rationale for revisiting the Deposit Plan.  In this regard, the Leader disagreed with the view expressed by the Welsh Government officer as expressed in correspondence.

 

The Leader pointed out that it was not correct to think that the problems with the previous draft plan were being over-emphasised.  He referred to Councillor Thomas’ comments that, in his opinion, representations from the Welsh Government could be addressed by continuing this process.  The Leader argued that Councillor Thomas had failed to refer to the element of the report which explained that, at the formal stage of the planned preparation, focus changes provided the opportunity to make subtle changes to a plan.  The Leader emphasised that what was being proposed were not subtle changes.  He continued that if the Council had made the anticipated proposed changes to the current draft Deposit Plan, it could be thrown out by an Independent Inspector.  He argued that if the Council was going to revisit this plan it had to go back either to the beginning of the process or go back to the Preferred Strategy.  He confirmed that he thought the best way and the most sensible way was to go back to the Preferred Strategy.  He reminded Council that Councillor Chris Williams was the relevant Cabinet Member at the time and that he still thought that it was the right thing to do.

 

With regard to housing numbers, he informed Members that numbers had not, as suggested, been based on 2006 projections, but on the 2008 Welsh Government projections (which were the most up to date figures).  As such, he refuted the suggestion that the figures were wrong. 

 

In relation to the numbers of houses that were required, a significant number of the new houses required had already been given planning permission.  If the Council was to go back to take the Plan forward from the Preferred Strategy, it would again assess the numbers of houses required and there would be no reason not to.  It would be necessary to look at whether or not those figures were correct.  He then referred to points he had raised a year ago at Council, these relating to concerns on infrastructure, specifically roads.  He stated that he had previously expressed the view that he could not understand why schemes such as the Llysworney By-pass and the Dinas Powys By-pass had not figured in the Plan, and that he remained of that view.  He advised that he had been told that such schemes did not figure as they were aspirational, but in his opinion, it was aspirational for the Deposit Plan to include a railway spur from the airport. He indicated that this would need to be reassessed as, including provision for road and transport schemes, even if these were aspirations, was central to achieving adequate infrastructure in the future. 

 

With regard to the gypsy traveller site the Leader agreed with Councillor Penrose that, on his point, the Council had to look at the gypsy travellers’ sites again, but that it might be necessary to have more than one site.  He advised that he was concerned that the Gypsy Council had not been consulted and that there had not been a meaningful debate on the issue.  On this point, the Leader confirmed that he had serious concerns on the site that had been selected.

 

In conclusion, the Leader considered the previous Plan flawed and that the Council should go back to the Preferred Strategy as a starting point.

 

Councillor John pointed out that, in January 2012, there had been an unsuccessful attempt by the then opposition Members to defer the decision on the previous LDP.  He felt there was a danger of the Welsh Government assuming ownership of the Plan if the Council were to revert to “square one”.   Reverting back to a new Deposit Plan would, he felt, provide the Council with the opportunity to put forward its own proposals and to debate and decide upon such.

 

In summing up, the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation considered that, as far as money was concerned, the waste would have been in progressing an unsustainable plan.  The Council was responsible to the electorate, not simply to the Welsh Government.  If the Welsh Government had wanted a few minor amendments, they could have argued that they would be achievable under focused changes.  She was also concerned that some 1,600 people had registered 4,700 objections to the previous Plan and, in order to actually achieve a sustainable plan which tackled their concerns, as well as those of the Welsh Government, the strategy would need to be reviewed and a replacement Plan developed.  This would entail going back to the basic Strategy and rebuilding.  She pointed out that, apart from the properties that already had planning permission, everything else, such as housing numbers and housing locations would be re-examined and be rebuilt from the Strategy.  Infrastructure plans would be developed alongside through the Community Infrastructure Levy. 

