ENVIRONMENT AND REGENERATION SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes of a meeting held on 6th December, 2016.
Present: Councillor Mrs. A. Moore (Chairman); Councillor Mrs. P. Drake (Vice-Chairman); Councillors A.G. Bennett, G.A. Cox, Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, A.G. Powell, A.P. Riley, G. Roberts, S.T. Wiliam and M.R. Wilson.
Also present: Councillors L. Burnett, P.G. King and N. Moore.
575 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 8th November, 2016 be approved as a correct record, subject to the sentence on page 897 “A Penarth member advised of their disappointment in the lack of dedicated Town Centre Manager time for Penarth being amended to read “A Penarth Member advised that the previous Town Centre Manager for Penarth had worked one day a week in the Town and requested that consideration be given to this arrangement being reinstated”.
576 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -
No declarations were received.
577 QUARTER 2 (2016-17) PERFORMANCE REPORT: AN ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE AND PROSPEROUS VALE – TO INCLUDE AN UPDATE PRESENTATION BY THE HEAD OF VISIBLE SERVICES AND TRANSPORT WITH REGARD TO RECENT FLOODING INCIDENTS IN THE VALE (MD) –
The Chairman, although aware that a detailed report on flood alleviation schemes was to be presented to the Committee in the New Year, had requested that a position update in respect of recent flooding incidents that had taken place in the Vale be presented to the Scrutiny Committee at this meeting
In advising the Committee, the Head of Visible Services and Transport informed Members that recent incidents had taken place between 19th to 22nd November, 2016. The Council had at that time received very short notice of the continuous and heavy rainfall. The presentation slides presented at the meeting detailed the amount of rainfall received for the period and the rainfall pattern. Although the highest totals were reported across parts of East Devon, Somerset and some South Wales regions receiving over 100mm in a few locations with the Vale receiving over 70mm of rainfall. A further map detailing the places where incidents had occurred was also provided but due to data protection issues, the Head of Service stated that she was unable to provide Members details of the specific properties that had been affected. However, the Head of Service did advise Committee that some of the properties had been affected twice within the 48 hour period. The Department was also still investigating and receiving incident reports of the flooding events that had taken place.
In considering the report, a Member advised that following the incidents local residents had been very complimentary about the responses by emergency services and the support provided by the Vale of Glamorgan Council staff. In querying the start date for the Boverton scheme, the Head of Service referred to a recent Cabinet report which had provided an indication of timescales, and also agreed to provide the Member with details of the most up-to-date position by email.
The Member for Rhoose in concurring with the officer that the flooding had been exceptional and advised of his visits at the time to the Llancarfan area and wished to take the opportunity to convey his thanks to the Head of Service and her team for the professional responses that had been provided.
Following a query in relation to instances at Maple Road Penarth, the local Member advised of concern at the amount of leaf fall that, together with the combination of heavy rain, had been a lethal combination with it being imperative that gullies were cleaned on a regular basis to try to alleviate potential flooding issues. In response the Head of Service stated that there were a number of hot spot areas throughout the Vale where staff are requested to cleanse gullies on a more regular basis. It was however, noted that even though gullies could be cleaned on a regular basis, these could also become an issue at any time.
In referring to planning applications, a Member asked whether the Council had recently given any planning consent on areas prone to flooding. The Managing Director responded that the Council could be proud that it had always sought to follow the advice from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) (previously known as the Environment Agency). He was however, aware that only a small number of Councils had adhered to NRW / Environment Agency advice, with the Vale being one of those. The Managing Director further advised that officers regularly considered applications for proposed developments as to whether there would be any potential impact for flooding or additional flooding, although , it was important to note that some new developments could actually assist in managing the risk of flooding such as site storm water holdings which could alleviate potential flooding issues.
Members concurred that the maintenance of drainage systems was key, with Committee being advised that regular inspections were undertaken and additional cleaning undertaken where known flooding areas could occur. The Head of Planning further advised that the Council was also waiting for legislation that was currently in existence in England not in Wales, which provided further advice on drainage systems that should be installed.
