VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
Minutes of a meeting held on 25th September, 2013.
Present: Councillor Margaret Wilkinson (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, Eric Hacker, Howard Hamilton, Val Hartrey, 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, Clive Williams, Christopher Williams, Edward Williams and Mark Wilson.
412 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillor Keith Hatton.
413 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
Councillor Stuart Egan declared an interest in Agenda Item No. 10: New Byelaws: Regulation of Acupuncture, Tattooing, Semi-Permanent Skin Colouring, Cosmetic Piercing and Electrolysis and left the meeting during consideration of that item.
414 MINUTES –
The minutes of the meeting held on 26th June, 2013 were approved as a correct record.
415 ANNOUNCEMENTS –
The Mayor made the following announcements:
(i) In July, she had welcomed to the Vale of Glamorgan Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall on her visit to the Cowbridge Physic Garden.
(ii) She had represented the Council at a number of Civic Sundays throughout South Wales.
(iii) She had supported the Royal Air Force Association (RAFA) in their 75th Anniversary celebrations.
(iv) She referred to the 2013 Vale of Glamorgan Agricultural Show as having been a great success and a great attraction for residents of the Vale of Glamorgan and visitors to the area. She had received a letter from the Vale of Glamorgan Agricultural Society thanking the Council and its staff for their support.
(v) In September, a successful twinning visit to Rheinfelden had taken place.
(vi) She thanked all the Members who had attended her recent Civic Sunday and appreciated their support in doing so.
(vii) She referred to an extremely successful charity event held the previous week at Fonmon Castle in aid of Age Cymru. She expressed her appreciation to Sir Brooke Boothby, who had kindly allowed the use of his home for the event.
The Leader made the following announcements:
(i) He referred to the newly refurbished Council Chamber (the Council meeting itself being the first meeting to take place since the completion of the works) and expressed his pleasure at seeing the new facility in place.
(ii) He referred to his extreme disappointment on hearing that the Council had been unsuccessful in its Stage 1 bid for regeneration funding under the Vibrant and Viable Places regeneration fund. He also expressed his disappointment at the Notice of Motion submitted by Plaid Cymru (and which was included on the agenda for Council), and suggested that they could have approached the Administration to enquire as to what action was being taken in light of the unsuccessful bid.
He informed Members that, once the decision had been made known to the Council, a number of actions were taken. He quoted from his forthcoming article in the Glamorgan Gem, which would refer to this matter. He was extremely aggrieved at the decision to refuse the bid at Stage 1, his view being that it was as robust a bid as any submitted. He considered the bid to have met all of the criteria laid down, albeit it had become clear that the new Minister’s criteria were different. He considered it unreasonable for the criteria to have been changed midway through the process. He disputed the stance taken by Alan Cairns MP and ongoing criticism of the Council simply because it was Labour-led. He informed Members that he would be speaking on the Notice of Motion submitted later in the agenda and that he would be proposing an amendment to such.
Councillor Franks, Leader of the Plaid Cymru Group, felt that the issue should have been the subject of a formal agenda item.
The Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transport referred to the issuing on 10th September 2013 by the Welsh Government Minister for Housing and Regeneration of a written statement to all Assembly Members confirming the outcome of the Stage 1 assessment process for the Vibrant and Viable Places Regeneration Fund. This announcement had followed initial communications to the Council on 4th September, which was embargoed until 23rd September in which the Minister identified the 11 local authorities invited to proceed to Stage 2. She indicated that she had immediately contacted the Vale of Glamorgan's Assembly Member to voice her concern and disappointment and had also written to the Minister for Housing and Regeneration on 9th September. She quoted from her letter as follows.
"It is no understatement to say that I am stunned that the Vale of Glamorgan's Vibrant and Viable Places Bid on behalf of Barry is not to progress beyond Stage 1. Having revisited the submission, it is apparent that Barry is one of the few settlements that addresses all three priority areas as a coastal community, town centre and Communities First Cluster. The bid would also appear to chime with the overarching themes outlined in the guidance framework. In essence, the bid is about leveraging investment to create mixed resource streams to underpin the development of sustainable communities. It not only builds on the legacy of current regeneration but seeks to create pathways from our most disadvantaged communities to become confident and self-directing.
The bid was about the development of social and human capital alongside physical and economic capital. It was about support but also about challenging our communities to new levels of performance. To do this the bid was developed, not by expensive consultants who produce glossy publications, but by officers from every area of the Council working collaboratively with stakeholders from all sectors of the community, to develop a bid based upon achieving a step change in outcomes for their town. In that way the development of the bid and the suggested implementation reflects Welsh Government policy that building capacity within our communities through co-production and collaboration.
That it revisited a strategic direction and sought to build on the legacy of successful regeneration activity in no way suggests a reiteration of past projects. I am also concerned that innovation has been wrongly interpreted as sparkly new ideas rather than as a mix of incremental and radical innovation or in simple terms 'good ideas that work'. I recognise the huge difficulty in communicating a compelling narrative in 3500 words. However, I am hugely concerned at how the guidance appears to have been interpreted in the decision-making framework.
I am not sure that the full implications of the decisions are fully understood and I would ask that as a matter of urgency the decision is fully reviewed and we meet in the very near future to discuss future regeneration in Barry."
The Cabinet Member indicated that the Minister had responded on 11th September, two days later and she stated that, rather than go through it all, it would be a matter of public record. He had confirmed that, when he took over the portfolio in March, he had taken the opportunity to revisit the Vibrant and Viable Places Framework and had introduced a stronger element of housing in order to support his overall priority of increasing the supply of homes across Wales. He had confirmed his awareness of the Vale of Glamorgan Council having already taken a range of actions to increase housing supply. He had also alluded to being aware of the impact of the outcome of the competitive process and to having amended the policy to make sure that the most deprived areas were not left behind. A sum of £5m had been ring-fenced over the next three years. Responding to the Cabinet Member’s request for a meeting, the Minister had suggested officials meet in the first instance, following which he would be happy to meet. He had also indicated he was 'as grateful as ever for your positive and constructive dialogue'.
In referring to the above, the Cabinet Member wished to illustrate to Members that contact with the Minister had already been instigated. Since that date, the Director of Development Services had met with Welsh Government officials for an initial debrief and would soon be meeting again to explore how Welsh Government would support the Council in taking forward regeneration activity in Barry. She would then be meeting with the Minister to identify alternative sources of funding and support.
The Cabinet Member referred to it being a matter of public record that she viewed the decision as misguided. She felt it failed to recognise that it had been a whole town bid that sought to develop the excellent work already undertaken as well as the need for future ongoing investment to build on recent success. She considered the Minister appeared to have overlooked the fact that Barry benefited from excellent partnership working with a whole host of organisations and individuals already contributing to the regeneration of the town and bringing forward an enthusiasm, commitment and dedication that was unrivalled. Various organisations and partnerships had informed the bid. It appeared that housing-led schemes had been favoured, but the Council’s bid, whilst including houses, was not just about building more houses, but was about building vibrant communities. The Cabinet Member referred to the bid as having been a 'whole town' bid developed by officers across the Council working collaboratively with local organisations. The bid had been communicated openly, whereas many other local authorities had chosen to make their bids confidential.
Concluding her announcement, the Cabinet Member stressed that, even if the Welsh Government had decided that Barry was not a priority, the Council was not prepared to do the same. There was still a great deal of work to be done. Whilst Barry did have its challenges, she considered the town and its residents to have huge potential which the Administration wanted to harness, not only for the benefit of local people, but also for the region and for Wales as a whole. The regeneration of Wales' largest town remained a top priority for the Administration. The bid would be reviewed and all available avenues and sources of funding to continue the work would be explored. Partnerships were always important and were now crucial to successful regeneration. The Barry Regeneration Area Partnership Board would be meeting on 26th September 2013 to review the bid and discuss the next steps. As a Welsh Government Board it would be expected to conclude its activities in April 2014. She suggested that perhaps it was time for a 'whole town' bid to become a whole town activity.
416 PETITIONS –
The following petitions were received and passed to the relevant Director:
(i) Petition requesting removal of drug centre in Newland Street, Barry (submitted by Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson).
(ii) Petition requesting the re-routing of Bus Service 303 (submitted by Councillor Jeff James).
(iii) Petition requesting the continuation of Bus Service X91 through Rhoose Village (submitted by Councillor Jeff James).
417 NOTICE OF MOTION –
The following Notice of Motion (submitted by Councillors Dr. Ian Johnson, Chris Franks, Val Hartrey, Keith Hatton, Nic Hodges, Stefan Wiliam and Chris Williams) had been submitted and was included on the agenda for discussion:
1. Notes that the One Wales Government Plaid Cymru Deputy Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Jocelyn Davies AM, designated Barry as a Strategic Regeneration Area on 1st March 2010, and that £9.8m of funding has been made available over a four year period, ending in March 2014.
2. Notes that the current Welsh Government has ended Barry’s regeneration area status and instead asked all 22 local authorities in Wales to bid for regeneration funding through the Viable and Vibrant Places scheme
3. Notes that the Vale of Glamorgan’s bid for the substantive funding available was disappointingly refused at the first stage by the Welsh Government
4. Is concerned that the Welsh Government’s path of action in stripping Barry of its regeneration area status and refusing the substantive funding under Viable and Vibrant Places may endanger the progress of Barry’s economic regeneration
5. Agrees to send a cross-party deputation to meet with the Minister for Housing and Regeneration, alongside Barry’s constituency Assembly Member who is also the Minister for Finance, to discuss future regeneration of Barry
6. Will work to ensure cross-party and cross-sector support to attract a range of private and public funding to improve Barry’s economic and community regeneration."
In introducing the Motion, Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson felt the debate to be crucial, given the disappointments of failing to secure regeneration funding for Barry. He referred to the background to this matter, including a Pride in Barry petition in the return of the Waterfront land receipts to Barry, a Welsh Assembly Committee investigation and the designation of Special Regeneration Area status to Barry by the One Wales Government's Plaid Cymru Minister Jocelyn Davies. That had brought £9.8 million of funding to Barry, which would come to an end in 2014.
He referred to the Welsh Government having since ended the regeneration areas and instead, requesting the Council to bid through the Vibrant and Viable Places scheme where, surprisingly the bid had failed at Stage 1. He considered this particularly surprising given the confidence shown by Cabinet Members when responding to questions from Plaid Cymru Councillors at Council meetings. When he had previously expressed concern that Barry might lose out on the funding, he felt the response to have been high-handed and dismissive.
Councillor Dr. Johnson questioned who should assume responsibility for the failure of the bid. If it was to be regarded as the fault of the Welsh Government he, nevertheless, considered there to be a number of issues to address. These included confirmation as to who had been consulted on the bid, the level of input from the regeneration boards or from the private sector in general, which outside organisations had commented or offered support and whether the Council’s officers were capable of dealing with the matter without external assistance. He questioned the legal position in terms of the Welsh Government changing the criteria midway through the process.
From a personal perspective as a Town Centre Councillor in a Communities First Cluster, Councillor Dr. Johnson indicated he had not been meaningfully consulted on the bid. Despite being one of two political parties representing Barry on the Council, Plaid Cymru had been afforded no input into the proposals. He considered cross-party and cross-sector input into work of this nature to be vital. The Cabinet Member had indicated this earlier in the meeting, yet had said nothing to the opposition Members in Barry.
Councillor Dr. Johnson referred to the Motion before Council as representing a belated commitment to cross-party and cross-sector support to help the future regeneration of Barry. Despite the lack of public support for our regeneration programme from the Welsh Government, the Council needed to continue to work with them. The Motion recommended a cross-party delegation meet with the Minister for Regeneration and the Minister for Finance, who was also the Vale's constituency Assembly Member. Whilst pleased that dialogue was already underway, this should also include other parties and other people who were strongly involved in this matter.
If 'the death of regeneration' under this Administration was to be avoided (given the absence of substantial funding through to 2017), other avenues must be pursued. He alluded to whether applications had been made for European Assisted Area Status and / or whether the Council had explored whether it could be reclassified against the West Wales and Valleys area.
He alluded to the role of the private sector in Barry regeneration in a situation where the public sector could not provide, which appeared to be the situation. In light of what he considered to be an abject failure in respect of the bid and the deflection of responsibility from this Council to the Welsh Government, he questioned how regeneration in Barry could best be achieved and queried whether the Cabinet Member remained the most appropriate person to achieve this.
Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson duly moved the above Motion, it being seconded by Councillor Nic Hodges.
