COMMUNITY LIAISON COMMITTEE
Minutes of a Special meeting held on 17th September, 2014.
Present: Councillor C.P.J. Elmore (Chairman); Councillor K.J. Geary (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, R.F. Curtis, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, N.P. Hodges, Ms. R. Probert, R.L. Traherne and M.R. Wilson.
Representatives of the Town and Community Councils:
Councillors J. Evans and Mrs. S. Hodges (Barry Town Council); J. Harris (Cowbridge with Llanblethian Town Council); M. Marsh (Llantwit Major Town Council); Councillor M. Cuddy (Penarth Town Council), Mrs. F.A. Butler (Clerk - Dinas Powys Community Council); M.D. Edwards (Llandough Community Council); J. Teague (Llanfair Community Council), G.S. Smith (Llanmaes Community Council); C. Tutton (Pendoylan Community Council); Mrs. J. Parry (Peterston-Super-Ely Community Council), Mrs. A. Barnaby (St. Athan Community Council) Mrs. G. Rawson (St. Nicholas and Bonvilston Community Council), M. Garland (Sully and Lavernock Community Council) and N. Harmer (Wenvoe Community Council).
383 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillor H.J.W. James, R.P. Thomas and C.J. Williams (Vale of Glamorgan Council); Councillors H. Baker (Ewenny Community Council) and M. Hurst (Llandow Community Council).
384 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -
No declarations were received.
385 MEDIUM TERM FINANCIAL PLAN 2014/15 TO 2017/18 – REPORT TO CABINET 11TH AUGUST, 2014 –
It was agreed that the Medium Term Financial Plan 2014/15 to 2017/18 and the Reshaping Services report would be considered together. A presentation on these items was received by the Committee given by Mr. Alan Jenkins, Head of Finance, and Mr. Huw Isaac, Head of Performance and Development.
386 RESHAPING SERVICES – A NEW CHANGE PROGRAMME FOR THE COUNCIL (REF) –
The contents of the draft Medium Term Financial Plan 2014/15 to 2017/18 report was endorsed by Cabinet on 11th August 2014 and was included within the documentation received by the Committee prior to the meeting. Mr. Alan Jenkins, Head of Finance, provided the Committee with the financial context to the Reshaping Services change programme. The Reshaping Services Programme was a corporate change programme formulated to respond to medium term financial pressures. The Head of Finance informed the Committee that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was required to save £32m over the next three years and advised that the Medium Term Financial Plan attempted to link the strategic planning process of the Council with the budget process and to ensure consistency between them.
There were various pressures on the Council including legislative and demographic pressures; the crucial financial pressure was the funding settlements from Welsh Government over the next three years. The Head of Finance informed the Committee that the Council had received a reduced settlement last year of 5% and that there could be a settlement reduction of up to 4.5% in 2015/16.
The Committee was informed that demographic issues such as an aging population were also leading to pressures on Council services such as adult social care. The £32m savings over the next three years was based on initial indications from Welsh Government. The Vale of Glamorgan Council had already identified approximately £18m of savings, however the Authority was still required to find another £14m worth of savings and confirmed that these figures excluded the Schools and Social Services budgets. The Schools budget accounted for 37% of the overall Vale of Glamorgan budget and Welsh Government had made a minimum commitment to Education to provide 1% above the block grant from central government; therefore Schools had an increased budget of 0.6%. As a result of this the level of savings required to be sourced from the remaining services would be much higher and in this scenario services outside of Education and Social Services would be required to pick up the budget shortfall.
The Head of Finance informed the Committee that the funding per head of population in the Vale of Glamorgan was 20th out of 22 Welsh local authorities in 2014/15 and the Council’s current Band D Council tax was below the Welsh average at £1,029.42 per annum.
The Head of Finance informed the Committee that this situation was likely to continue beyond 2017/18 and that the situation could be underestimated due to the different legislation coming into existence e.g. Future Generations Bill and also due to unknown cost pressures and future funding reductions. Other changes in legislation could also have an impact, such as the £50 cap on non-residential care.
The Committee was shown a slide which modelled the future funding spending for the average local authority in Wales as provided by the WLGA for the period 2014/15 to 2024/25. The slide showed that approximately £30m of the funding and spending were for set budgets, e.g. precepts etc. There would be a slight increase in the budget for Education and also an increase in the budget for Social Services with various pressures on these services in areas such as Adult and Children’s Services. The slide also showed that there would be a reduction in the overall budgets for local authorities in Wales and that all other services would have reduced budgets; and some services would no longer be in operation. The Head of Finance informed the Committee therefore that the Authority would be required to look at different ways of providing services due to the savings that were required.