The Chairman took the opportunity to thank the Head of Service, recognising that the request had been made at short notice. The Managing Director subsequently presented the Quarter 2 performance report to the Committee, advising that there had been some slight changes to the format of the report since the last report had been presented in October, together with an explanation of terms being included for clarification purposes.
Committee was further informed that Section 1 of the document provided an overall summary of performance and highlighted the main developments, achievements and challenges for the quarter as a whole. Section 2 provided an overview for each Well-being Objective, describing the status of the Corporate Plan actions and performance indicators. Section 3 detailed key achievements and challenges and Section 4 provided a summary of key issues relating to the use of resources and the impact on delivering improvement during the quarter. Appendix 1 to the report provided detailed information relating to the Service Plan actions which had contributed to Corporate Plan actions and Appendix 2 to the report provided detailed performance indicator information which was linked to each Well-being Objective which showed the Council’s planned activities, how much it had done and how well it had performed as well as what difference had been made. Of further note was the fact that all 19 actions attributed to the Well-being Outcome were on track to be delivered, with a performance status of Green.
In referring to Corporate Risks, the Managing Director referred to the post Brexit economy being an emerging challenge which was likely to impact on achieving the Well-being Outcomes as there was much uncertainty around the effect this would have on the economy, purchase patterns, business and consumer confidence. Additionally, there could be a potential detrimental impact on the property market which could result in delaying the disposal and redevelopment of land for housing and in respect of income from major planning applications. There also continued to be ongoing uncertainty in relation to external funding arrangements exacerbated by the Brexit decision, which could impact significantly on delivering improvement activities contributing to the outcome. Delivery of the highway maintenance resurfacing plan and the Big Fill initiative remained a significant challenge for Visible Services and Transport in light of ongoing capacity issues, but this was currently being managed through the commissioning of work.
In considering the report, Members raised a number of queries as outlined below:
RP/A019 – Toilet Block at Nell’s Point What is the current position in relation to the necessary works required
The intention is to ascertain what the problems are by undertaking a survey in the next few weeks with a view to agreeing for works to be undertaken with the aim to market the site in the next financial year.
ER 15 VS/A018 – What is the timetable for the roll out of LED lights?
Tenders had been received on 25th November which were currently being assessed, with the intention to roll out the scheme in the early part of 2017.
ER 3 RP/A020 – What was the current position in relation to St. Paul’s Church?
The legal strategy had been resolved at the end of October with the intention to now consider marketing the site for use by a housing association. The Department was currently waiting for responses before the matter was further progressed.
During consideration reference was made to quantitative and subjective indicators, recognising that the issue around St. Paul’s was taking some time to resolve. However, the officer advised that there had been a number of issues that had had to be considered as part of the St. Paul’s Church site with the target date for a scheme being 2020. The Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Education confirmed that in relation to St. Paul’s Church, it was important to ensure sufficient engagement was undertaken and that any decision should address the issue of sustainability. As a result such issues tended to take a long time to come to fruition as well as undertaking assessments of any proposals. The Cabinet Member referred to the Cowbridge Cattle Market Scheme, advising that this was slowly coming to fruition, and referred to the number of people in the locality involved in this scheme with a significant amount of time and effort being put into the scheme to ensure that people would be happy with the final outcome.
The Managing Director confirmed that it was difficult to itemise which PIs were subjective and those that were quantative, but that in the main where numbers were indicated these were actions that needed to be assessed for progress and required regular reporting. In the main the quantative information referred to the performance indicators for example satisfaction levels, the number of days taken to deal with fly tipping and the speed in which planning applications were determined.
ER 15 VS/A021 – implement waste management round collection service changes to deliver vehicle savings.
A Member queried the fact that the report was advising that this action was 90% completed, but he queried what was left to be undertaken.
The delivery of the new arrangements had been completed but in terms of the cost savings, it would take time for the data to be measured to assess any savings that had been generated. The next performance report to the Committee the Managing Director advised should provide a progress update on this.
The Leader of the Council confirmed that at the time the number of vehicles being used was an estimate and the data now needed to be assessed in relation to providing a progress update.
Having fully considered the report and following the discussions at the meeting, it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the performance results and remedial actions being taken to address areas of underperformance and tackle identified key challenges going forward, be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In recognition of the progress to date and the discussions and information provided at the meeting by officers and the Cabinet Members.