Councillor Hodges, in seconding the Motion, considered that the chance to radically improve Barry Town Centre, to create and safeguard jobs and to create an environment capable of bringing in private investment had been lost, with the outgoing regeneration scheme failing to grasp the nettle of a bold scheme for the town centre. He considered regeneration under the previous, and current, Council's Administration to have been poor. He felt easy and cheap options of ploughing regeneration money into schemes put forward by the Council with no added value, had been pursued, with no other external money being sought. He felt them to be afraid of ambition. He alluded to there being over 30 schemes, involving work on parks, community centres, and street lighting, which had neglected the issues of job creation and job potential.
Councillor Hodges indicated he looked forward to the review of the unsuccessful bid and considered there to be serious questions to answer. He asked that the Administration listen to, and use the experience of, all Members of the Council.
Councillor Richard Bertin indicated that he was extremely disappointed. He felt that the Council needed to have succeeded in the bid in order to provide skills, training and jobs as well as reinvigorating the community. He considered it essential to establish clear reasons as to why the bid had been unsuccessful. Given that some parts of Barry were amongst the poorest in Wales, he considered the loss of funding would have a profound effect on deprived areas. Councillor Bertin indicated he would be supporting the Motion involving a cross-sector group and hoped that, as a Barry Member, he would be involved.
Councillor John Thomas questioned who was going to be judged responsible for the failure of the bid. He suggested that the current Administration often sought to attribute blame elsewhere. However, he felt that, having been in office for approaching 18 months, the Administration needed to take responsibility for its actions. It appeared to him that the blame either lay with the Administration for not submitting a robust enough bid or with their Labour colleagues in the Welsh Government, who had 'effectively let the Vale hang out to dry.' It seemed to him that the Leader felt the blame to lay with the Welsh Government.
Councillor Thomas confirmed the Conservative Group would be supporting the Motion as they considered they should do everything possible to support regeneration in the Vale.
Councillor Rhodri Traherne, in referring to the reference by Plaid Cymru earlier in the debate to the role of Jocelyn Davies in the designation of Barry as a Regeneration Area, stated that it had been a Conservative Council that brought the strategic regeneration area to Barry. He referred to this having not easily been achieved and reminded Members of the Spring of 2008 when it became clear that the then Deputy Minister for Regeneration, Leighton Andrews had decided to target regeneration money at specific areas in Wales. It was therefore vital that the Council, at the time, made the case for regeneration status for Barry and the approach had been a simple one. A vision was set out of a Barry with huge potential, but which was, unfortunately, underperforming but, that with just a little bit of help could very quickly become a successful as the most prosperous parts of Cardiff. The Administration at the time co-ordinated its efforts with Pride in Barry and communicated with Ministers, Assembly Members, other stakeholders and potential partners. The approach involved workshops, numerous meetings and was corporate, involving the whole Council. The approach had not been politically based, but was simply concerned with securing regeneration status for Barry and, some 18 months after work on the project commenced, and after a great deal of hard work by Council officers, Barry became a Strategic Regeneration Area.
Referring to the Motion before Council, Councillor Traherne saw little point in being critical regarding what had recently taken place. He preferred to be more positive, remaining convinced that the key to lasting regeneration of Barry was the invigoration of Barry Island. In particular, he considered there to be a requirement for a range of indoor leisure facilities to make the Island a true all-year round destination for visitors. He felt three things needed to happen.
Firstly, he considered it absolutely vital that a 'unique and exciting' leisure-based end use for Nell’s Point was secured and that the 'Collins Report pointed the way forward. He felt the establishment of an aquarium, a family activity centre and an events venue would make Barry Island a must visit destination. This would require public sector investment, which needed to be found and if it could not be secured through regeneration funding, he felt the Council should borrow the money.
Secondly, Councillor Traherne considered it vital to facilitate the redevelopment of the funfair site, which could begin almost immediately by the Council reducing the affordable housing requirements so that the scheme became viable.
Finally, the second road to the Island must be given priority and must be built as part of the 1st Phase Waterfront development.
If the above projects were to be effected, Councillor Traherne felt the absence of Welsh Government money need not necessarily be a complete disaster. He considered Barry to already be a great place to live, work and visit. Regeneration funds had been well utilised on schemes such as the Innovation Quarter, which had been transformed in recent years. He believed real optimism to exist, despite the very difficult economic circumstances prevailing since 2008 and felt that, as growth returned, things could only improve.
Councillor Traherne continued to be concerned regarding the 'High Street' (using the term in a generic sense). The impacts of the internet, nearby Cardiff and out of town shopping centres were making life exceedingly difficult for traders in Barry. This was compounded by high levels of taxation, business rates and employer National Insurance contributions. As such, he asked the Administration not to make matters even worse by introducing car parking charges.
Councillor Traherne supported the Motion, indicating he was ready to assist in any way possible the Administration to continue the excellent work that had been effected to date.
At this point of the meeting, the Leader distributed to Members the amendment to the Notice of Motion he had alluded to earlier in the meeting.
The Leader stated he had hoped the issue was one on which all parties could work together. He indicated that the bid submitted had been based on the criteria on which bids were supposed to be assessed. He referred to being totally and utterly disappointed and, although his own party, considered the Labour Party in the Welsh Government to have let the Council down, particularly in terms of changing the criteria during the process. The bid had been a very robust one, worked on by the Council’s officers and he strongly refuted the suggestion made earlier that officers may not have been up to the task. He pointed out that the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) had commended officers for their work.
The leader confirmed his disgust regarding the decision to turn down the bid. He had already asked officers to consider the most appropriate way forward. Referring to the original Motion before Council, the Leader hoped to achieve an apolitical solution. He considered there to be an inaccuracy in the Motion resolution in that it referred to the Welsh Government's part in 'stripping' Barry of regeneration status whereas, in fact, it would actually come to the end of its life in March 2014.
The Leader considered those involved in preparing the bid to have done an excellent job. He alluded to the considerable work undertaken by the Barry Regeneration Board and felt the Board should be congratulated on such.
He pointed out that all 22 authorities had been asked to put in for new regeneration bids that were Viable Places. As far as the Council’s bid was concerned, the outcome was of particular concern, given it had met all three conditions. He reiterated his view that the criteria should not have been changed during the process and that the Council should continue to make its position clear in that respect. If changes were to be made, the process should have been halted and begun again.
The Leader felt that Welsh Government should be made aware that the Vale of Glamorgan's bid for the settlement was based on continuing regeneration (as opposed to the criteria the Welsh Government now appeared to be pursuing). He considered the Council needed to reflect the fact it was aggrieved and disappointed at the outcome. The Welsh Government also needed to be reminded that the Council was not in an area where extra funding could be acquired (e.g. Objective 1, Objective 2 and the other types of status mentioned previously.
He agreed with the proposed meeting with Carl Sergeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration, but proposed that the Minister should actually come to the Council to meet with all the political party leaders and the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transportation. The Leader confirmed he was happy to work on a cross-party, and cross-sector approach (as had been the case at, for example, Scrutiny committee, which had considered the bid to be a good one).
The Leader considered the Minister needed to be made aware (at a meeting as above) of the strength of feeling prevailing amongst Members and of the need to look for ways forward. The Council needed to explore alternative avenues of funding. Welsh government’s indication that they would be providing £5million across unsuccessful bidders was of limited assistance.
Referring to the earlier comments of Councillor Traherne, the Leader confirmed the Council continued to work towards certain of the particular schemes alluded to. He did not agree with the comments made in respect of an aquarium. The 'Collins Report' had suggested that an aquarium would be a way forward but nobody had come forward to progress such a scheme. As such, work was continuing on the marketing of Nell’s Point and some of the other areas within the Barry Island area. The Leader indicated the position regarding the funfair site would be set out in the reply to the Council Question on such later in the meeting. He indicated that it was incorrect to state that the Council was stopping the scheme from happening.
Similarly the second road to the Island was also the subject of a Council Question later in the meeting. Again the Council was working with the Welsh Government. An agreement existed from them to provide the Council with the money to go forward and the Council was working with the respective lawyers, developers and the Welsh Government.
The Leader concluded by reiterating his annoyance that the bid had not gone forward and considered that the Council should act unanimously in regarding the decision as wrong. He moved the amended Motion as distributed at the beginning of his speech.
Councillor Stuart Egan, Deputy Leader, duly seconded the amendment.
In seconding the amendment, Councillor Egan stated that there was not a lot else that he could say in addition to what the Leader had already said. However, he felt it important that Members consider carefully the amendment, which he regarded as non-political, to provide a clear way forward and allow for the involvement of all Members in seeking to continue to improve Barry and to ensure that additional funding for much-needed regeneration was obtained.
Councillor Jeff James referred to the amended Motion proposed, indicating that it appeared to him that the Administration was seeking to place the entire blame for the failure of the bid on the Westminster Government as opposed to the Welsh government or the Administration. He felt that Members would not even have had an opportunity to discuss the matter had Plaid Cymru not submitted the original Notice of Motion. He alluded to that Motion as already including the concept of all parties on the Council working together.
Councillor Rob Curtis felt sure that all 47 Members of the Council were disappointed that the bid for much-needed funding in Barry had failed. He felt it important for Members to now work together rather than simply to seek to apportion blame. He considered that a whole Council approach would the most effective way forward.
He disagreed with comments made earlier by Councillor Hodges regarding schemes such as improvements to community centres, referring to the fact that improvements had been needed. He suggested that hundreds of volunteers involved in this field would be extremely disappointed with such comments. For example, improvements to the Gibbonsdown Community Centre had made a real difference to people, as had been the case in many electoral wards. He referred to Councillor Hodges’ own ward as benefitting form such funding. Councillor Curtis asked that Members unite on this issue.
Councillor Stefan Wiliam referred to the need to consolidate the work underway at areas such as Barry Island and to link such with The Waterfront and the town centre. However, he felt that the changing by the Welsh Government of the bid had caused many problems. He stated that it had led to the Barry Regeneration Board having to change direction and he believed an opportunity for improvement had been lost.
He considered the decision to turn down the bid to be disastrous, but pointed out the Council needed to move on in terms of acting in the best interests of the town. He believed all Members were actually looking to do so, albeit different approaches might be involved at times. However, he considered there to be a real problem in terms of 'trust' (for example, in terms of the sharing of information between parties).
Councillor Wiliam acknowledged that the Leader had criticised his own party in the Welsh Government for their decision to refuse the bid.
In terms of the 'Collins Report', Councillor Wiliam considered an opportunity to have been missed and that the report’s findings should continue to be pursued. Referring to the various calls from the Administration for cross-party working, he did not believe this to have occurred to date. He referred to Members being largely unaware of the activities of the Barry Regeneration Board under this, and the previous, Administration.
Councillor Wiliam concurred with the view that the bid appeared to have met all the (original) relevant criteria and questioned why, in that event, it had been unsuccessful. He considered it important that an Inquiry be held so that lessons for the future were learnt. Referring to his earlier comment, Councillor Wiliam felt one lesson to be learnt related to the issue of 'trust'.
He referred to the Plaid Cymru Group having previously submitted / asked Council Questions on issues relating to economic development, but that appropriate answers had not been forthcoming. He referred to the original Motion as submitted as already containing the concept of a cross-party approach and reflecting the need for Members to unite. He considered there to have been a failure to include the opposition parties in the process and felt an impartial review to now be an essential requirement. He reminded Members of the need to progress the regeneration of the town, including the second road to the Island and progressing the funfair site.
Councillor Nic Hodges referred to earlier comments regarding his own comments on certain schemes undertaken. He did not decry money being spent on community centres and play areas, but was alluding to his view that the Council should have been investing in regeneration on a much wider scale.
Councillor Kevin Mahoney referred to the relationship between Labour Members and the Labour Party in the Welsh Government. He felt the latter to have shown little regard for the Vale in dealing with the bid. Whilst appreciating that social deprivation existed in other parts of Wales, Councillor Mahoney referred to the similar areas of Barry which required regeneration. He welcomed the opportunity for cross-party working, suggesting it was an approach that should have been adopted earlier.
Councillor Mark Wilson also expressed the need for Members to work together and referred to specific sections of the amended Motion tabled, which provided for such.
Councillor Lis Burnett, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation, indicated she wished to clarify certain points which had arisen during the debate.
Firstly, referring to people's knowledge of the bid, she outlined how it had been formulated. The initial scheme briefing had been submitted to Cabinet and then to the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment). The Guidance Framework also went to Cabinet and to the Scrutiny Committee. The bid had been openly available in both and had also been considered at the Local Service Board, by Communities First and discussed with the Third Sector. It was also discussed with the Regeneration Board, who had participated in joint workshops with Council officers.