 

At that point, and upon request by the required number of Members, a recorded vote on the recommendations of Cabinet of 14th January 2013 took place, with voting being as follows :

 

For

Against

Abstain

Councillor

Councillor

Councillor

Richard Bertin          

 

 

Geoff Cox

 

Janice Birch  

 

 

Jeff James    

 

Rhiannon Birch         

 

 

Hunter Jarvie            

 

Bronwen Brooks      

 

 

Maureen Kelly Owen

 

Lis Burnett                 

 

 

Andrew Parker

 

Philip Clarke

 

 

John Thomas

 

Claire Curtis             

 

 

Ray Thomas

 

Rob Curtis     

 

 

Clive Williams           

 

Pamela Drake

 

 

 

John Drysdale

 

 

 

Kate Edmunds         

 

 

 

Stuart Egan   

 

 

 

Chris Elmore            

 

 

 

Chris Franks             

 

 

 

Keith Geary               

 

 

 

Eric Hacker               

 

 

 

Howard Hamilton

 

 

 

Val Hartrey                

 

 

 

Keith Hatton              

 

 

 

Nic Hodges               

 

 

 

Gwyn John                

 

 

 

Ian Johnson               

 

 

 

Fred Johnson           

 

 

 

Peter King                 

 

 

 

Kevin Mahoney         

 

 

 

Anne Moore              

 

 

 

Neil Moore                

 

 

 

Bob Penrose            

 

 

 

Anthony Powell                                 

 

 

Rhona Probert                      

 

 

Gwyn Roberts                       

 

 

Steffan Wiliam                                  

 

 

Margaret Wilkinson

 

 

 

Chris Williams          

 

 

 

Eddie Williams         

 

 

 

Mark Wilson              

 

 

 

36

 

8

 

(N.B. Having earlier declared an interest in this item, Councillors Jonathan Bird, Audrey Preston and Rhodri Traherne were not present.)

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T on balance and further to the consideration of all three options as detailed in this report, the Deposit LDP as approved by Council on 25th January, 2012 and published for public consultation is not progressed and that work commences on a replacement Deposit LDP.

 

(2)       T H A T a further report is presented to Cabinet in due course in respect of the replacement Deposit LDP.

 

(3)       T H A T the amendments to the LDP timetable contained within the Council's Delivery Agreement (June 2011) as proposed in the report be approved.

 

(4)       T H A T approval be sought from the Welsh Government to formally amend the LDP timetable contained within the Council's current Delivery Agreement (June 2011).

 

(5)       T H A T those individuals and organisations previously consulted on the drafting of the LDP Delivery Agreement be advised of the revisions to that Agreement.

 

 

772     QUESTIONS PURSUANT TO COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULE 8.2 -

 

Due notice had been given of the following questions:

 

(i)         Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

What role is the Vale of Glamorgan Council playing in discussions on the purchase of Cardiff Airport and what role would you expect the Local Authority to play if the purchase is successful?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

This Council did not play any part in the Welsh Government’s recent decision to purchase Cardiff Airport.  That said, if the purchase does proceed, I would expect the Council to work closely with the Welsh Government, both through existing working arrangements, such as the Airport Task Force and the Enterprise Zone Board but also any new initiatives or working arrangements that follow the purchase (if it goes ahead).

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Johnson asked whether representations would be made to the First Minister regarding the role the Council could play and asked how the Council planned to increase the number of jobs available.

 

The Cabinet Member reiterated her earlier comments, in terms of working through the Airport Task Force and the Enterprise Zone Board.  The Airport Consultative Committee would also play a role.

 

 

(ii)        Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

What estimates have been made for the backlog of road repairs and maintenance, including potholes, in the Vale of Glamorgan?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services

 

The value of the Council’s carriageway asset is estimated to be £847m and our ‘Highway Asset Management’ plan identifies a backlog in repairs required to treat carriageways categorised as being in either a ‘poor’ or ‘deteriorating’ condition of £49.8m.

 

The most recent submission to Welsh Government for the Local Government Borrowing Initiative identifies that an annual sum of £1.98m is required to maintain our carriageways in a ‘steady state’, that is to maintain them in their  existing condition. Any funding in addition to this improves the carriageway asset and reduces the repairs backlog.

 

In 2013/14 we are planning to spend £2.13m on carriageway repairs, and this is a mix of our own capital and funding from the local government borrowing initiative.

 

In addition Councillor Johnson will be aware that we are continuing to deliver our highly successful ‘Big Fill’ programme across all 23 wards, allowing members of the public and Members to contribute to our considerable pot hole repair efforts. The scheme supplements our existing repair arrangements and to date the scheme, which has taken place in 6 wards so far, has resulted in repairs to over 2100m2 of carriageway in addition to the filling of over 240 individual pot holes, throughout 125 different streets.