578 INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2017/18 (DEH) –
The Accountant for the service area informed the Committee that Appendix 1 to the report set out the Amended Budget for 2016/17 for the Committee together with the necessary adjustments to be made to the original budget. At paragraph 6, the table compared the original budget and the amended budget with the projected outturn for 2016/17. In referring to the relevant service areas, reference was made to the following:
Highways and Engineering – It was anticipated that this section would have a favourable variance of £230k at year end. It was being projected that the employees’ budget would be £366k underspent due to vacant posts currently within the service and that due to the slight delay in rolling out the LED replacement programme, there would be an overspend on Energy costs of around £80k. Vehicle costs were projected to be £100k over budget mainly due to the increased cost of the newer Winter Maintenance fleet and due to the high number of schemes undertaken for other departments, the anticipated spend on subcontractors and materials was over budget by around £282k, however, this would be offset by higher than anticipated income of £326k.
Waste Management – It was projected that the Waste Management section would have an adverse variance of £300k at year end which would be covered by anticipated favourable variances within other sections in Visible and Transport services.
Transportation – It was anticipated that there would be a favourable variance of £70k within this service being due to staff vacancies and additional income relating to concessionary fares.
Building Services – The Building Maintenance and Building Cleaning and Security Services was presently expected to outturn on target.
Regeneration – This budget covered Economic Development, Countryside and Tourism and Events functions and was anticipated to outturn on target.
Development Management – It was anticipated that this service would outturn on target.
Appendix 2 to the report provided a statement detailing the savings targets relating to the Committee for 2016/17 and the projected outturn. Members were advised that services were working towards fully achieving their savings targets, however at this stage in the year it was anticipated that not all the savings would be made with Members being advised of two specific areas:
- Environment – While progress had been made towards achieving the savings, there had been a delay in commencing some of the schemes. £1.2m had been included in the Capital Programme for the installation of LED lighting and although installation would be undertaken in the year, a full year saving would not be achieved until 2017/18. Waste collection rounds had also been revised from 1st August, 2016 with the aim of reducing the resources required. However it was unlikely that the full saving would be made in 2016/17. The £50k saving relating to Public Conveniences would not be achieved as options were currently being explored, however, Prosiect Gwyrdd was anticipated to make a higher saving than required and would partly offset the shortfall on other savings. Where savings would not be achieved in year, services would seek to cover the shortfall on a one off basis from other areas.
- Regeneration and Development – There had been a delay in the exit from the JobFit contract which had resulted in a predicted shortfall against the savings target for Regeneration. Savings required from the Vale Enterprise Centre workshops were not being realised as some units were difficult to let due to their poor condition and investment would be required in the building to achieve this saving in future years.
With regard to the 2017/18 budget process, Directors had been instructed to prepare initial revenue budgets in accordance with a timetable agreed by the Head of Finance, with preparation being on the following basis:
- Capital charges, central accommodation costs and central support costs to be estimated centrally.
- Services to prepare baseline budgets on current service levels as set out in the 2016/17 Final Revenue Budget report.
- Budgets to be broken down subjectively and objectively in as much detail as deemed appropriate by the Head of Finance.
- Budget reports to include revised estimates for 2016/17.
- Full account to be taken of the revenue costs, other than debt charges, of new capital schemes coming into use.
- Minimum savings targets to be met initially as detailed in the 2016/17 Final Revenue Budget report. Any savings made directly by services over and above individual service targets to count towards future saving targets or to meet unavoidable service cost pressures.
- Directors would continue to draw up Service Plans that set out the aims and objectives for the service and any possible future developments and efficiencies.
- Revenue costs of service development would need to be met from within the respective services (in particular, from the savings made).
As part of the initial proposals, it had been necessary to revisit the cost pressures facing services in order to build up a complete and up to date picture of the financial position of the Council and an updated list relating to this Committee was shown in Appendix 3 to the report. They were not shown in any order of priority. The final proposal for the increase in the National Living Wage from 1st April, 2017 had yet to be announced, however, it was considered that the 2017/18 pay rates used in these budget proposals for Vale of Glamorgan staff should cover the potential increase.