She indicated that the bid had been built by communities in Barry. It had aimed to create a fertile environment to develop cohesive communities by providing the tools to improve and maximise opportunities. That encompassed innovative ideas for developing individuals, communities and Third Sector organisations, helping to develop capacity within communities, providing jobs and helping to develop the Third Sector. It aimed to develop new housing models around the occupation of empty flats, empty commercial properties and other properties in traditional shopping areas. It aimed to broaden the mix and appeal of traditional shopping areas by supporting proposals to locate public facilities, leisure and homes.
Referring to the Town Centre Framework, Councillor Burnett alluded to it also reflecting work that had been taken forward in terms of shortly consulting the people of Barry about what they needed for the town. It looked at renewing infrastructure to improve accessibility and perception and promote more efficient public transportation provisions and usage which included gateway improvements, signage to address congestion to improve the visitor experience and initiatives such as town centre wi-fi to help to drive the economic outcomes of Barry Island up into the town centre. It aimed to achieve well-connected complementary growth by investing in property that would stimulate business and creative industry start ups or to expand and directly create jobs and growth. It aimed to create a brand for the town, based around its outstanding Waterfront setting and the marine and lifestyle assets and spreading the economic outcomes of tourism on Barry Island into the town through investment in Waterfront opportunities and capitalising on the current activities on Barry Island.
The bid had also sought to create a strong sense of place by protecting and enhancing Barry's heritage, reusing historic buildings and encouraging new contemporary developments that respected the town's unique identity. It included bringing the Pumphouse back into productive use as a centre for arts and creative industries as well as the development of a heritage centre.
Notwithstanding all the work outlined above, Councillor Burnett alluded to the lack of evidence of Members generally speaking to her or to the Council’s officers regarding the bid. Nevertheless, she considered opportunities to make progress still existed. She referred to very effective regeneration projects elsewhere in the country which involved a mixture of private, Third Sector and public sector activity. Various schemes and best practice elsewhere had been looked at, as had the potential for creating development trusts. In conclusion, Councillor Burnett considered the issue too important for Members to act on political lines and expressed her support for the proposed amended Motion.
The Mayor then invited Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson to sum up in respect of the original Notice of Motion.
Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson summarised some of the contributions from Members during the debate and expressed his gladness that Plaid Cymru had been able to instigate the debate in the form of the original Notice of Motion. It appeared to him that the Administration was seeking to put the blame solely on the Welsh Government. He pointed out that the original Motion had, indeed, provided for the concept of a cross-party approach.
Councillor Dr. Johnson felt the debate had not resulted in clarity as to the action to now be taken, other than to commence meetings. He felt that firm ideas for progress were required.
He felt Members were looking to work in the same direction. Commenting on the length of the amended Motion and notwithstanding the fact that it had only been tabled at the meeting itself, Councillor Dr. Johnson indicated he would like to accept the amendment put forward by the Administration as he believed Members should, indeed, be working together. He felt it largely coincided and agreed with the approach put forward in the original Notice of Motion. Notwithstanding his support, he felt the Administration needed to accept responsibility when failure occurred. As such, and in agreeing to the amendment, he requested a full proper 'post mortem' and inquiry into what had gone right and wrong and in order to determine where responsibility for the failed bid actually rested. He felt sure such an exercise was already underway and looked forward to a full report on the matter being submitted to Council.
He felt all Members present would appreciate the need to work together. Reiterating an earlier comment regarding there being two political parties (Labour and Plaid Cymru), together with an Independent Member representing the people of Barry, he indicated those opposition Members wanted to be involved.
Councilor Dr. Johnson thanked Members for their contributions to the debate, which he considered to have been constructive and as indicating that Members were capable of working together.
The Mayor asked Councillor Johnson whether he was withdrawing the original Motion. He indicated that was not the case. As such, the amended Motion (as distributed earlier in the meeting by the Leader and as reproduced as the agreed resolution below) was voted upon and carried. As a result, the amendment as set out below became the Substantive Motion, which was again voted upon and carried.
RESOLVED - T H A T the Council:
(1) notes that the Welsh Government designated Barry as a Strategic Regeneration Area in March 2010, and that £9.8m of funding was made available over a four year period and which was planned to end in March 2014;
(2) congratulates the Barry Regeneration Partnership Board on carrying out the work thus far, in helping to regenerate Barry during this period. It also notes that this regeneration will culminate with the plans for the Eastern Shelter scheme along with substantial works on the Promenade and other areas on Barry Island;
(3) notes that the Welsh Government requested all 22 local authorities in Wales to bid for new regeneration funding through the Viable and Vibrant Places scheme as the previous regeneration scheme was coming to an end as planned;
(4) notes with considerable regret and annoyance that the Council’s bid for the Viable and Vibrant Places scheme was rejected at the first bidding round despite the Vale meeting ALL THREE of the strands that the regeneration bids were supposed to be targeted at for regeneration investment. The three strands were aimed at: 1. Town Centres in both rural and urban areas, 2. Coastal Communities and 3. Communities First cluster areas. It is clear that Barry meets all of them;
(5) believes that due to the fact that there is a new Minister in Welsh Government, priorities have changed and that as a result of the huge impact of welfare reforms and the bedroom tax, housing-led regeneration is now his priority. Although this Council may agree with the Minister’s personal priority of ensuring all families can be brought up in a stable 'home', this Council cannot accept that the funding criteria were changed mid-process and that Councils, such as the Vale of Glamorgan, having met the original criteria should be rejected from the bidding process in such a manner;
(6) make the Welsh Government aware that that the Vale of Glamorgan bid for the settlement of Barry was based on continued regeneration and the creation of employment in many areas including Tourism. Welsh Government should also be informed that while including housing related schemes, the development of additional housing in Barry is not a priority as this will be determined through the new Local Development Plan (LDP) where social housing is factored in through the section 106 planning requirements in percentage terms of any new development;
(7) inform the Welsh Government that the Council is aggrieved at the regrettable and disappointing rejection of the Council’s innovative and fully compliant bid at the first stage of the bidding round and remind them of the negative impact on the outcomes from existing regeneration activities and endanger the progress of Barry’s future regeneration;
(8) remind the Welsh Government that The Vale of Glamorgan is not in an Assisted Status Area, nor in an Objective 1 or Objective 2 area and that irrespective of significant levels of disadvantage in the town there are no alternative strands of funding available to this Council unlike other local authorities across Wales;
(9) invite Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Housing and Regeneration to a cross-party meeting of the Political Leaders, the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation, along with the Vale of Glamorgan Constituency Assembly Member Jane Hutt AM, the Minister for Finance to discuss the future regeneration of Barry;
(10) will work to ensure cross-party and cross-sector support to attract a range of private and public funding to improve Barry and the Vale of Glamorgan’s economic, social and community regeneration.
418 IMPROVEMENT PLAN 2013/14 (MD) –
The Council’s Part 1 Improvement Plan for 2012/13 had been agreed by Cabinet on 18th April 2012 (as required by the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009). The Plan was forward looking and set out improvement objectives for 2012/13.
The Part 2 Improvement Plan now before Council was a document primarily looking back of 2012/13. It contained key performance measures, together with targets and actions for 2012/13. Where available, the document contained Welsh average performance to assist benchmarking purposes. The information would be used by the Wales Audit Office to assess the Council’s capacity to improve and, therefore, was of critical importance to the reputation of the Council. The Plan was substantially complete, although further minor amendments would be required following changes to performance information provided by the Local Government Data Unit and from proof reading. This information would need to be incorporated prior to the publication of the final Plan.
(1) T H A T the Improvement Plan for 2013/14 be endorsed.
(2) T H A T the Leader and Managing Director be given delegated authority to make minor changes to the Plan prior to publication.
419 CENTRAL SOUTH CONSORTIUM JOINT EDUCATION SERVICE: JOINT SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (MD) –
The Welsh Government was encouraging local authorities to establish joint scrutiny arrangements to support robust governance of the increased range of services delivered in partnership with other Councils or public, third sector or private organisations. With this in mind, it was considered opportune to establish such arrangements in respect of the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service.
For some time, Scrutiny Officers from the five constituent authorities (Bridgend, Cardiff, Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf and the Vale of Glamorgan) had been in discussion regarding the potential establishment of a Joint Scrutiny Committee. An officer funded by the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) was also involved in the project and had been engaged in the drawing up of suggested draft Terms of Reference.
In addition to facilitating scrutiny of the service itself, it was considered that there would also be an opportunity for both Members and officers to learn how to scrutinise a regional consortium and to develop practices and procedures that could be applied to other future partnership arrangements that the Council might enter into. Arrangements would need to provide for scrutiny of education services allowing strategic issues affecting all five authorities to be scrutinised at a regional level, whilst still allowing issues pertinent to any one authority to be scrutinised at a single Council level.
Council, on 26th June 2013, was informed of the forthcoming establishment of a Joint Scrutiny Committee. The Joint Committee would act as a "critical friend" to the Joint Education Committee (i.e. the executive arm of the collaborative arrangement) and would mirror the executive arrangements in that each of the five constituent authorities would have two representatives on the Joint Committee.
The Local Authorities (Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committees) (Wales) Regulations 2013 governed the procedures which were to be followed by local authorities in establishing joint scrutiny arrangements and included the following provisions:
"5.-(1) The persons eligible for appointment as members of a joint overview and scrutiny committee in accordance with regulation 3(1) are -
(a) members, other than executive members, of the appointing authorities; and
(b) persons appointed in accordance with paragraph 8 or 9 of Schedule 1 to the2000 Act to an overview and scrutiny committee of any of the appointing authorities.
(2) The members of a joint overview and scrutiny committee appointed in accordance with regulation 3(1) must comprise an equal number of persons from each of the appointing authorities.
(3) A Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee is not to be regarded as a body to which Section 15 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (1) (Duty to Allocate Seats to Political Groups) applies.
(4) Each appointing authority must ensure that, as far as practicable, the members of a joint overview and scrutiny committee who fall within paragraph (1)(a) reflect the balance of political groups for the time being prevailing among the members of the appointing authority."
Taking into account the above provisions (particularly paragraph 5(4), the Council's two seats on the Joint Scrutiny Committee fell to the Labour and Conservative Groups. The two nominated representatives (as notified to Council on 26th June 2013) were Councillor Rhiannon Birch (Vice-Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) and Councillor Andrew Parker (Member of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning)).
The establishment of a Joint Scrutiny Committee was not intended to replicate, or duplicate, the role of the individual authorities' Scrutiny Committees. Its primary focus would be to hold the Consortium to account in terms of delivering school improvement services. Responsibility for scrutinising the performance of individual education services and / school would remain with each of the constituent authorities. However, in order to ensure Member awareness of the work of the Joint Scrutiny Committee, minutes of its meeting would be reported to the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) for information.
It was anticipated that the Joint Committee would meet at least four times a year initially.
In order to assist Members' awareness, attached at Appendix A to the report was the overall governance structure of the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service. The draft Terms of Reference were attached at Appendix B. The Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) on 18th July, 2013 noted the progress to date as set out in the report and endorsed the draft Terms of Reference for submission to Council.
The constituent Authorities' scrutiny officers had commissioned the Centre for Public Scrutiny to facilitate the development of a joint bid to the Welsh Government's Scrutiny Development Fund for a co-ordinator post to support the work of the Joint Scrutiny Committee. The post was intended to provide the Joint Committee with dedicated analytical and project management support and monitor the delivery of effective school improvement services and resultant improved educational outcomes. A Project Steering Group, comprising Scrutiny officers from the constituent authorities and the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Scrutiny Committee would be established to oversee the project.
In presenting the report to Members, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services thanked the Head of Democratic Services and the Principal Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer for their work on this matter.
(1) T H A T progress to date be noted.
(2) T H A T the draft Terms of Reference for the Joint Scrutiny Committee, as attached to the report, be endorsed.
420 SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ ANNUAL REPORT: MAY 2012 – APRIL 2013 (MD) –
The draft Annual Report had been considered and approved by all five Scrutiny Committees during September 2013 and contained details of the work of the Committees over the year, together with statistical information.
RESOLVED – T H A T the Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report 2012-13 be received.
421 STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS 2012/13 (S151O) –
The Council's External Auditors had completed the audit of the Council's Financial Statements for 2012/13 and amendments had been incorporated therein.
The Audit Committee on 16th September 2013 considered an agenda item entitled 'Audit of the 2012/13 Financial Statements - Reporting to Those Charged with Governance'. Committee recommended that the report of the Wales Audit Office be approved and the Financial Statements, including the final Letter of Representation, be recommended for signature by those authorised.
As mentioned above, the Wales Audit Office requires the Authority to sign a final Letter of Representation which was attached at Appendix '1' to the report.
Under the Accounts and Audit Regulations, the Statement of Accounts for 2012/13 must be approved before 30th September and signed and dated by the Mayor as Chairman of the Council. The Statement of Accounts was attached to the report which had already been considered and endorsed by the Audit Committee.