 

Through our routine highway inspections and reports from members of the public we continue to identify in the region of 400 pot holes per week. With the assistance of our contractors we have the capacity to repair up to 480 pot holes over the same period.  Obviously, the weather conditions in recent weeks have led to further damage.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Johnson asked for an estimated length of time in terms of clearing the overall backlog.

 

The Cabinet Member indicated he would provide a written reply to Councillor Johnson.

 

 

(iii)       Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

What flood prevention works have been carried out in Barry since July 2007, and what role is the Council playing in national flood planning policy formation?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services

 

I would support the comments of the Leader in terms of the excellent work undertaken by staff.  I would also thank the emergency services and residents for their support.  As Councillor Johnson will be aware the Council has secured funding for the Coldbrook Catchment scheme.   Councillor Johnson will be aware of a very good meeting held on 22nd January.  In advance of this scheme the following works have been undertaken:

 

·         Clearance of watercourses / ditches, and structures thereon, surveys of culverts and a number of detailed investigations which then advised the Coldbrook Prefeasibility Study and the Capital scheme

·         Woodham Park – flood alleviation works

·         Heathfield Drive – flood alleviation works

·         St Richard Gwyn School – construction of a flood bund and the provision of technical advice to the school Head and Governors.

·         Robins Lane – improved highway drainage

·         Cemetery Lane - bund at the beginning of Redberth Close.

 

Other works in Barry include:

 

·         Porthkerry Park – repairs to outfall to beach

·         Aberaeron Close – land drainage works to Council owned properties

·         Development of the Council’s Ordinary Watercourse Consenting role, which involved working with developers on major projects e.g. The White Farm Development.

·         Highway gullies / ditching / cleaning - annual maintenance programme.

 

In answer to the second part of Councillor Johnson’s question, the Council is designated as a ‘Local Lead Flood Authority’ under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and officers have recently produced our first draft Local Flood Risk Management Strategy which I presented to Cabinet on 14th January 2013.

 

The final Strategy, which will be agreed by Cabinet later this year, will detail the work being undertaken to encourage effective flood risk management by enabling people, communities, businesses and the public sector to work together.  This strategy and those of the other unitary authorities will form part of the Welsh Government’s overarching plan for future flood and coastal erosion management and will allow co-ordinated regional and national responses to major flooding events in individual areas. The strategies will also assist in ensuring that any monies available nationally are targeted towards the areas in Wales with the highest need.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Johnson asked what lessons had been learnt which could, in turn, be 'picked up' by other Welsh local authorities and the Welsh Government.

 

The Cabinet Member felt one of the main lessons learnt related to the clear benefits of a co-ordinated approach and the provision of information to local people. He referred to the need for greater resilience to flooding, which was becoming more commonplace, and the need to promote initiatives such as green roofs, water recycling and the use of water butts.

 

 

(iv)       Question from Councillor Mrs. Anne Moore

 

Please can you give an update on the recent flooding that took place in the Vale over the Christmas / New Year period, and what action was taken at the time and since?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services

 

I would refer Councillor Moore to the answer previously provided on flooding in the Barry area and would add that our records for the particular period in question identify 70 flood-related incidents. Most of these reports concern flooding on the highway, though the Environment Agency has identified 17 properties and one sub-station as being affected by flooding. In addition, the Fire Service advises that they deployed pumps at six locations.

 

Sand bags were available at Court Road and they were also provided for certain locations by the Environment Agency. Our gully emptying vehicles were deployed to address specific highway drainage problems.

 

As detailed in my response to Councillor Johnson, the first draft of the Council’s Local Flood Risk Strategy (which is available in the Members' Room and which I encourage Members to read) was considered by Cabinet on 14th January 2013 and this is now subject to consultation, which will include reports to both the Economy and Environment, and Corporate Resources, Scrutiny Committees before the end of this financial year.  

 

In addition, officers are in the process of drafting a report for the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee detailing all flooding incidents in November and December 2012, the actions taken and plans for the future in each area. To do this they require information from the Environment Agency and, to a lesser extent, Welsh Government. A meeting was arranged by the Director of Visible Services and Housing for this Tuesday to obtain the necessary information, but unfortunately officers from the Environment Agency were unable to attend due to the inclement weather. This meeting has now been re-arranged for 19th February 2013, which is the earliest available date for officers from the Environment Agency representing the western and eastern Vale areas.     