A Member stated that statutory services were included within the remaining budget for other services and therefore savings would need to be found from non-statutory services which therefore left a smaller budget from which to find the savings. The Head of Finance informed the Committee that most Council services were statutory; however, they would need to deliver services in a totally different way.
Mr. Huw Isaac, the Head of Performance and Development, informed the Committee that the Authority had a stark financial picture in front of it for the next 10 years. The Reshaping Services report had been considered by Cabinet on the 11th August 2014 and it had been agreed in principle to institute a Reshaping Services strategy and change programme and to refer the report to the Community Liaison Committee for consultation. He stated that the main aim of this Special Community Liaison Committee meeting was to receive the views of the Town and Community Councils with regard to the current position and also how they might be able to get involved to work through the problems resulting from the budgetary issues. He further informed the Committee that a variety of stakeholders had been approached for their views, including the Local Service Board, Vale Centre for Voluntary Services and that the Voluntary Sector Joint Liaison Committee would also receive the report for their views as would Trade Unions and staff.
The Committee was presented with the conventional options Councils employed for making savings which included:
- Effectiveness – which involved questioning how the Authority was providing services
- Income generation – which involved ascertaining whether services had scope for the generation of revenue
- Targeted cuts and decommissioning – these had not been identified as yet.
The Committee was informed about alternative delivery models which included:
- Joint provision with other public sector bodies
- Delivery by external partners
- Council owned companies
- joint ventures
- trading companies
- employee / community owned companies
The Council was already involved with joint provision for services which included the Joint Education Service, Prosiect Gwyrdd and the proposed joint Regulatory Services with Cardiff Council and Bridgend County Borough Council.
The Committee was informed that the Authority already had experience of outsourcing certain services to external partners, such as the leisure centres to Parkwood and had transferred Dyffryn House to an external partner, the National Trust.
The Committee was informed that Council owned companies would involve the splitting off of a Council service from its parent, making it a separate, stand-alone company and staff would transfer to the new company. The main variants of Council owned companies were:
- Joint ventures
- Local Authority owned companies
- Employee / community owned companies
- Privately owned companies.
Joint ventures involved the Council and a private sector company forming a newly jointly owned company to sell and deliver a service. They were used as a means of injecting significant funding to support rapid growth in the business, in return for an ownership stake.
Local Authority trading companies were set up with the express purpose of entering into contracts with the public or private sectors and acting as an 'incubator', run on commercial lines but under the protection of the Council. In this way a service could be nurtured and allowed to develop by the Council before being fully exposed to the rigours of the commercial world.
Employee / community owned companies were owned by employees and their profits were redistributed to employees and the community. Mutuals and co-operatives were examples of these kinds of companies. The Head of Performance and Development informed the Committee that co-production involved the Council working with communities to deliver the services.
The Head of Performance and Development set out the types of roles Town and Community Councils might play in the Reshaping Services programme. The various roles included:
- Improving community access to and satisfaction with services
- Providing greater local influence over services
- Maintaining and enhancing standards
- Enhancing the role of local Councils in their communities
- Generating greater community pride in local areas
- Promoting engagement of local communities in local government
- Achieving value for money.
He further informed the Committee with regard to the options for Town and Community Councils’ involvement in the Reshaping Service programme, which included:
- Reporting on existing service delivery
- Joint delivery / enhancing a service
- Delegation of service delivery
- Transfer of a service (if the Vale Council decided to scale down or delete a service).
He said that the information within the presentation were not proposals but indications and suggestions of ways to overcome the challenges resulting from the budgetary situation.
Various services were put forward as possible services which could be provided either in full or part by the Town and Community Councils; which included amongst others, fly tipping, gully cleaning, winter maintenance on some roads, street cleansing, litter picking and public conveniences. It was reiterated that these were just possible areas of service delivery which would require the attention of the Town and Community Councils and also sought the views of the Town and Community Councils on the various options available.
The next steps for the Reshaping Services programme were outlined, which firstly involved baseline assessments for all Council services which effectively involved a stock take for each service area along with an evaluation to assess whether the service was currently effective and also how services could potentially be delivered in the future to attain the necessary savings. Following on from the baseline assessments there would be the first tranche of service reviews which would include a more detailed review of the service areas to be completed by March 2015. These reviews would lead into a rolling programme of changes with a timescale of three to five years.