In addition, the Annual Governance Statement needed to be formally approved by Council and signed and dated by the Leader of the Council. This statement had already been considered and endorsed by the Audit Committee.
(1) T H A T the letter of representation to the Wales Audit Office be noted and that it be agreed and signed and dated by the Chair of the Audit Committee and the Mayor as Chairman of the Council.
(2) T H A T the Annual Governance Statement (within the Statement of Accounts) be approved and signed and dated by the Leader of the Council at page 94.
(3) T H A T the Statement of Accounts for 2012/13 be approved and signed and dated by the Mayor as Chairman of the Council at page 17.
422 NEW BYELAWS – REGULATION OF ACUPUNCTURE, TATTOOING, SEMI-PERMANENT SKIN COLOURING, COSMETIC PIERCING AND ELECTROLYSIS (REF) –
The Licensing Committee on 3rd September 2013 had initiated the procedure to adopt Part VIII of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (as amended) and to make new byelaws in connection with the regulation of acupuncture, tattooing, semi-permanent skin colouring, cosmetic piercing and electrolysis under the Act.
Local authorities were responsible for the regulation and control of businesses carrying out the procedures of acupuncture, tattooing, semi-permanent skin colouring, cosmetic piercing and electrolysis. The main powers to do this were provided under Sections 14 and 15 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (as amended by the Local Government Act 2003).
The Council had existing byelaws which regulated tattooing, acupuncture, ear piercing and electrolysis. These dated back to January 1985 and did not cover the broader spectrum of cosmetic piercing and semi-permanent skin colouring.
In recognition of the medical risks attached to all of these procedures, particularly as a result of inappropriate sterilisation of needles, the Welsh Government had produced a new draft set of model byelaws which consolidated the previous byelaws and the new requirements under the amendments to the 1982 Act and which reflected current infection control advise and industry practice.
Public Protection Services now required the Council to adopt the new model byelaws as the Council's byelaws in the regulation of these matters. The existing byelaws would need to be revoked.
As part of the process, draft byelaws based on the model, but specific to the Vale of Glamorgan, had been prepared and submitted for initial consultation with Welsh Government. Provisional approval had been received for the English version of the new byelaws on 1st August 2013. Due to capacity issues at the Welsh Government, Public Protection Services had been informed that the Welsh version would be considered once the Council had made the appropriate resolution to Part VIII of the 1982 Act and made the byelaws.
Prior to making and implementing the new byelaws, the Council must first resolve to adopt Part VIII of the 1982 Act. There was a statutory procedure for adopting the relevant sections and once the Council had resolved to adopt the said provisions, and pursuant to Section 13 of the 1982 Act :
- the Council should publish a notice in two consecutive weeks in a local newspaper circulating in the area
- the notice must state the date upon which the provisions are to come into force in the area
- one month must pass between the day on which the resolution was passed and the first date of coming into force
- the first publication must not be later than 28 days before the day specified in the resolution for the coming into force of the provisions in the local authority's area.
Once Part VIII of the 1982 Act had been adopted, the Council could make byelaws under Sections 14 and 15 of that Act pursuant to the procedure for making byelaws under Section 236 of the Local Government Act 1972. The procedure would be as follows:
- the new byelaws must be made by the Council under its Common Seal and signed
- a notice of the Council's intention to apply to the Welsh Ministers for confirmation of the byelaws must be given in one or more newspapers circulating in the area
- for at least one month after the date of publication of the notice a copy of the byelaws must be held on deposit at Council offices for inspection by the public
- an application to the Welsh Ministers for confirmation should not be made until the month of deposit has expired.
The byelaws would not have effect until confirmed by the Welsh Ministers. The Welsh Ministers would also determine a date upon which the byelaws were to come into force.
Under the Council's Constitution, the matter of adopting Part VIII of the 1982 Act and making and revoking byelaws were matters for Full Council.
(1) T H A T Council adopt the provisions of Part VIII of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 in respect of the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough area and that the provisions come into force on 26th October, 2013.
(2) T H A T the new consolidated model byelaws for the control of acupuncture, tattooing, semi-permanent skin colouring, cosmetic piercing and electrolysis as set out at Appendix A to the report be endorsed.
(3) T H A T Council make byelaws relating to acupuncture, tattooing, semi-permanent skin colouring, cosmetic piercing and electrolysis in the form of the new consolidated model byelaws as set out at Appendix A to the report and that the byelaws be submitted to the Welsh Ministers for confirmation.
(4) T H A T all current byelaws relating to acupuncture, tattooing, ear piercing and electrolysis be revoked with effect from the date the new byelaws come into effect as determined by the Welsh Ministers.
(5) T H A T the Head of Legal Services, in consultation with the Director of Development Services, be authorised to carry out all the necessary procedures in connection with the adoption of Part VIII of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 and the making, confirmation and implementation of the new byelaws.
(6) T H A T Head of Legal Services be authorised to seal and date the byelaws on behalf of the Council.
423 CAPITAL MONITORING REPORT FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST MAY 2013 (REF) –
RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C1425, 29th July 2013, be approved.
424 TREASURY MANAGEMENT (REF) –
RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C1428, 29th July 2013, be approved.
425 ADDITIONAL LEARNING AND SKILLS BUILDING ASSET RENEWAL SCHEMES 2013/14 (REF)
RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C2015, 9th September 2013, be approved.
426 DEMOLITION OF FORMER ST. CYRES COMPREHENSIVE, DINAS POWYS SITE (REF) –
RESOLVED – T H A T the use of the Urgent Decision Procedure (Cabinet Minute No. C1433 (2), 29th July 2013, (as set out in Article 13.09(a)(ii) of the Council’s Constitution), in relation to the authorisation to demolish the school buildings, be noted.
427 QUESTIONS PURSUANT TO COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULE 8.2 –
Due notice had been given of the following questions:
(i) Question from Councillor K.P. Mahoney
What was the total amount of public money spent specifically on alcohol in the Mayoral budgets during the last five full Mayoral terms of office?
Reply from the Leader
Expenditure on drinks – which includes alcohol and soft drinks (not including tea/coffee). It would take up too much time to specifically identify alcohol.
- 2008/09 - £1,198.06;
- 2009-10 - £1,873.47;
- 2010-2011 - £690.89;
- 2011-2012 - £1,006.89;
- 2012-2013 - £1,007.23.
Councillor Mahoney asked whether the Leader thought it right that Vale of Glamorgan ratepayers should be paying for the alcohol consumption of Vale Councillors and invitees to various social functions organised by the Mayor's office.
The Leader responded that, as the Vale Mayor was the First Person of the Vale Council, he considered it was an acceptable part of their civic duties to hold functions.
(ii) Question from Councillor K.P. Mahoney
What was the total amount of public money spent specifically on the combination of food and alcohol in the Mayoral budgets during the last five full Mayoral terms of office?
Reply from the Leader
- 2008-09 - £17,510.14;
- 2009-2010 - £17,201.41;
- 2010-2011 - £17,242.65;
- 2011-2012 - £14,670.43;
- 2012-2013 - £13,214.93.
(iii) Question from Councillor K.P. Mahoney
What is the total amount of public money spent over the last five years on travel, accommodation and other associated expenses by the Vale of Glamorgan Elected Members and other officials, staff and representatives in respect of trips to towns, cities or areas twinned or in friendship agreements with the Vale of Glamorgan and what is the total number of representatives, elected or otherwise, who have enjoyed subsidised travel, accommodation and subsistence payments to twinned or friendship areas during that five year period?
Reply from the Leader
The total cost for visits to our twin towns of Fecamp (France), Mouscron (Belgium) and Rheinfelden (Germany) for the last 5 years are as follows:
2008 – 2009
A total 12 Representatives Travelled
2009 – 2010
A total of 17 Representatives Travelled
2010 – 2011
A total of 10 Representatives Travelled
2011 – 2012
2012 – 2013
A total of 7 Representatives Travelled
Referring to his view that there was little awareness amongst residents of the Vale of Glamorgan of the towns and cities that the Vale was twinned with, Councillor Mahoney asked whether the Leader felt that Vale of Glamorgan ratepayers should be subsiding such trips.
The Leader referred to the twinning and friendship agreements as existing for many years and to some stemming from World War II. He referred to many people from the Borough having travelled to the twin towns. The Council continued to encourage school children to link with its colleagues and friends in Europe and he considered it did a great deal of good. He referred to the excellent work undertaken by the Twinning Association and considered the arrangements promoted the Vale of Glamorgan as a tourist attraction area. He alluded to an individual from Rheinfelden who had photographed areas in the Vale and made them into a particularly good book.
(iv) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
A Safe Routes in Communities bid was submitted for school safety crossing improvements outside St. Curig School in Barry but a report to Cabinet in July noted briefly that it had been refused.
The school is in a Communities First cluster area and appeared to meet all criterion suggested by the Welsh Government.
What explanation has been provided by the Welsh Government for the failure of these bids, particularly regarding the Buttrills Road crossing?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transport
The Safe Routes in Communities bid was rejected this year due to the high number of bids submitted throughout Wales in Communities First areas which were prioritised in line with all the relevant criteria.
There was only a finite amount of funding available and the amount of bids far outweighed what could be afforded from the funding.
Councillor Johnson asked whether the Cabinet Member would work with St. Curig school and officers to improve and resubmit the bid at the next possible opportunity.
The Cabinet Member stated that Council officers were continuously working with local schools to improve road safety and were drawing up a full range of bids which were not only available for coming years but also in the event of funding becoming available at the end of the year.
(v) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
As at the most recent scrutiny meeting, the Social Services budget is currently anticipating overspend of around £673,000, despite having successfully found around £1.3m worth of savings this financial year.
An uplift of £1.5m was provided in this year’s budget, identified for 'other pressures facing social care’ that would only be utilised with authorisation from the Managing Director after discussion with the Leader and Cabinet Member.
Scrutiny Members were informed that this was not included in our budget.
Naturally we all hope that Social Services will be able to ensure a balanced budget. However, could the Cabinet Member tell us what would trigger the use of this £1.5m 'hidden’ funding, which happens to be the same as that taken from reserves this year, and what will happen to this money if it is not used in this financial year?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services
The major issue facing Social Services is the continuing pressure on Community Care Packages. This is the Adult Services Division's most volatile budget and the one most dependent upon levels of service demand which are not within the Council's direct control.
The introduction of the First Steps Initiative has also significantly increased pressure on this budget and a decision on the allocation of additional funding from Welsh Government is pending. Any grant received will reduce this overspend. It would not be prudent to release any of the £1.5m provided for in the budget for additional cost pressures until the additional First Steps funding is allocated to the Council.
There may be other cost pressures facing the service, such as the price of residential care, which will need to be considered. Also, further actions to mitigate the current financial position of the Directorate need to be put in place where possible, and further savings and potential underspends identified.
Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee on 10th September 2013 requested a report on the current financial position and the steps which can be taken to mitigate further expenditure. Work is currently being undertaken to prepare this report and the final version will be brought to Cabinet and the Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee once complete.
The 2014/15 budget strategy was reported to Cabinet in July. There will be many issues to consider in the light of the anticipated cuts in overall Council funding and it is too early to say what the impact will be on future budgets. Any savings made directly by services over and above individual service targets will count towards future saving targets.
Referring to having been informed during the budget process that the Council was meeting the Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) in Social Services, excluding the £1.5m, Councillor Johnson asked the Cabinet Member whether or not that £1.5m included the Council meeting the SSA.
The Cabinet Member indicated he would provide a written answer.
(vi) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
The One Wales Government introduced the excellent policy of capping domiciliary care payments at £50 per week to relieve cost pressures on individuals and their families.
However, the subsequent Welsh Labour Government has not ensured identified sufficiency funding to deal with behavioural changes as a result of this policy.
In a response that I was given in December 2012, this was identified as an additional cost pressure to the Vale Council of £1.4m in 2011/12.
Since that answer was given, the Welsh Government has announced a grant to offset some of the costs.
What are the actual or estimated cost pressures on the social services budget as a result of the First Steps Initiative for each year, from 2011/12 until the end of the current budgetary cycle, using the information currently available - including our expected income from the Welsh Government grant?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services
The impact of the Welsh Government’s First Steps initiative in the Vale has been calculated at several points since its introduction.
In November 2011, the impact was assessed at £1,007,445, increasing to £1,776,528 in February 2012. The position as at February 2013 is currently being assessed, but an initial review shows that the impact could now be in the region of £2.5m.
The original allocation provided by Welsh Government via the RSG was £373k, which has not been deducted from the figures I’ve quoted.
Welsh Government Ministers have agreed to provide an additional £3.2m per annum to reimburse local authorities for the income foregone, with an in-year payment in 2012/13 and inclusion in the RSG Settlement thereafter. I have made representations to Ministers about the formula for distributing this funding and we are awaiting their decision.