 

 

(v)        Question from Councillor Anthony Powell

 

In the light of recent issues regarding the traffic at Barry Island on New Years Day, will the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation please update and inform Council what she is doing to ensure that the link road will be delivered as soon as possible?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

Firstly, let me respond by saying that it was good to see that Barry Island was such a popular destination on New Year’s Day and on the positive side it was good to see that so many people feel that the Island represents an excellent destination for a day out.  However, the downside is that there were difficulties in getting off the Island at the end of the afternoon, caused in no small part due to everyone wanting to leave at the same time, and there being no public transport on a Bank Holiday.  Added to this, a power outage also occurred, which affected the ability of businesses to provide, for example, refreshments.  Whilst no specific transport plan had been in place, the organisers of the event had been asked to have such a plan in place in future years.

 

The new Waterfront development will provide a new link to the Island, this is certain – a given.  The difficulty relates to the fact that, due to viability, this is not as quickly as we would like.  That said, the Director of Development Services  has been in contact with the Consortium and is due to meet in the very near future to establish whether there is any way of bringing forward the construction of the road, so that it can be delivered as soon as possible.  In addition, I am also keen to explore other options such as encouraging the use of the train service, which runs onto the Island and I will be discussing this in greater detail with the Director and colleagues.

 

 

(vi)       Question from Councillor Mark Wilson

 

What steps are being made by the Vale of Glamorgan Council to reduce and help alleviate flooding in and around Penarth?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services

 

I would firstly advise that our officers are not aware of any major incidents of flooding in the Penarth area during November and December 2012. Secondly, the main method by which the Council will assist in managing flood risk in all areas in the future is via the Local Flood Risk Management Strategy, referred to previously.

 

It is important to note, however, that whilst the Council has a role in all flooding matters, as Local Lead Flood Authority, we are not responsible for undertaking all flood alleviation or prevention works that may be required. Any future incidents would be investigated and dealt with in accordance with the strategy. Depending on the nature and location of the flooding this could involve the Environment Agency, Welsh Water and / or individual land and property owners.

 

 

(vii)      Question from Councillor Mark Wilson

 

What events are being put on to support Fairtrade fortnight in the Civic Offices?

 

Reply from the Leader

 

As you may know this council is a designated Fairtrade County.  As you also know, Fairtrade Fortnight is an annual event which is taking place between 25th February and 10 March this year.  However, having made enquiries, I can confirm that I am not aware of any specific events being held in the Civic Offices at the moment.  However, Cabinet on 25th February, 2013 will be serving, at their own expense, Fair Trade tea, coffee and biscuits.  Members are welcome to attend.

 

I understand that similar questions have been asked in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and it appears that no events as such have been planned since those questions were asked of the previous administration.  However, I can report that Vale Catering use Fairtrade Coffee, Tea and Sugar sachets for all Corporate Services and in schools, as well as at the Mayor’s Coffee Mornings.

 

I understand that three Town Councils (Penarth, Llantwit Major and Cowbridge) have succeeded in winning Fairtrade Town status and that Barry Town Council is in the process of looking to become one too and that, as usual, the three Town Councils, along with those seeking Fairtrade status, are arranging suitable activities. 

 

I will, therefore, look to enquire if any events can be considered this year.  However, as the fortnight is almost upon us, I will also enquire if this Council is able to work in partnership with those Town Councils and any Community Councils that are staging some events, if only by helping to promote those events through our website etc.

 

 

(viii)     Question from Councillor Steffan Wiliam

 

Following the latest in traffic delays on the causeway of more than 3 hours that caused misery for residents and tourists alike on New Year’s Day, would the Cabinet Member agree to revisit the recommendations made by myself and put forward by my colleague at the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee of the 9th of October, to look at the situation in Barry Island holistically and that as well as a second road to the Island, we must look at the provision of parking both on and off the Island and schemes such as the widening of the causeway to accommodate this, if we are truly serious about developing the economy and encouraging more tourism in a sustainable way?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

Barry Island is increasing in popularity as a destination, that much is increasingly clear and this fact should be very much welcomed.  The Scrutiny Committee on the 9th October considered proposals to aid in the regeneration of Barry Island, the aim being to make it even more popular and to give it a sustainable, long term future.  I agree that we must look at all issues, including access and parking.  This is why, when I met with traders on Thursday of last week at a workshop to discuss proposals relating to the regeneration project over the next 12 months, I suggested a separate discussion with them on the issue of car parking and access.  Productive discussions with traders also took place on 22nd January, 2013.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Wiliam queried whether the problem could have been avoided if the gates barring access at Battery Hill had been open and he asked whether the Cabinet Member would commit to seeking to secure access via the existing road pending the provision of a second road. 