Following on from the presentation, the Chairman opened up the debate for questions from the Town and Community Councils. A representative from Barry Town Council informed the Committee that some time ago Barry Town Council had been keen to take over a couple of parks in the town, however, this had been unsuccessful as it was a political issue and received officer resistance. The representative further stated that Barry Town Council had been working in partnership on the pop up library and the Cemetery Approach scheme; however, in order to initiate schemes, they had needed to approach the Council to arrange a meeting with the Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and expressed the view that this process would not work with regard to Reshaping Services programme if all Town and Community Councils required a meeting with the Council Leader. The representative stated that the project would require appropriate processes and procedures in place with involvement of Cabinet Members and the hostility of officers would need to be addressed.
In response, The Head of Performance and Development stated that the four main Town Councils had been invited to meetings with the Leader and the Managing Director on 24th September 2014. Furthermore, there was a commitment to take the concerns of Town and Community Councils seriously and a programme would be required to deal with any issues.
The Chairman, in response, stated that this Administration had an open door policy and that the Managing Director, two Heads of Service and all Directors were in full support of the new approach, however admitted that it was an uncomfortable learning curve. The Chairman confirmed that he would take these concerns back to the Leader.
A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council expressed the view that they reinforced the message given by the Head of Improvement and Development and the Head of Finance and stated that two thirds of the Authority’s budget was already taken, which compounded the savings issue, therefore the restructure issue needed to be addressed. Furthermore, he stated that the Vale of Glamorgan Council had no other options other than to try to work with Town and Community Councils or not to deliver services. He stated that the current financial situation was the worst in his experience and that the Council needed to disseminate this message to Vale of Glamorgan communities and the Council needed to work with Town and Community Councils and the Voluntary Sector.
The representative from Cowbridge with Llanblethian Town Council stated that the whole review was a continuation of a process to pass off services to Town and Community Councils, however it seemed to not take into account that Town and Community Councillors were unpaid volunteers and it seemed unreasonable to expect this. In response the Chairman stated that he recognised that the smaller Town and Community Councils may not be able to provide certain services due to the expense of providing the services, however the programme would be about providing what is sensible for each Town and Community Council.
A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council stated that there was still an issue remaining with regards to culture and provided an example with regard to Peterston-Super-Ely Community Council, which had wanted to take responsibility for their playing fields, however it had taken a year to arrange a meeting with the Director and relevant Cabinet Member. The Member stated that there needed to be a culture change from the bottom in order for the change programme to work successfully.
A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council stated that they understood the reasoning for commencing with the larger Town and Community Councils as their budgets were useful, however, it was being done on a piecemeal basis, the towns were spread out geographically and certain towns did not have a community council at all, therefore their services were still provided by the Vale of Glamorgan Council. The Member expressed concerns with regard to the increases in Council tax which had led to rises in the precept for Barry Town Council, which therefore meant it made less money than the Vale of Glamorgan Council. Furthermore, if Barry Town Council was required to take on more services in the future this could be done if they received more money and therefore could save more services. He expressed further concern with regard to some Community Councils not increasing their precepts, which meant they were making a loss.
In response the Chairman stated that he accepted the point with regard to the precepts of Town and Community Councils and advised that this change programme was new to everyone involved, however he would raise the issues with the Leader and agreed that a cultural change needed to happen.
A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council stated that the Reshaping Services change programme needed to be communicated effectively and that there were capacity issues which needed to be addressed as certain functions were already carried out by Town and Community Councils, however, he expressed concerns as to whether the services were being provided effectively. He further stated that all community groups should be involved with the change programme and that there was an issue that some communities did not have a Council and that Vale of Glamorgan Council Members that attended Town and Community Council meetings needed to be honest with the public and ensure that all stakeholders are involved in the process.
The representative from Penarth Town Council asserted that the Vale of Glamorgan should be commended for systematically approaching these issues and that these and Charter discussions had been going on for some time in England whereas in Wales there seemed to be an ad hoc or hurried approach. The representative raised the issue of the need for external advice with regard to the change programme and that the huge issue of capacity had been raised at the meeting of One Voice Wales and felt that the WLGA needed to treat this issue more seriously. The Penarth Town Council representative further stated that Penarth Town Council would take a positive, qualified approach and reiterated that a systematic approach would be needed for the change programme and external advice was required for both the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Town and Community Councils and that this advice was definitely needed with regard to the alternative service delivery models.
In response to this, the Chairman informed the Committee that officers and Members involved with the Library Service review had made visits to English Councils to look at the models for alternative service delivery and stated that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was doing this to try and sustain the service in the long term and that it was hoping to learn from best practice rather than rushing the review.