Councillor Johnson referred to the figure of around £1.8m as equating to a rise of around 4% in Council Tax. He asked whether the Welsh Government had queried the Council's figures or whether they were complicit in the Council having one of the highest Council Tax rises in Great Britain.
The Cabinet Member referred to the difficulty of providing services to adults, not just in this Council, but in every Council. He pointed out that the introduction of the First Steps or '£50 cap' as it was commonly referred to as having seen a marked increase in the amount of referrals coming into Social Services (a threefold increase compared to 2010). That did not mean to say that all those referrals had resulted in the Council having to provide services but it did demonstrate that people now knew that they could receive the care and the most that they would have to pay was £50. He agreed it was a very good scheme but did not necessarily agree that it was affordable and felt that the £50 cap actually needed to be reviewed given that every Council was going to struggle in the future in meeting this growing need.
(vii) Question from Councillor R.J. Bertin
Given the results of the recent Estyn report, what is now being done to drive up educational standards in the Vale of Glamorgan?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services
You will all be aware that, following the Estyn inspection of local authority education services for children and young people in May, the inspectors’ report was published on 17 September.
At my request the report was circulated to all Councillors on the day of publication. It should be noted that it could not be published or circulated before that date.
The report which has been circulated to all Councillors judged some aspects of the service as 'good’ and others as 'adequate’: no services were judged unsatisfactory. The overall judgement was 'adequate’.
Many of the judgements in the report were based on the performance of pupils in 2012. Teacher assessments in 2013 showed increased performance particularly in Key Stage 3. Detailed reports about performance in 2013 will be brought forward for consideration by the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee shortly.
However, there is more to be done, not only to address the inspectors’ recommendations, but to meet our ambition not only to be the best performing education authority in Wales but to match ourselves against the most successful in England.
Work is now underway to prepare a Post Inspection Action Plan to address the six recommendations in the report. The draft plan will be considered by both the Scrutiny Committee and by Cabinet in due course.
Councillor Bertin referred to the report containing criticism that underperformance was not being identified quickly enough and he asked how this would be addressed and whether it had anything to do with the fact that the net spend for people in secondary school was the lowest in Wales at £4190 and in primary school the second lowest at £3813.
The Cabinet Member pointed out that the Administration had established a Panel of elected Members and the voting observers of the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning). One meeting had taken place and further meetings would be held at Llantwit Major Comprehensive and the Panel would be undertaking further work in other schools in relation to performance in both primary and secondary sectors. The Council was continuing to work with headteachers across the spectrum to ensure that underperformance was indentified through officers, through the Joint Education Service and through the work of elected Members.
In relation to funding he did not consider it to be linked. He alluded to the Council being one of the few authorities in Wales to have no schools with deficit budgets (in fact most schools held a surplus), indicating that schools managed their finances very well. In recent reading tests introduced by Welsh Government the Council was either first, second or third in terms of the performance across the board. The OECD had made statements in relation to funding in terms of education achievement where some of the highest education achievements in the world in relation to PIZA, for example, was not necessarily linked to funding. He welcomed Welsh Government's commitment to increase funding for education by 1% each year above the rate on the RSG to ensure delivery of very best education services. The Joint Education Service was still 'finding its feet' and progressing further in terms of education improvement. However, the facts showed the Vale to have very high performing schools across the authority in primary and secondary sector as well as some sector-leading schools. Dinas Powys Infant School had recently received an 'Excellent' in relation to their Estyn Inspection and Ysgol Iolo Morgannwg in Cowbridge had also received an 'excellent', rating. There was plenty of work ongoing and the Council continued to work with schools to effect improvement.
(viii) Question from Councillor R.J. Bertin
When are we likely to get some feedback on the lost £15m regeneration bid for Barry?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
You will have already received the feedback given tonight. In addition, I am arranging for a report to be brought before Cabinet in October on the matter. That report will detail the bid process, the outcome of the bid and also the options for taking key projects and initiatives forward in light of the WG decision.
Councillor Bertin asked whether, if the Notice of Motion had not been submitted, a debate at Council would have occurred.
The Cabinet Member indicated that a history of taking the bid in its progressive stages throughout Council and involving other people would suggest that would have, indeed, been the case.
(ix) Question from Councillor R.J. Bertin
Is the Leader aware of Unison’s latest campaign to get the living wage for the employees of this Council?
Reply from the Leader
Councillor Bertin asked how many Full-Time Employees currently earned less than £7.45 an hour and how much it would cost to implement the Living Wage in the Council.
The Leader indicated he was unable to state the exact number of staff as it fluctuated. He referred to the question of the Living Wage having been raised by Councillor Ian Johnson in January. At that time the Human Resources Department had estimated the cost to the Council as around £600,000. The figure would fluctuate as it depended on the numbers of staff and the diffentials between their currently hourly rate and the Living Wage rate and also, as indicated in his answer to Councillor Johnson's supplementary question, the Council would need to make further cuts to budgets and services to fund this particular scheme.
(x) Question from Councillor R.J. Bertin
Will the Leader please tell us if there are any jobs at risk with the new collaborative working proposals for our public protection services?
Reply from the Leader
The Public Protection Services is within the scope for the proposed collaboration with Bridgend, Cardiff and ourselves and we are required to find savings of £400,000 over the next three years, whether or not collaboration takes place or not. There would be a lot of job losses if the Council proceeded alone because the services would not be viable. There may still be losses in collaboration but the economies of scale of working in partnership would mean they are likely to be substantially less. The actual figure is unknown at present.
Councillor Bertin asked whether the savings proposed on accommodation and premises would be included in the £400k that Regulatory Services were expected to make or whether they were additional.
The Leader indicated that, currently, the service was expected to make at least £400k in cashable savings, and to his understanding that, if a department discontinued its use of a building, then that was part of their departmental costs.
(xi) Question from Councillor C.P. Franks
Will you provide an update regarding the cycle way and footpath schemes currently being considered across with county including the estimated costs and date of completion?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
The Cabinet takes active travel very seriously.
Since the Regional Transport Plan (RTP) Capital Programme implementation began in April 2010, the Welsh Government, through the RTP has funded the following walking and cycling schemes in the Vale of Glamorgan area:
- Pont-Y-Werin. These are walking and cycling routes through Penarth linking to Pont-Y-Werin
- The Cogan Pill Road £43k.
- Penarth Marina schemes £40k.
- Cogan Leisure Centre scheme £79k.
- The Arcot Street scheme £88k.
- Plassey Street £70k.
- Dingle Park phases 1 + Phase 2 - £109k Phase 3 £149k.
- Oystercatcher £57k.
- Paget Hill £20k.
- Penarth Heights zig zags but not Sewta funded £270k. This was funded in partnership with Crest.
- NCN88 £311,000 – Match funding European Creative Rural Communities Grant over a 3 year programme to deliver walking and cycling routes throughout the rural Vale, mainly around the airport, Rhoose and Llanmaes as well as a £50,000 contribution to fully design the off-road route from the Barry Docks Link Road to Culverhouse Cross. Funding is actively being sought to deliver the next phase of this infrastructure.
- Barry to Dinas Powys - £30,000– Funding has been granted to carry out feasibility for a new pedestrian and cycling link from the McDonalds roundabout on Cardiff Road Barry to Dinas Powys. Further funding has been granted to enable the land issues to be considered and once the issues have been resolved, funding will be sought to design and deliver this scheme.
- Sully Moors Road £20,000– A small amount of funding has been provided to upgrade this route and along Cardiff Road, Barry.
- Railway Walk Penarth £184,500– This scheme has secured funding in 2013/14 and will be delivered before the end of this financial year.
The Creative Rural Communities Grant, over its 3 year lifespan, with support from £150,000 Sewta grant and S106 funding has funded the schemes below:
- Llantwit Major / Llanmaes toucan crossing Approx £106,000 - Upgrade of a pedestrian crossing to a toucan crossing at Llantwit Major / Llanmaes, including shared use paths each side to connect and an uncontrolled crossing facility on Llantwit Major side for northbound cyclists to reach the crossing.
- Penmark roundabout improvements north of Cardiff Airport Approx £55,000 - 2.5m wide shared use footway / cycle way off-carriage around the roundabout on the A4226 / B4265 to connect two sections of the on road route of the NCN Route 88. Included dropped kerbs between path and refuge islands, drainage, signing and lead in lanes.
- Porthkerry Road (Rhoose) shared footway / cycle way Approx £169,000 - Provision of a shared footway / cycle way along Porthkerry Road that will eventually link up with Porthkerry Country Park and the urban aspect of the NCN Route 88.
- Signage schedule for NCN Route 88 Approx £20,000 - Signage Schedule for NCN Route 88 including a feasibility study reviewing the suitability of the proposed on road section of the route. Signage is to be implemented once necessary highway improvements highlighted by the feasibility study have been completed.
Other schemes that are proposed as part of NCN Route 88 and will be funded by this grant, but may need additional funding, include:
- Shared footway / cycle way along Sully Moors Road, Sully.
- Continuation of shared footway / cycle way along Porthkerry Road, Rhoose.
- Footway / cycle way off carriageway provision around the roundabout at Cardiff Airport as well as a link into Tredogan Road.
- New footway / cycle way on the unnamed road just off Porthkerry Road to provide access to Porthkerry Country Park and the urban sections of NCN Route 88.
- Shared footway / cycle way on Port Road, Wenvoe.
There have been numerous walking schemes implemented via the Rural Development Plan for Wales via the â€˜Rural Footpath Grant’ and have been match funded mainly through the ROWIP grant (from NRW, formerly CCW), S106 as well as contributions from Community Councils and other sources:
The following projects are either complete or in the process of being implemented:
- Ewenny / Corntown Footpath Improvements - £9k
- Cowbridge Footpath Improvements linking the town centre with the comprehensive school - £34k
- New footpath linking St. Mary Church with The Herberts - £14k
- New footpath linking Twyn Yr Odyn with Wenvoe - £5k
- Nash Point to Marcross Footpath Improvements - £14k
- Footpath Improvements linking Llangan with Colwinston - £6k
- Hensol Forest Bridleway Improvements - £17k.
The following four projects are expected to be submitted for approval:
- Penllyn Estate Bridleway – Involves the creation of approximately 15km worth of bridleways.
- Opening up access to the Cross Common in Dinas Powys
- Footpath improvements linking Dinas Powys with Michaelston le Pit
- Creation of a new footpath linking Boverton with Summerhouse Point.
Quotes have not been obtained for carrying out the works as yet so there are currently no costings for these schemes, however, it is anticipated that these projects will use up the remainder of the Rural Footpath Grant and may require further funding from other sources.
Safe Routes in Communities Grant, since 2010, has funded the following walking and cycling schemes:
- A walking and cycling off-road route along Port Road Barry from Barry Comprehensive School to Barry Dock Link Road
- a walking and cycling off-road route through the Buttrills playing field and Colcot Road
- a toucan crossing on Colcot Road to allow the public to cross this busy commuter route
- a splitter island on Port Road to enable pedestrians to cross this primary route safely
- vehicle activated signs outside the Barry Comprehensive School to allow a warning to drivers to slow down for pedestrians
- an off-road cycle route at Llantwit Major to access the beach (additional works are required to complete this scheme though, subject to land owner permissions being granted).
In addition, the Council has funded a new fence around the Ash Path Dinas Powys to segregate the live stock from the public right of way 25 and 28c joining Dinas Powys with Sully Road. Further Capital funding has been allocated this financial year to enable land issues to be discussed with the land owners to provide a widening of the Ash Path to allow for pedestrians and cyclists. A bid for further Capital funding will be considered to deliver the scheme once the land issues are resolved.
As a result of the work being undertaken for the replacement Deposit LDP, a new draft infrastructure plan will outline the measures needed to improve walking / cycling infrastructure up to 2026.
Councillor Franks referred to rumours that the Penarth Railway Scheme might cost £1m and asked the Cabinet Member to comment on such.
The Cabinet Member stated that figures had been misquoted, possibly mischievously. The estimated cost for the path at the moment was £184.5k. and not the £1m quoted which was the total budget for Sewta.
(xii) Question from Councillor C.P. Franks
The previous draft Local Development Plan was apparently based on a projected growth in population that subsequently was shown to be excessive. In what way does the new draft Plan reflect the revised population growth?
Reply from the Leader
The LDP’s housing need is based on Household Projections and not just population growth.
Population Projections only predict the possible number of people where as Household Projections project the number households (households are defined as one person living alone or a group of people living at the same address). It is the Household Projections that are used as a base to calculate the number of dwellings that are required for LDPs.