 

The Cabinet Member's understanding was that the matter had been raised but that access via the route concerned was no longer possible.  However, she would look into the issue again, together with other matters raised by traders. 

 

 

(ix)       Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

Many communities are concerned about traffic problems in their locality and look to this Council to improve safety.  You will be aware that there are a number of dangerous sites within Dinas Powys that require attention. Given that the Welsh Government has imposed restrictions on the number and location of bids to be submitted under the Safe Routes in Communities programme will you indicate how schemes that are essential, but cannot be included in the bid, can be funded?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

The Council will continue to seek funding from a variety of sources.  By way of example, the Council has a good track record of sourcing funding for local schemes and road safety projects via Sewta.  In addition, the increased emphasis on Active Travel will result in the Council being able to make claims for further money on walking and cycling schemes. 

 

I would however suggest that Councillor Franks writes to me to detail the (and I quote) “number of dangerous sites within Dinas Powys” so that I can assess his concerns properly.

 

 

(x)        Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

You are aware of the complaints from parents concerning the impact of flooding along the Ash Path from Dinas Powys to Penarth. This is a well-used route and the Council should be encouraging people to walk rather than drive.  However the condition of the path, in reality, acts as a barrier to walkers.  Will you provide the Council with an update regarding any improvements planned for the Ash Path?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

The proposed widening and improving of the Ash Path, to include lighting, is the subject of a bid I have made for inclusion in the proposed Capital Programme for 2013/14 (a sum of £25k.) and also 2014/15 with a sum of £75k.  This will deliver a shared footway and cycleway to link Dinas Powys with Penarth.  A key issue in moving forward is that the land is not in the ownership of the Council and for this reason we are currently engaging with a representative acting on behalf of the owners and those with an interest in the land.  The representative has acknowledged an interest in taking a scheme forward, and I will update colleagues as and when we are in a position to take the matter forward.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Franks asked whether an assurance could be provided that local Members would be involved at the early stage of discussions.

 

The Cabinet Member confirmed that this would be facilitated.

 

 

(xi)       Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

Given surprising changes year on year in the banding of some secondary schools will you indicate if you have confidence in the Welsh Government’s Banding strategy?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

The introduction of banding for secondary schools in 2011 provided parents with more information about school performance in Wales.  Banding takes into account the socio-economic background of the school community and the progress being made by the school, as well as examination results.  School performance is of course a more complex business than a five category system can ever capture.  That does not mean the bandings should be changed in the immediate future and certainly not scrapped.  Over the next few years I would hope there will be an opportunity to review the detailed methodology underpinning the bandings to see whether modifications are needed.  However, I would always recommend that parents get to know schools by visiting them and talking to the parents, carers or guardians of the children who attend the school; no banding system will ever replace first hand knowledge about our schools.

 

Supplemental

 

Referring to the variation in banding from year to year, Councillor Franks asked whether the Cabinet Member considered much had been gained from the programme.

 

The Cabinet Member referred to two schools each having gone up, staying at the same level and dropping down.  However, there were wider issues affecting the latter two schools and discussions were already underway to address such matters.  He had full confidence in both of those schools - Ysgol Bro Morgannwg and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School.  Additional resources were required but he felt the issues were capable of being addressed.  He was of the view that, in the short term, the programme focussed schools on performance and improvement.

 

 

(xii)      Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

As Members are aware some areas of social housing suffer from poor public transport services.  Poor public transport links act as a barrier to residents seeking employment.  What links exist with other Council Departments to ensure that residents of social housing can access areas of employment?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

 

Firstly, my officers have not been made aware of any issues with our tenants being unable to access work due to public transport problems.  Generally public transport links for public housing are good, as such considerations form part of the planning and design processes for these developments.  Over 75% of Council housing is located within our larger towns of Barry, Penarth and Llantwit Major, where a range of public transport options are available. The only areas of Council housing which may not have good public transport links are those located in certain areas of the rural Vale.  If there are any public transport issues our officers always make new tenants aware of these prior to them accepting their tenancies (this is an important point).