Details of the proposed areas for savings for 2017/18 to 2018/19 within the Committee’s remit were attached at Appendix 4 to the report. The savings did not include the cost of any potential redundancies. As part of the Budget Strategy 2017/18, Directors were requested to continue to progress the Reshaping Services Programme and as part of the 2016/17 budget setting process it was recommended that Tranche 3 of the Reshaping Services Programme commence. A review was being undertaken in order to identify future projects and the Council was currently developing proposals.
At paragraph 35, the Accountant referred to the fact that if all identified cost pressures for the Council as a whole were funded, this would increase the shortfall to £11.447m and if all the proposed savings were achieved, the shortfall would be reduced to £4.426m. Although this shortfall was based on the assumption that the savings target set for 2017/18 would be achieved in full. The projections also included an assumed pay award of 1% for 2017/18 and the possible impact of the National Living Wage. Committee was further advised that there would be difficulties in maintaining the quality and quantity of services in the future without exploring opportunities for collaboration and alternative forms of service delivery. The Council would therefore continue to develop its Reshaping Services Programme via Tranche three schemes.
The Committee had been requested to consider the report, and submit any comments to the lead Scrutiny Committee, Corporate Performance and Resources, by no later than 13th December, 2016.
Members, in noting that a health warning had been identified within the report regarding the projected shortfall, were advised by the Accountant that a number of cost pressures had been raised which may not be able to be funded or may not come to fruition and no Council Tax increase had assumed in the budget at this time.
The Leader stated that with regard to the progression of savings, for 16/17 this was a projected saving and would need to be added to the following year’s budget if required. Cost pressures for the service areas would be discussed by the Budget Working Group, the budget was currently flexible at present and would be amended accordingly following consultation.
In recognising the cost pressures, and the future savings required, the Scrutiny Committee subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the initial revenue budget proposals for 2017/18 and the amended revenue budget for 2016/17 as set out at Appendix 1 to the report be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In view of the contents contained therein and discussions at the meeting.
579 INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2017/18 (DEH) –
The Accountant for the service area commenced the presentation of the report by advising that the report provided an update on the progress of the Capital Programme for 2016/17 and had been submitted to the Scrutiny Committee for consultation.
Appendix 1 to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th September, 2016, with the proposed Capital Programme for 2017/18 to 2021/22 detailed at Appendix 2 to the report. Members were informed of changes if they related to future years being been reflected in Appendix 2 as detailed below:
Ashpath Footpath Improvements – A request had been made for £73k to be slipped from 2016/17 to 2017/18 as the scheme would not be completed in year due to ongoing land issues.
Maendy Pedestrian Sustainable Transport Improvement – £80k was being requested to be slipped from 2016/17 to 2017/18 due to the fact that scheme options were being considered and land availability was minimal.
Barry Regeneration Partnership – £29k was requested to be slipped from 2016/17 to 2017/18 as the fixed term post in the Economic Development Unit had not yet been filled, and was currently being advertised.
Lighting Scheme for Zig Zag Path – Due to a change in specification of lights, the columns were costing less than the original proposal with the request that the balance of £37k be slipped into 2017/18 for general sustainable transport improvements in the area.
Regeneration Fund – A 2017/18 capital bid had been received relating to renovation works for the Vale Enterprise Centre. As the Regeneration Fund scheme was unallocated in the 2016/17 Capital Programme, it had been proposed that this funding be utilised to progress the renovations where possible during 2016/17, however Members were advised that the budget may need to be reprofiled once a programme of works was finalised.
Committee was further advised that the Council would seek to mitigate the projected deteriorating funding situation by looking to progress only those schemes which were deemed to be a key Corporate Priority and made a clear impact to the Wellbeing and Future Generation priorities. The Council would also seek assurances that schemes included in the Capital Programme could be delivered on time and within budget.