I would advise that when the Replacement Deposit LDP is released in October the LDP can only be mindful of the changes in the population until the Welsh Government release the 2011-based Household Projections, which is not expected to happen until the end of 2013. Therefore, the 2008-based Household Projections are still the right and proper starting point for the LDP dwelling requirements as they are still the latest official local authority Household Projections.
It would not be statistically robust to attempt to produce new Household Projections before the Welsh Government release the 2011-based Household Projections because there is a need to understand how household formations have changed over the last 10 years.
However, if necessary the LDP process allows the Council to reconsider the LDP’s housing need figure once the Welsh Government release the household data.
Councillor Franks asked whether the reply meant that the Cabinet Member and Planning Department paid no regard to the change in population growth?
The Cabinet Member referred to the LDP as being based on the Household Projections which were still in place. She would provide a full answer in writing.
(xiii) Question from Councillor C.P. Franks
What measures are you taking to improve the infrastructure to reduce traffic congestion across the county?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services
The Council is continually working towards improving road safety and reducing congestion on its highway network. Recent infrastructure improvements include; localised highway improvements to increase or maximise junction and link capacity; upgrading signal controlled junctions and optimising signal timings to improve operation and efficiency; and the installation of CCTV technology at key junctions to record and monitor junction operation and performance. As an example, the recent adjustments to Baron’s Court signal junction have seen a substantial peak time improvement for traffic emerging from Penarth.
Visible Services work closely with their colleagues from the Planning and Transportation Directorate to ensure all highway and traffic implications, as a result of new and proposed developments, are considered in full prior to planning approval. Mitigation measures are agreed by way of Section 278 works and Section 106 contributions, which help to reduce the impact of development traffic on the highway network as far as reasonably practicable. The ability of the local road network to cope with increasing populations and both future domestic and commercial developments are being considered as part of the Council’s Local Development Plan. Where necessary, this involves examining traffic flow models to establish 'pinch points' on our network and actions to address such issues.
Our officers continue to improve the operation of our network and to increase its capacity where possible and have established a list of highway schemes awaiting funding for further development or implementation. It is, however, accepted that there is limited opportunity to increase capacity for car users, particularly in the eastern Vale. A future initiative which may provide opportunity to secure the level of funding required will be via the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). This will provide the Council with the ability to â€˜pool’ developer contributions and allocate funds to address priority issues.
In order to reduce congestion by encouraging sustainable travel, significant investment has been made into alternative modes of travel, with the introduction of cycle and pedestrian links and improved public transport infrastructure. In addition, the Council has recently taken on Civil Parking Enforcement and now has the power to enforce parking restrictions. Civil Parking Officers are on regular patrol with the intention of keeping restricted areas clear of illegally parked vehicles to improve road safety and keep traffic moving freely.
The Council is a member of the South East Wales Highway and Utilities Committee and officers attend 3 monthly co-ordination meetings along with other neighbouring authorities and Public Utilities and Emergency services. All proposed planned works and events are discussed in detail to avoid any conflicts of works in both the immediate area and adjoining road networks and to minimise any disruption to both residents and the travelling public. The Council also produces a comprehensive weekly road report which is published on our website.
The management of the highway network to reduce traffic congestion will be an ongoing challenge and one that is faced by all local authorities and we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that traffic movements throughout the Vale are unhindered wherever possible.
Councillor Franks asked the Cabinet Member to elaborate on the measures taken in respect of the bottleneck at Culverhouse Cross and at the Merrie Harriers and/or what additional public transport would be put in place
The Cabinet Member indicated he would provide a written reply.
(xiv) Question from Councillor P.J. Clarke
The T9 bus service is a poorly conceived idea, the offspring of the Welsh Government, operated at great expense and extremely visible to the taxpayer.
I have been assured that the Council has only involved been involved in the procurement process. Councillors and constituents witness daily this service (empty most of the time) operated every 20 minutes, 16 hours a day, 364 days of the year. Would it not be in the public interest to question the viability and continuation of this 475k high carbon footprint service immediately, as there are insufficient flights to justify it?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
Firstly, can I say how surprised I am to see this question given that Councillor Clarke and I discussed this matter at length recently? However for the benefit of others present I will repeat my comments. I can confirm that the T9 Airport bus was initiated and is funded totally by the WG. The Council did assist in its procurement but does not contribute in any way financially. I cannot agree that the service is a poorly conceived idea. It is a concept that has worked effectively in Bristol for many years and one can understand why a fast express airport service is seen as an asset, particularly when this has the ability to offer frequent connections to the capital city. That said, the Service is due for review early next year and consideration will be given at that time to its patronage and frequency. In my view it is too early to give any idea of its success or otherwise as the Service has been operating for less than two months.
Councillor Clarke, referring to the service as being poorly patronised and as not due for review by the Welsh Assembly Government until January, asked whether the Council would be continuing its support.
The Cabinet Member reiterated that the Council was not providing financial support, but was supporting the ongoing viability of essential transport links to what she hoped would be a successful airport. She referred to marketing assets as being good business practice.
(xv) Question from Councillor S.T. Wiliam
Do you accept that the three current applications for drilling in the Vale, to estimate the deposits of Shale Gas / Oil are a prelude to Fracking, if significant deposits are discovered and that Fracking poses a threat to our environment, whilst this Council should be pursuing Clean and Green forms of renewable energy, to increase employment in new and sustainable industries?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services
The current applications before the Council are for exploratory purposes. They are not for exploitation of gas reserves. The Council therefore has to determine the current applications on the basis that they are for exploration, and it would be wrong to judge them on the basis of what may follow. If the companies do find themselves in a position of carrying out test drilling, then we may well get more applications for exploration and it is only then that we can judge the acceptability or otherwise of those proposals.
In terms of concerns regarding the process, I am aware that many people have concerns. I am also aware that the last time the Council resisted an application to test drill for gas, a subsequent appeal was allowed and the applicant awarded costs. Whilst planning permission is required, Natural Resources Wales has a key role in assessing the environmental risks associated with the process, and the Council will rely heavily on the advice from that body. The role of the separate permitting process was an issue also considered at the recent appeal in the Llandow case.
Can I just personally add that I have strong concerns about the process of fracking, both at the pollution level and the climate change level and I am also a long term supporter of renewable energy which is the only answer to our long term energy needs.
Councillor Wiliam asked whether the Welsh Government was responsible for the rules
Referring to it likely to be a combination of organisations, the Cabinet Member indicated he would provide a reply in writing.
(xvi) Question from Councillor S.T. Wiliam
Could the Member for Economic Regeneration provide an update with regards to progress concerning the proposed second road to the Island?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
Three way discussions are continuing between the Council, Welsh government and the consortium, the aim being to bring forward the construction of the access road into one phase, as opposed to three separate phases. Given the sensitive nature of these discussions, with the legal complexities that are tied to such discussions I trust you will accept that it would be inappropriate to detail those discussions and to give timescales that cannot be substantiated. I can however, assure all Members that as soon as I have news that I can share with you, then I will do so.
I would like to stress that we need to look at a total solution and working innovatively can also assist. By way of example we had a very full and varied events programme on the Island over the summer and by staggering start and finish times we were able to keep disruption and traffic congestion to a minimum. That said, I remain committed to the new road and will update you as soon as possible.
(xvii) Question from Councillor C.J. Williams
The First Minister said this week, 'I want to see a Wales where walking and cycling are the most normal ways to get around.’ I’ve been trying to help him and the hundreds of cyclists in Barry, Dinas Powys and Cardiff for years now. We have built and are building many cycle routes already, which is fine for most Councillors and cyclists like myself but all these routes should have been prioritised behind the route allowing many workers in Barry and Dinas Powys to access employment centres in Cardiff and Barry. Whilst steep hills might prevent most potential cyclists from using other routes the A4055 from Cardiff to Barry is flat.
There has been a feasibility study carried out by us already in 2011 but precious little has been done since. Can I please have an update as to when we might finally come up with the funding for this much needed safe cycle / footpath between Barry and Cardiff or do I have to write to Carwyn?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
You don’t have to write to the First Minister at all on this, as I can provide you with the information that you require. Indeed please don’t feel that you have to wait for Council questions before asking for updates. You can contact me or officers at any time (within reason). As you are aware, the Council has received funding previously during 2010/11 to assess feasibility of such a route and this year further funding of £10k has been obtained from Sewta to take forward further preparation work in the hope of taking forward land issues, given that any scheme will involve third party land. A report on this issue will be presented to Cabinet during October, and hopefully that report will provide Members with a more complete update.
The WG will not consider any bid to build the cycle way until the land issues are resolved and the land required is in control of the Council to enable it to be built. I am unable to advise how long these negotiations will take, but clearly we do have funding to progress these issues. This does show a commitment to the scheme, and I am hopeful that agreement can be reached. Clearly as more information becomes available, I will be able to report back to Members.
Finally, I agree that the route is a key commuting route. That is why we have progressed it via Sewta. There are however other key routes which we have and are also addressing.
Whilst encouraged by the response, Councillor Williams felt the Council need to push the issue and asked when would funding be allocated to this key route.
Referring to her earlier answer, the Cabinet Member indicated it was not possible to move forward until the route was in Council control. That was currently being worked on and it would then be possible to provide an update.
(xviii) Question from Councillor C.J. Williams
We learned last week that Wales as a â€˜region’ has the highest incidence of households in poverty, even among those already in paid employment. As this current system is obviously not working for us and we cannot achieve a fair settlement from the 'Barnett formula’, will the Leader join me in working towards an Independent Nation status, like Scotland, to enable us to work our way out of this mess?
Reply from the Leader
Thank you Councillor Williams for the comments and your assumptions. In answer to your question will I join you in working towards an independent Nation of Wales?
The simple answer to that question is no. I do not believe that in doing so we would be able to work ourselves out of poverty going it alone.
(xix) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
I would be most grateful if the Cabinet Member could update Council on her plans for a Vale of Glamorgan Heritage Centre. The Cabinet Member will recall that I first asked this question back in June 2012, some 15 months ago, and she did say and I quote that she was 'keen to move discussions forward’. She will also recall that I raised the matter with her again in September 2012 and she said, 'I told you at the last Council meeting, in response to a very similar question that this is one of the priorities for the new administration and that we would be progressing ideas. I can advise that a report will be presented on this matter to the Scrutiny Committee in the near future’. I am not sure what the Cabinet Member’s definition of the near future is but I do not think that there has been a report to Scrutiny in the last 12 months. Furthermore, when I last looked at the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme on the Council’s Website there did not seem to be any prospect of a report in the near future as there did not appear to be any mention of a Vale of Glamorgan Heritage Centre. Perhaps the Cabinet Member can tell Council what is going on?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
This was a major part of our Vibrant and Viable Places bid, and clearly it is disappointing that this bid has not been successful. My thoughts have already turned to how we can take key projects forward, in light of the recent decision. However, I have always said that heritage and the establishment of a Heritage Centre is more than bricks and mortar and it is also about engaging and working with different groups and organisations and helping them to develop the skills, knowledge and expertise required to become sustainable organisations. Through investigations of the development of a Heritage Centre and discussions with the Third Sector in the Vale it has become apparent that there was a need for capacity building within the sector to allow them to become sustainable organisations. This was also part of the bid in the formation of a Third Sector hub in order to develop capacity within that sector. The concept of our thinking is further explored in Charles Leadbeater's work on the Virtuous Circle of Social Capital when he discusses the need to develop social, human and financial capital alongside the more traditional physical capital of build. I would recommend it as interesting reading.
Councillor Treharne asked whether the Cabinet Member would give an undertaking that a Vale of Glamorgan Heritage Centre in some form would be established during the Administration's term of office.
The Cabinet Member indicated that was certainly an aim and she would be working with the Third Sector and linked organisations to attempt to bring about that aim.
(xx) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
I understand that the Redevelopment of the Fun Fair Site on Barry Island into a 'State of the Art Indoor Leisure Centre’, which will rival if not surpass anything that is available in Cardiff, is in some doubt. It would appear that the Council expects the Developer to fund a completely unreasonable affordable housing requirement, which means that the scheme is not now viable. Now, I am well aware of the significant need for social housing throughout the Vale. I am also aware that, with the significant reductions across the board in social housing grant from Welsh Government, the delivery of social housing in the Vale is exceedingly difficult. However this project is not just another residential housing scheme. The Redevelopment of the Fun Fair Site with its 'Multiplex Cinema’, 'Indoor Fun Fair’, 'Bowling Arena’, 'Climbing Wall’, 'Three Restaurants’ and 'Skiplex’ is absolutely vital for the Regeneration of Barry Island and indeed Barry . Could the Cabinet Member give an undertaking tonight that she will be prepared to negotiate realistically with the Developer and, if need be, reduce the affordable housing requirement in order to allow the scheme to proceed.