 

There are many links between our housing section and other Council departments.  In addition, a large amount of our stock is located in Community First areas, where support can be offered to tenants on a wide range of social issues, including transport and employment.

 

I would ask Councillor Franks to contact either myself or our housing section directly with any specific details he may have concerning individual tenants who may be experiencing access problems for employment.  I can assure him that we will do our very best to resolve any such concerns.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Franks felt that the Council should be more proactive and asked whether the Cabinet Member would be prepared to investigate any areas of concern. 

 

In reply, the Cabinet Member reiterated her earlier comments, having assured Members that the Council would do its very best to resolve any such concerns.

 

 

(xiii)     Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

It is the policy of this Council to seek to ensure that residents are offered a decent and reliable bus service.  However, you will be aware of problems of the Barry to St. Athan service.  Will you indicate what steps you have taken to ensure that the bus services to St. Athan run to timetable?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

I am working on the assumption that Councillor Franks is referring to the X45 EST service that is operated commercially.  Jurisdiction for the monitoring and, where necessary, the taking of action rests with the Bus Users Compliance Officer and I understand that the matter has been brought to the attention of the Traffic Commissioner.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Franks asked whether the Cabinet Member would be prepared to take a personal interest in this long standing problem (acknowledging that officers had, to date, been helpful). 

 

The Cabinet Member confirmed that officers would continue to monitor the situation and take any actions relevant to them. 

 

 

(xiv)     Question from Councillor Geoff Cox

 

Will the Cabinet Member please provide an update on the mobile library service?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services

 

Members are aware of plans to introduce a new Vale of Glamorgan mobile library service during the coming financial year (as clearly documented in the Corporate Plan).  A consultation letter was sent to all Town and Community Councils regarding this matter on 16th January 2013 to gauge interest in developing a new service in partnership with the Council. The consultation period extends to 16th March 2013, after which, responses will be assessed and service delivery options identified for consideration by the Cabinet.  It is anticipated that a new service will be established during the Autumn of 2013.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Cox asked whether, should Town and Community Councils be either unwilling, or unable, to fund such a service, the Council would fund such, thereby ensuring fulfilment of a Labour Party election pledge.

 

The Cabinet Member stated that it had been a decision of the previous Administration to cease the service.  A consultation exercise was underway, following which there would be a further report.  It was not possible to indicate currently where/whether a service would be re-introduced.  The role of Town and Community Councils in this process was set out in the Corporate Plan as approved by Council.

 

 

(xv)      Question from Councillor Rhiannon Birch

 

Following my question towards the end of last year will the Cabinet Member for Children's Services provide me with an update on the Ash Path which gives access to St. Cyres Comprehensive School?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

As advised in the earlier response to Councillor Franks, the proposed improvements to the Ash Path are the subject of a bid for inclusion in the proposed Capital Programme.

 

Delivery of the scheme will, however, rely on obtaining agreement with the landowner and other relevant interested parties and this is a matter that is currently being taken forward.  The schools who gain access via the Ash Path have been contacted so that they are aware of progress to date. 

 

 

(xvi)     Question from Councillor Rhodri Traherne

 

Is the Labour Party Administration intending to close any of the Vale's Schools?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

For clarification, the Administration is actually a Labour and Llantwit First Independent Administration. 

 

I am planning to present proposals to Cabinet on 4th March setting out proposals to ensure that we have the right schools in the right places for the future.  The proposals, which will take into account the advice of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee’s School Places Review Group, led by Councillor Hodges as Chairman, will involve a number of changes affecting several schools across the Vale.  Following consideration by Cabinet, the proposals will be the subject of extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders in the following weeks.  The Scrutiny Committee discussed this matter under 'Part II' and I would like to remind all Members of their obligations under the Code of Conduct in terms of the confidentiality of such information and to being bound by the Code.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Traherne asked whether the intention was to close any schools.

 

The Cabinet Member indicated he felt he had already answered the question and indicated that proposals would be submitted to Cabinet on 4th March, 2013.  