A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council spoke on the issue of Town and Community Councils providing services, for example the upkeep of public toilets, and stated that the Authority would need to look at the cost of local authorities and Town and Community Councils running the services and that it may be cheaper for a local authority to run certain services and Town and Community Councils may need to pay into a fund for these services.
In response another Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council stated that certain Councillors for rural Councils were required to cover large areas and perhaps they could take over certain services, particularly as they would have an attachment to their areas and stated that possibly these services could be provided on a commercial basis as had been done in England. This Member suggested that an audit was needed which would involve asking Town and Community Councils which services they would be capable of taking on what they would want from this change programme.
The representative from Penarth Town Council stated that a more structured approach would be required and the Chairman stated that the aim of the meeting was to receive views form the Committee which could in turn go to Cabinet and provide an explanation of where the Town and Community Councils stood with regard to the Reshaping Services programme.
The representative from Llanfair Community Council raised concerns with regard to the size of some of the rural Community Councils and stated that they could possibly look at some of the smaller Councils merging and also raised the issue of the size of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and whether it should be amalgamated with other local authorities.
In response the Chairman stated that the issue of Town and Community Councils merging had been included within the Williams Commission Report and that a cross-party motion had been raised at Council, that the Vale of Glamorgan Council should remain as a stand-alone Authority, and that concerns had been raised about merging with Cardiff County Council. He further stated that the Wales Audit Office report for Cardiff County Council had raised major issues. The Chairman further informed the Committee that the First Minister had advised that there would be no changes with regard to local government until after the 2016 elections; however the Vale of Glamorgan Council needed to change its services now.
The representative from Llanmaes Community Council stated that the real savings would be found with shared services and partners across local authorities and in response, the Chairman stated that the Authority was looking at more collaborative projects. The Council was already involved in joint projects such as the joint education service, the upcoming joint regulatory services project, adoption services and Prosiect Gwyrdd. The Chairman further informed the Committee that if every Town and Community Council took on services, for example grass cutting, there could be significant savings. However, he agreed with the point made with regard to larger savings to be made with shared services.
The representative from Llandough Community Council stated that although it had been advised that no specific plans had been made with regard to savings, there were pages of figures contained within the Medium Term Financial Plan and in response to this, the Head of Finance stated that in relation to the savings agenda, it had been running for several years and was now looking ahead to the next three years with £18m worth of savings being identified, however, these had not yet been delivered and a further £14m still needed to be identified. He further stated that the Authority would also need to look to its partners to investigate ways of delivering the savings agenda.
The Member from St. Athan Community Council stated that many of the Vale of Glamorgan Community Councils are extremely small and there were other issues involved with the Reshaping Services programme that needed to be considered such as health and safety and staffing issues as many clerks worked part time.
In response the Chairman stated that the Authority was not looking at enforcing services on Town and Community Councils, it was more about engagement and the wider discussions to be held with regards to the Reshaping Services programme. Furthermore, he informed the Committee that it was about Town and Community Councils advising whether they were able to support a particular service or part of a service, as had taken place with the pop-up library service being run by Barry Town Council. He advised that he accepted that some things might not be possible; however, if services were to be provided by Town and Community Councils, perhaps the Authority could provide regulatory support.
The Member from Penarth Town Council stated that there was currently a White Paper on the Williams Report which made reference to future involvement of Town and Community Councils in local government and advised that there was a further report coming out in October 2014 and queried whether this Committee’s views would be incorporated into this consultation.
A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council expressed concern that some of the smaller rural Community Councils advised that they did not run any services and if this was the case stated if they should consider merging with other Community or Town Councils or increasing their precepts.
A Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council stated that services may not need to be carried out as they currently are, for example grass cutting, as if this was not carried out in certain areas there could be significant savings made and it would also be beneficial to wild flora and fauna. There needed to be a culture change and this message needed to be disseminated into the Vale of Glamorgan communities.
Following discussion of the Reshaping Services programme, the financial context of the Reshaping Services programme and the presentation given to the Committee, it was
(1) T H A T the contents of the Reshaping Services report and the presentation given to the Committee be noted.
(2) T H A T it was the wish of the Committee that an audit is undertaken of the services currently provided by the Town and Community Councils across the Vale of Glamorgan and also that a formal request is made as to what services, if any, they would look to take on in the future.
(3) T H A T the views of the Community Liaison Committee and Town and Community Council representatives be forwarded to Cabinet for their consideration.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To have regard to the content of the report and presentation.
(2) In order that the Vale of Glamorgan Council is able to assess the current situation with regard to services currently provided by Town and Community Councils across the Vale of Glamorgan and also to assess which services, if any, they would be able to provide in the future.
(3) In order that an exchange of views can be maintained.