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
I am extremely surprised at this question, given that Councillor Traherne is fully aware of the issues relating to the delivery (or not) of this proposal from his time as the former Cabinet Member for Regeneration. I am also surprised at Councillor Traherne’s long list of uses, as he will be aware that the outline proposal makes no reference to such definitive end users and I certainly have no knowledge of such inclusion in the scheme.
The application was submitted many years ago (November 2008), only after the flexibility demonstrated by our officers to accept a significant element of residential development in an area where the policy presumption is against residential development. Indeed the scheme includes over 120 flats. This concession was introduced by our officers in order to allow a scheme which brought with it leisure uses. The requirement to provide affordable housing was fully discussed and negotiated with the developer prior to the matter being brought to Planning Committee in February 2012. The Council and applicant agreed to commission the Independent District Valuer to assess the viability of the scheme and found that the Council was being entirely reasonable and realistic. Indeed, it is worth pointing out that the negotiations did involve a significant degree of compromise from the Council in order to make this scheme happen. A requirement of 25% affordable housing was agreed, this being a compromise from the level required through policy and that level regularly negotiated elsewhere in Barry. Having agreed the terms with the applicants the matter was reported to Committee. I appreciate that you know all this, but it is worth spelling it out for the benefit of other Members.
Let us consider what has happened since February 2012, since the reporting of the matter to the Planning Committee. In essence, having reached consensus on the terms of the agreement in relation to affordable housing, we have a situation where that is now disputed and attempts being made to revisit that agreement.
There was a meeting planned for May this year and that was cancelled at very short notice by the developer. Since that time, the matter has not been progressed as there has been very little contact with the Council, other than our attempts to arrange another date for a meeting. Somewhat coincidentally the meeting has now been rearranged and took place this afternoon. I will happily provide feedback as a result of the meeting in due course (it is not looking hugely positive). That said, both I and the officers are very keen to see the site redeveloped, and officers have been ready and willing to discuss issues with the applicants and agent for some time. I am also happy to attend that meeting.
Finally, I have to say that I share Councillor Traherne’s frustration on this. However, the commercial users and developers who are tired of waiting can always look at the Nell’s Point site which is currently being marketed.
(xxi) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
On 6th March 2013, some six months ago, I asked the Cabinet Member about the 'net gain’ in jobs within the St Athan Enterprise Zone since its announcement by the Minister in September 2011. She was not able to provide this information on that occasion but she did say that she would provide me with the answer. As I have heard nothing from her during the intervening period, I was wondering whether she was able to provide the details this evening?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
I indicated in a response to a question at a previous meeting that we do not hold such figures but that they were with the Welsh Government and we would request them.
The Managing Director and Director attend the Enterprise Zone Board and pipeline jobs is regularly discussed. I have asked for the data previously but I have not had the information requested. I have again asked that the Director raises this at the next Board meeting in October and once I have the information I will share it with you.
Councillor Traherne stated that he did not accept the explanation and felt that the figures were being hidden. He suggested that either the Welsh Government did not trust the Cabinet Member with the details or she was deliberately withholding the information from democratically elected members of this Council. He asked if she would indicate which was the case.
The Cabinet Member indicated she did not recognise either of the options suggested, but, referring to Members' comments earlier in the meeting regarding working together, considered Councillor Traherne's suggestion to illustrate the difficulty of doing so.
(xxii) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
In May this year the Cabinet took a report on 'The future of St. Paul’s Church’ after a community consultation exercise, which resulted in 62% of respondents wishing to see the building become a permanent home for the Penarth Gymnastics Club and the Penarth Amateur Boxing Club. I have four questions:
Firstly I understand that since the Spring discussions have been taking place with Crest Nicholson to determine whether £250,000.00 of Section 106 monies, if made available to upgrade St Paul’s Church to accommodate the two sports clubs, would comply with the Section 106 Agreement. Have these discussions been concluded yet. If they have been completed can the money be used for the scheme? If these discussions have not been concluded when are they likely to be completed as further delay and uncertainly is clearly most unsatisfactory.
Secondly, I understand that a legal opinion is required prior to a decision being made. Has legal advice been taken? Is there any legal reason why the scheme cannot proceed? If legal advice has not yet been taken, when is this going to take place? Again further delay and uncertainly is most unsatisfactory.
Thirdly, if Crest Nicholson is content for the Section 106 Money to be used for the scheme and if there is no legal impediment to this course of action, does the Administration support St. Paul’s Church becoming a permanent home for the two sports clubs or would the Cabinet prefer the development of a mixed use community facility.
Finally, is the Cabinet Member content that £250,000.00 is sufficient to make the building safe and fit for purpose or will the scheme need to attract additional funding? And, if this proves necessary, has the Cabinet Member identified from where this money might be resourced.
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sport Development
In terms of your first question, there have been discussions, and the indication is that Crest would want to work with the Council in any decision it makes.
Ultimately of course, the decision would rest with the Council, as to the appropriate way of using Section 106 funding and whether spending it on the building for the benefit of two clubs is appropriate.
In terms of your second question, officers are engaging with our own legal officers to discuss a wide variety of issues relating to the use of the Section 106 funding, and the terms of the lease arrangements between the Boxing Club and the Council.
To answer your third question, I have asked for a full options appraisal before determining the best way forward. We have to be realistic in terms of what £250k can achieve. I want a sustainable solution with an asset we can be proud of and I am not convinced that £250k will provide that sustainability and longevity in terms of this site. The options report will enable me to come to a balanced view as to what is the best way forward and this will be the subject of another Cabinet report in the near future
With reference to your last question, I believe that I have just answered that question. My initial opinion is that no, it is not enough, and that is why I have asked for a full rundown on what options are available to us.
(xxiii) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
The National Assembly for Wales Health and Social Care Committee Stage 1 Committee Report in regard to the Social Services and Well-being Bill (Wales) makes interesting reading. The Bill is both radical and ambitious. However it is clear that there are grave misgivings as to whether or not the provisions of the Bill will sustain additional costs. At 'Recommendation 55’ the Committee states: 'We are not satisfied with the information that has been made available on the total cost of the Bill and have not received any evidence to convince us that the Bill will be 'cost neutral' in the long term. However, we are mindful that the size and complexity of the Bill make it extremely difficult to cost. We also recognise the concerns of witnesses with regard to the current challenges facing public sector funding which will shape the context within which this Bill is delivered.' The Leader will be well aware that the Social Services Directorate here in the Vale is currently required to find savings totalling £6,000,000.00 by the end of 2016-17. It is clear that the introduction of the Social Services and Well-being Bill, as it stands, will require Social Services here in the Vale to do a great deal more with a great deal less. The Welsh Government however is maintaining that there is no more money available and that any changes will in fact be cost neutral. Do you agree? And if not, can you tell Members what representations have been made to the Deputy Minister regarding this very important issue.
Reply from the Leader
The Committee Report represents very well the views expressed by local government in its evidence during the Stage 1 scrutiny process. This includes representations on this very important issue from the WLGA, ADSS Cymru and the Vale Council.
There are many areas where additional costs for local authorities are likely. Significant pump priming will be required in areas such as IT, the provision of information, Direct Payments and greater commissioning responsibilities. It is also anticipated that there will be a substantial programme of workforce development and training. A better understanding of the responsibilities placed upon local authorities and other public services in respect of wellbeing and further details about the eligibility framework are fundamental in understanding the full implications of the Bill.
We await with interest the Welsh Government’s response to the Stage 1 Report and anticipate that it will propose a significant number of amendments.
An independent report has been commissioned by the WLGA and the Welsh NHS Confederation regarding the transitional and longer-term financial consequences of the Bill. It is nearing completion and it will be submitted to the Welsh Government, to help move discussions forward. Once it has been published, I will share it with Members as I am sure will my Cabinet colleague with responsibility for Social Services. However, at this stage we cannot tell how much it is going to cost.
(xxiv) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
At the end of May, I received a letter from a constituent living in Peterston-Super-Ely regarding the axing of the 322 Bus Service and I would like to quote to you a few sentences because it demonstrates very clearly how rural people feel about the Welsh Government and this Administration. She says and I quote 'I am writing to express my dismay at the news of the 322 bus service'. 'I feel that the needs of the people living in the rural vale are being totally disregarded and things are only going to get worse'. And she concludes by saying 'Does anyone care about the impact the loss of public transport has on the quality of people’s lives in the rural community'. Now the Leader will be aware that the savage reductions in rural bus services across the board in the Vale is due in the main to the extraordinary and ill-conceived decision by the Welsh Government to slash the Bus Operators Grant. I have a number of questions.
Firstly what representations have you made to the Welsh Government in regard to these cuts to bus services?
Secondly, have you spoken to our Assembly Member Jane Hutt who is, after all, also the Finance Minister about these cuts and is she doing anything to mitigate the 'fall out’?
Thirdly what steps are you taking to moderate the effect of these cuts. Are you not able to re-prioritise some areas of expenditure so that you can reintroduce some of the services that we have lost by providing the necessary subsidy to the routes?
Fourthly, do you agree that these cuts have penalised the most vulnerable in our rural communities; the elderly, those who cannot drive and those who do not have access to a car?
Fifthly, do you understand the very real difficulties that a great many rural people encounter in going about their day to day business such as shopping, getting to work and seeing their GP without a decent rural bus service?
Finally, do you agree that the Vale Council and the Welsh Government have the means to protect rural bus services. After all we have seen the spending of 52 million pounds in order to buy an airport, a million pounds in order to put in traffic lights at Sycamore Cross and tens of thousands of pounds in order to create 'lightly used’ cycle ways and foot paths. Surely we should be able to provide a decent bus service for rural people at a fraction of the cost.
Reply from the Leader
You need to look towards the Westminster Government in terms of cuts to bus subsidies.
In reply to your question, or should I say 6 questions, I can comment as follows:
Firstly, SEWTA are the body representing the Vale for Strategic Transport Matters such as this and they have made representations to the Welsh Government on the issue of bus funding. Several reports have been presented to SEWTA’s Board. There have also been several meetings and a Sewta bus funding review working group with officials from Welsh Government present. That review is ongoing.
You will also be aware that I do enter into regular meetings and correspondence with Ministers on a range of matters, and I write to and meet regularly with Jane Hutt A.M. on the issue of bus funding, making the point that the recent WG cut in bus services grant has made many services unsustainable. It is not the Council that has been cutting services, but the bus operators themselves.
In answer to your third question, I have taken initial steps to re-prioritise funding (and the Cabinet report 29th July 2013 refers). A full review is also needed of Bus Transport services and I hope to be able to commence work on that in the next 3 to 4 months or sooner.
In response to question 4, yes, that would go without saying, and I fully appreciate that for many people, bus services are essential to allow them to access services. The reduction in services has, however, affected every area – both urban and rural and is not simply confined to rural areas. There are other methods of transport particularly suited to the elderly and if you direct them to me or one of my officers, we can outline the transport options available to them. One such example is the Greenlinks community transport services and we are looking at using this facility flexibly, both in terms of providing transport for its members and other people, but also on fixed routes during certain times of the day and week. The potential for this service to meet the needs of the most vulnerable is something that I am very eager to factor into a review of service provision. This was the one of the issues raised at the Community Cabinet in Colwinston this week and was "high on the agenda". Indeed one of the things that was commented on from some of those in the audience was that a bus service was in place but not many people used it and that was one of the issues. This comment was not made by us, but by someone from the audience. One of the problems is that people need to use transport otherwise it will be lost (which is why I commend the Greenlinks Scheme)
In terms of your fifth question, I trust that my answer to your fourth question deals with this issue and these are matters I will need to consider in a future report.
In terms of your final question, I can’t comment on the airport purchase as this was a matter for Welsh Government. Obviously the Welsh Government has many priorities and I can fully understand that these need balancing. As the former Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, I would have thought that you would fully understand the need to promote the airport and invest in key infrastructure around it.
I would have thought that ensuring Wales had an airport and the investment opportunities that could come from having it, particularly in the Aviation quarter; you would have supported such an investment.
I would also remind you that the Sycamore Cross Scheme was agreed through a SEWTA bid under your stewardship and paid for through a totally different mechanism that the one used by Welsh Government to purchase the Airport.
Councillor Traherne referred to the constituent quoted earlier as working in Barry for the Council. Describing the considerably longer journey time she now faced, he asked whether the Cabinet Member agreed that this was an appalling indictment of the Welsh Government and the Council.