 

 

(xvii)    Question from Councillor Kate Edmunds

 

As the Councillor for a ward where many of the children attend St. Cyres, I am looking forward to the construction of the new Penarth Learning Community and the wider benefits it will provide.  However following concerns raised with me by parents, what consideration has been given to ensuring safe access to the PLC for pupils walking from Llandough to the new entrance on Sully Road?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

The safety of school children on their daily journey to and from school is of paramount importance to this administration.  I have asked that a Cabinet Working Group be set up to look into access to the school site from neighbouring communities, including Llandough.  I look forward to working with you, as one of the local Members, in taking this initiative forward.

 

 

(xviii)   Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

What estimate has been made of the amount of officer time and costs relating to preparing a Council Tax Support Scheme Plan for 2013-14?

 

Reply from the Leader

 

We have used existing officer resources in planning the implementation of the Council Tax Support Scheme.  We have not undertaken a time analysis of the hours worked.

 

To answer the rest of your question:

 

Direct costs to date have been incurred as follows:

 

Cost of Academy council tax reduction module- £53,100 (expenditure approved by Cabinet on 5th November 2012);

 

Cost of data-tank system (database to model impact of council tax reduction scheme) - £2,000 share of costs to WLGA;

 

Consultation exercise (sent to all 11,000+ council tax benefit recipients) – printing and distribution - £4,308.15; postage £2,688.65;

 

Equality Impact Assessment (data analysis) - £2,000 - approx share of costs to WLGA;

 

The Welsh Government is providing a grant to support councils’ implementation costs.  It is understood that this totals £2.6m for Wales - (£118k per authority) and will be distributed in the current financial year.

 

Total expenditure £64,096.80

 

So we will be repaid by Welsh Government for a considerable amount of this expenditure, if not all of it.

 

I can now address some of the other questions you raised earlier in the meeting.  The only discretions that the Council can exercise are as highlighted in the recommendations.  The Second Adult Rebate provision will be ending, probably by the end of this year.  There are currently 96 claimants on Second Adult Rebate and we will be contacting them to inform them of the position and will review their claims to see if they are entitled to Council Tax support. 

 

The Regulations now mean that there is no reduction to entitlements and, as the cap has been revised from 90 to 100%, exact entitlement will be determined by means testing of all applications.  As indicated, 11,000 claimants were written to informing them of the changes and, as factored into the consultation, we were not able at that stage to identify the actual reduction in the benefit.  However, generally the responses were positive to the Council's proposals on the discretions but not surprisingly they were negative in terms of the changes in general, which were outside the control of the Council.  Obviously, officers and Members, through the Task and Finish Group Chaired by Councillor Wilson will be addressing the implications on the Council of the welfare reform changes generally.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson asked whether representations would be made to the WLGA asking that they take the matter up with the Welsh Government so there were no costs or losses to Councils, not just our own Council, but Councils across Wales.

 

The Leader thought discussions would continue with the WLGA because some of the costs were shared with the WLGA.  As far as he was aware, the Welsh Government was providing support to Councils in meeting the implementation costs of £2.6 million, which equated to £118,000 per authority.  Hopefully that would cover the costs incurred   He reiterated his earlier comments in respect of officer time.

 

 

(xix)     Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

On what basis does Bridgend requires 12 civil enforcement officers and the Vale of Glamorgan only 5, and do you believe that will be sufficient to meet traffic enforcement needs in the county borough?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services

 

Quite simply, the complex business model, which informed the civil parking enforcement arrangements for the Vale of Glamorgan area varies from the model used for Bridgend.  In addition to operating in totally different geographic areas, Bridgend’s parking restrictions are not the same as ours. Also, Bridgend already have a number of staff managing their Pay and Display car parks and their higher numbers reflect these existing functions.  In contrast, the staff that we use to manage our existing Pay and Display car parks, are not included within our figures, as we intend to operate this service independently for the moment due to its seasonal nature.

 

The Vale business model considered a variety of factors, including the numbers of fines issued previously by the police, the type, number and lengths of parking restrictions, the walking speeds of officers (including the time it takes to issue a penalty notice) and the expected and future numbers of parking infringements that could be issued under the new arrangements. This activity was transposed into a cost and income model with projections based on using a number of enforcement officers ranging from 4 to 9.