New capital bids for 2018/19 to 2021/22 had been invited for return by 30th September, 2016 with a number of bids being received in line with previous years since the five year Capital Programme had been introduced. Throughout the Directorates two bids had been received from Learning and Skills, eleven from Environment and Housing, and three from the Managing Director and Directorate of Resources. In addition, a joint bid had been submitted from the Housing and Planning Departments. Departments had been requested to rank their own bids in order of importance before submission, which had then been forwarded to the Insight Group for evaluation. In assessing the bids, the Insight Group had used a number of criteria as outlined at paragraphs 16 to 22 of the report. The table at Paragraph 23 listed the successful bids, namely Street Lighting Replacement, Dinas Powys Library Road Bridge, Nell’s Point former Toilet Block and Vale Enterprise Centre Renovations. Also included in the table was reference to the Murchfield Access Bridge, however, the Accountant advised that this was an error as the bid was within the remit of the Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee it was not a matter for consideration by this Committee.
In conclusion the accountant advised that the Initial Revenue Budget Proposals report had been presented to Cabinet on 14th November, 2016, projecting that the outturn for the Policy budget in 2016/17 would be a favourable variance of £4m. It was proposed that £3m should be transferred into the Visible Services reserve to fund capital bids, namely £1.927m to fund the Gypsy / Traveller site scheme, £73k as part funding for the Dinas Powys Library Road Bridge scheme and £1m would be used to carry out additional road and pavement resurfacing works over the next two years. It was further proposed that £1m would be placed in the Council Building Fund to generally finance schemes included in the proposed Capital Programme. However, Cabinet on 14th November, 2016, Minute No. C3362 refers, stated that transferring of money into the Visible Services Reserve was considered to be premature, given the context of the budget and subsequently recommended "That the sum of £4 million be set aside to the General Fund and consideration be given for that allocation to be used to offset the shortfall in the revenue budget and/or used for capital schemes, the details of which would be considered by the budget working group before the final revenue proposals were presented to Cabinet and Council for approval". Minute No. C3363, which related to the Initial Capital Programme Proposals report, stated that the schemes which were proposed to be funded from the £3m should be reduced accordingly and resolved "That the Initial Capital Programme Proposals for 2017/18 to 2021/22, as amended by reason of resolution (2) of the Initial Revenue Budget Proposals 2017/18 report, be approved for consultation with the relevant Scrutiny Committees". Appendix 2 to the report had therefore been updated to reflect these changes. The report also highlighted that managers would be asked to revisit the schemes included in Appendix 2 to confirm final costs and spend profile prior to the final proposals being presented to Cabinet.
Each Scrutiny Committee was therefore being been asked to consider the Initial Capital Programme Proposals and if they wished to make any changes, to refer any recommendations to the Corporate Performance and Resources Scrutiny Committee by no later than 13th December, 2016. The approved timetable currently required Cabinet to approve the final budget proposals by no later than 20th February, 2017 and that Cabinet’s final Capital Programme proposals would be considered by Council at a meeting to be held on 1st March, 2017 to enable the Council Tax to be set by 11th March, 2017.
In referring to Appendix 3, a Member queried the unsuccessful capital bid in relation to the new household waste recycling centre within the western Vale. The Member’s concern related to the extremely poor state of the entrance to the household centre and the significantly large potholes therein. He stated that he was aware that this was a long outstanding matter and that officers had had a number of discussions with the managers of the estate. However, he reiterated his concern at the difficulties faced by local residents in transporting recycling to the site. In response, the Head of Visible Services and Transport confirmed that discussions had been held on a number of occasions with the managers for the estate which were still ongoing. It was noted that the current lease existed until 2019.
A Member also queried the funding for Penarth Pier Pavilion, with the Leader
(having been granted permission to speak) confirming that the funding was required as part of the lease agreement.
Following further discussion of the report, concerns were raised as to the lack of finance available to undertake a number of projects, particularly maintenance issues of the infrastructure, pavements and roads throughout the Vale. Members were mindful that this was not just a Vale issue but a national issue and called upon Welsh Government to establish a fund, following which it was unanimously
(1) T H A T a joint letter from the Chairmen of the Environment and Regeneration and Corporate Performance and Resources Scrutiny Committees be forwarded to Welsh Government calling for a fund to be established for infrastructure issues, in particular for road and pavement resurfacing.
(2) T H A T the contents of the report be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To encourage the establishment of a fund for Local Authorities, in particular the Vale, that further monies are required for infrastructure maintenance.
(2) Having regard to the position in respect of the 2016/17 Capital Programme.