 

Taking all the factors from the two models into account a decision was taken to employ a total of 17 Civil Enforcement Officers, comprising two supervisors and 15 Officers to deliver the service jointly between the two Authorities.  The 5 staff allocated to the Vale was chosen on balance based on the expected service demand and the projections from the Vale business model.

 

Importantly, a number of these posts will be offered on a temporary basis in the first instance in order to provide the necessary flexibility should demand be lower than expected.  This should also assist in avoiding the possibility of redundancies due to workload.  Should the demand be higher than expected then additional officers can be employed.  What must be borne in mind, however, is that the Civil Parking Enforcement scheme must be self-financing, that is, the income received from the Penalty Notices must at least cover the total costs of the scheme.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Johnson asked whether the Cabinet Member considered five officers would be enough and whether the position would be reassessed if necessary.

 

The Cabinet Member reiterated his earlier comments.  He did not wish to employ initially more staff than might be needed.  If sufficient demand did arise, numbers would be increased.

 

 

(xx)      Question from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson

 

What percentage and number of FTE Vale of Glamorgan employees are currently paid below the Living Wage, and what would be the cost of paying the Living Wage to those staff in the 2013-14 budget?

 

Reply from the Leader

 

Based on current staffing levels there would be approximately 320 FTE employees who would be paid below the Living Wage in 2013-14.  This equates to approximately 8% of the Council’s FTE workforce. This figure would reduce if there is a nationally negotiated pay award for Local Government employees in 2013-14.

 

The additional cost of paying in accordance with the Living Wage including on-costs is estimated to be approximately £600,000.  This cost only relates to directly employed staff.  If the Living Wage is extended to contractors (i.e. those providing services for the Council) then the costs would increase very significantly and I cannot give you an estimate on those costs.

 

Supplemental

 

Alluding to the Leader having indicated at a previous meeting that a top up to staff wages through in-work benefits would be acceptable in place of the Living Wage, he again whether the Leader supported the latter's introduction.

 

The Leader indicated he had been incorrectly quoted.  He had indicated previously that he applauded the principle, but in order to be able to accommodate the financial impact of the Living Wage the Council would need to make further cuts to budgets and for services.  These would be on top of the savings already required and would increase the number of redundancies that the Council would need to make.  The point he had made previously was that this was something which would possibly suit the national government because if people were paid a Living Wage then that might be detrimental to the benefits they received so that those individuals might not get any more money but the government would.  He would prefer to see the minimum wage expanded rather than have a Living Wage.

 

 

(xxi)     Question from Councillor Chris Franks

 

Will you make a statement regarding the impact of the adverse weather on the delivery of social services?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services

 

I’m very glad to have this opportunity to pay tribute to our staff in Social Services and to other providers of care for their tremendous commitment to supporting very vulnerable residents of the Vale during recent days.  It’s a testament to their hard work and dedication that disruption to services has been kept at a very low level.

 

For example, even where individual members of staff were unable to get to their normal places of work all residential care homes remained open, as did all the teams doing assessments and care management work.  This meant that every safeguarding concern across Children’s and Adult Services received a proper response. 

 

I would commend especially the Reablement Team who managed to provide a service to the clients throughout the Vale, especially older people at risk.  This was a well co-ordinated team effort, made possible by staff willing to undertake visits on foot or volunteering to work on their day off.  

 

Of course, we had great support from all parts of the Council, including a supply of drivers and 4x4 transport which meant staff were able to reach even the clients in the rural areas that otherwise would have been inaccessible.

 

There has been some disruption.  Adult Day Services were affected by difficulties in transporting service users safely to and from the centres.  Meals on Wheels were not delivered in the Penarth area, although contingency arrangements were put in place with families and carers to ensure that service users received meals.  The Adults Learning Disability Respite Facility and the Children’s Short Breaks Service postponed episodes of planned respite because of staffing problems and difficulty in transporting service users safely.  On the other hand, one person had an extended stay because it wasn’t possible to return them home safely; the staff at Rhoose Road should be commended for all their efforts to ensure that this could be managed appropriately.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Franks asked, in the light of the severe budget problem facing the Directorate, whether it would be possible to continue providing a similar level of service in such circumstances. 

 

The Cabinet Member indicated that services would continue to be maintained as best as possible in any conditions.

 

           

773     QUESTIONS FROM THE PUBLIC -

 

No questions had been received.