The Leader did not consider it to be an indictment of the Council. As indicated previously, services were withdrawn by the bus operators. Tenders had been available for things such as the village bus, but they were withdrawn at short notice by the operators as they said they could no longer sustain them. The Council was working to try and improve matters. This would include working on the main routes first followed by the other routes. He reiterated the point that the viability of bus services relied on usage. He considered there to be a need for a fundamental review across areas. He concluded by referring to representations from Peterston-Super-Ely Community Council when the bus service ceased. He had replied and the Community Council had been happy with the response, stating that they understood the situation. This Council would continue to do all it could.
(xxv) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
What content restrictions are placed on library public access computers in the Vale of Glamorgan?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services
Public computers in Vale Libraries are filtered to block some of the most undesirable content on the internet. The FortiGate software used for this purpose blocks undesirable content based on broad subject areas. Some of the subject areas used to filter adult content include: drug abuse, hacking, explicit violence, pornography, weapon sales and malicious websites. Filtering for children includes these subject areas but also additional areas such as alcohol and tobacco, dating, sports hunting and war games.
As well as the block filtering of subject areas, individual sites which come to the attention of the library service can be blocked.
Libraries will soon introduce Wi-Fi access in a number of libraries via the Cloud. This allows library users to use their own laptop, Smartphone or tablet to access the internet via this private company’s Wi-Fi. The Cloud is also filtered using different protocols.
Councillor Johnson asked whether the Council would follow the lead of Councils in Yorkshire and elsewhere and look to seek to prevent access to pay day loan companies and instead signpost responsible factual information supporting Citizens Advice Bureau or Credit Unions.
The Cabinet Member confirmed he would look into the matter.
(xxvi) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
What promotional work was carried out by the Vale of Glamorgan Council to advertise the Tall Ships Festival in Barry at the start of this month?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sport Development
To start with, can I just how pleasing it was to receive so many positive responses and comments to our wonderful Summer events programme on the Island, starting with the Island of Fire event on the first weekend of the school summer holidays, to the sporting weekend, and concluding with the cinema night. It has been a wonderful summer – both weather wise and also from an events perspective, and all with very little traffic chaos.
We said at the start of the this financial year that our focus was switching away from the Tall Ships Festival and moving to a celebration at the start of and during the summer. Despite this the Stavros S Niarchos still visited Barry at the start of the month, although the format was not as a festival as in previous years but more of a visit. Nevertheless, the Council still advertised the visit on the Council’s website stating that the ship would be open to the public and the visit was also referenced on the Visit Wales site. In addition, we also tweeted the visit from the Council and also from the tourism address.
I have called for a report on the success or otherwise of the Summer events programme so that we can factor in the positives and any lessons learnt for next year and for future events. I hope to be able to bring such a report next month.
Whilst looking forward to the report, Councillor Johnson referred to having received complaints that people did not know that the ship was there, that the event was taking place and from those who had attended and felt it to be of poor quality. He asked what discussions had taken place regarding next year's Tall Ships Festival and whether there would be further visits by craft and whether the decision to move away had actually effectively killed the event.
The Cabinet Member stated it was not possible to cover every avenue of advertising and reiterated the point that it had not been the Council's event to advertise this year. The event was not originally coming to Barry, but to Cardiff, but a detour had been provided. As such, it had not been part of the Council's events programme. With regard to next year, initial discussions with the Tall Ships organisers had already taken place.
(xxvii) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
As part of the capital monitoring report reported to Cabinet on Monday, it was noted that problems had been identified with the Coldbrook Catchment scheme.
Could the Cabinet Member provide more information on these problems and also provide us with an update about any changes regarding flood defence works in the Vale of Glamorgan since the report given to Economy and the Environment Scrutiny Committee in March?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services
Since the latest update on the Coldbrook Catchment Flood Risk Management Scheme, presented to the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee on 12th March 2013 there have been further delays gaining approval for the scheme from Natural Resources Wales. These delays revolve around approval of the hydraulic model used as a basis for the scheme design. The Consultant appointed to design and supervise the scheme has been made aware of the urgency in progressing this scheme and a further more detailed report on this project will be presented to Cabinet shortly. The main construction phase is now programmed to commence in May 2014, with some advanced works commencing in January 2014. As an interim measure, property level flood defences are being fitted to the most vulnerable properties in the catchment with property surveys already completed and installation dates agreed with the residents for September and October this year. I understand they were due to have taken place today with the actual fitting of the flood doors. Can I also add that I know Councillor Penrose also chairs a group concerning businesses on the Hayes Road and Sully Moors Road and we are in dialogue with that group as well.
The Local Flood Risk Management Strategy consultation period has concluded and subsequent minor revisions to the strategy have been undertaken. The revised strategy will shortly be presented to Cabinet for approval prior to submission to Welsh Government for Ministerial approval. A specialist database has been procured to aid in the recording and reporting of future flood incidents, as required by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which will act as a common source of information for all flood risk management activities undertaken by the Council. Cost estimates for potential flood alleviation / highway drainage works across the Vale have been produced and will be used to prioritise outstanding works on a risk basis, subject to funding availability. Works have now been carried out in areas such as Lavernock Road / Fort Road to improve highway drainage, including the upsizing of the existing gullies. Outstanding high priority areas include Boverton, Readers Way in Rhoose, Llancadle and Broughton.
Natural Resources Wales are taking the lead on developing a potential flood alleviation scheme in response to the main river flooding in Boverton. NRW have confirmed that a catchment wide hydraulic model is required prior to any works commencing, and they will procure and develop an appropriate hydraulic model. This exercise is programmed for completion by the end of the calendar year. Following production of the base hydraulic model various design options will be modelled and assessed to manage the flood risk, with a target date for selecting a preferred option by the end of the current financial year. In parallel to this modelling process, preparation is underway for potential works on the culvert if identified as part of the preferred option by the NRW assessment. Liaison with utility companies is ongoing and the Council’s Estates group has been consulted regarding purchase of land required to accommodate the new culvert and river training works.
A revised hydraulic model of the Llanmaes catchment is currently being developed for the Llanmaes Flood Risk Management Scheme. Progress has been slower than planned due to NRW enforcing more rigorous conditions on the modelling than originally anticipated – they are involved as the works could impact directly on the designated main river at the bottom of the village and are considering the impact on Boverton lower in the catchment. Site investigations required to inform the design have now been completed and the hydraulic modelling is to be completed by mid-November. Liaison with the local community is ongoing, with an update presented to the community council on 18th September 2013, and a preliminary design will be presented to community representatives in late November 2013.
Some delays are inevitable with flood risk management schemes due to situations which are sometimes beyond our control, such as, approvals from Natural Resources Wales. We are however confident of major works commencing on a range of schemes during this and next financial year which will provide real benefits to a large number of our residents who have previously suffered as a result of recent flooding incidents.
Acknowledging the detailed response, Councillor Johnson referred to almost seven years having passed since the Coldbrook Catchment flooded. He asked whether the building taking place at White Farm, together with the delays that were taking place in the Coldbrook Catchment Scheme, would have any impact or potential impact upon the houses on the catchment.
The Cabinet Member stated that, as the local Member, he too was disappointed regarding the delays that had taken place. He had some assurance because, as part of the planning process with the White Farm development, there had been a requirement to build a flood bund further up the catchment and that was now fully in place and should hold back any flood waters occurring during the winter.
(xxviii) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
How many households in the Vale of Glamorgan have fallen into arrears as a result of the bedroom tax?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety
There are currently 642 households that are affected by the reforms, which could result in financial hardship. Considering the circumstances of the 642 families since April 2013 the position is as follows:
- Rent arrears of 198 households have gone up
- 52 households that had clear accounts previously have now fallen into arrears
- 92 households' rent arrears have reduced
- 5 households rent balances are unchanged
- 48 households have cleared all outstanding rent arrears
- 247 households' rent accounts are in credit
- 86 households are currently claiming discretionary housing payments (DHP)
- 10 households have transferred to another property due to housing benefit reductions
- Rent arrears is increasing marginally although still remains at under 1% of the collectable rent debit.
Homeless presentations have not increased as a consequence of the changes. This is largely due to the dedication of the Housing Solutions Team.
The main effect on the Allocation policy to date has been the reduction in the number of people requesting three bedroom properties. This is a consistent picture with the partner Housing Associations across Wales also experiencing difficulties letting three bedroom homes.
As Cabinet Member responsible for Housing I am keeping a careful eye on the position and our staff continue to use their best endeavours to ensure that the over-occupancy rules are properly managed so as to best reduce the implications to our tenants. Can I remind Member of our Housing Advice Members' event tomorrow. The Housing Solutions Team will be there and Members are invited to attend and discuss matters with the team and see the work they are doing, particularly on prevention which I think has benefited tenants immensely.
Councillor Johnson calculated that 250 households situations had worsened since the Bedroom Tax was introduced. Given the costs of going to court, rent loss and housing he asked whether the Council would adopt a 'No eviction policy' on responsible tenants who went into arrears and found themselves unable to pay due to Bedroom Tax until at least May 2015.
The Cabinet Member indicated she was not in a position to provide a reply. The Council had not, to date, taken anybody to court for eviction and she felt it would have to be a very extreme case to justify doing so. The Housing Solutions Team always sought to achieve prevention.
(xxix) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
According to Planning Policy Wales, each local authority must ensure a five year supply of available housing land, agreed under the Joint Housing Land Availability Study (JHLAS). It was noted in the report to Cabinet of 19th November last year that the Vale was estimated to have a supply in the region of 3.3 years and this would potentially result in the Council being vulnerable to appeals from developers, although this concern was not explicitly mentioned in papers presented to Full Council for the extraordinary meeting of 23rd January this year.
This figure of 3.3 years for the JHLAS was officially adopted in May of this year. However, recently published draft figures suggest that the current figure as at the base date of 1st April 2013 is closer to 5.8 years, and therefore above the five year supply threshold.
Could the Cabinet Member confirm the legal position regarding the Vale of Glamorgan’s housing supply until the official adoption of the next JHLAS?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
The Vale of Glamorgan’s current land supply is 3.3 years as at the base date of 1st April 2012. The Study for 1st April 2013 is currently being discussed with the house building industry and the housing supply for Vale of Glamorgan for 1st April 2013 should be known in late Autumn 2013. I will present a report to Cabinet on the land supply for 1st April 2013 once finalised. Until that time, the official land supply as published remains 3.3 years. However, most Members will be aware that in considering our position at any planning appeal or in considering any planning applications, we will make reference to how the Council has sought to recently increase land supply since the April 2012 figure was released. By way of example, any recent planning approvals for new housing sites would be referred to as a way of redressing housing supply.
Councillor Johnson asked whether anything could be done to expedite the procedure regarding the JHLAS to bring it forward to the official adoption and asked what the Cabinet Member would do regarding land banking where planning permission had been given but was clearly beyond the current five year period of the JHLAS. He queried whether there was any way of bringing that land into use within the JHLAS period until it was no longer required by the Council.
The Cabinet Member indicated that, as generally occurred with planning the Council tended to work on official figures and that the official figures would become available in Autumn 2013 and would be worked upon at that point.
(xxx) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
Cabinet papers presented on 25th February estimated a saving of £340,000 from town centre car parking in this financial year, but nearly six months into the financial year no report has yet been tabled to Cabinet on town centre parking charges.
With no report and no consultation with local Councillors, businesses, residents and town centre users having yet taken place, it seems unlikely that this full £340,000 saving will be realised within the remainder of this financial year.
Could the Cabinet Member provide Council with an updated savings estimate for this financial year?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sport Development
In order to asses the full implications of off-street car park charging within our Town Centres, a Consultant was engaged to undertake a full study across specific locations within the Vale. This report required site surveys to be undertaken, which have now been concluded and the full report is expected from the Consultant during October this year. As soon as I have considered the details with my technical officers I will ensure that a report is provided to Cabinet proposing a way forward in this matter.
On such an important decision for this Council I felt it important to establish the affects of off-street car park charging on the local economy and 'on-street' parking provision. Also, I would wish any parking regime to have a positive affect on the local economy by creating increased parking turnover. With regard to the savings of £340k that are required this financial year, we have set aside £160k in reserve to offset part of the income shortfall and have made provision to cover the remainder from other budgets within the Directorate. How much of this funding is ultimately required will depend on the future decision of Cabinet on this matter.
Whilst generally agreeing with the reply, Councillor Johnson was concerned that 85% of the savings was being placed into a budget where that would have meant introducing the figures in May. He asked what would be done to ensure that this did not happen again within the Department or any other Department in the Council.
The Cabinet Member indicated that the Council was quite capable of managing this amount as indicated earlier. A very active and positive approach had been taken, including bringing in a consultant to provide a detailed report, which would be assessed once finalised. The most important thing was the economy in the Vale of Glamorgan. He referred to there being one town in the Vale of Glamorgan urging the Council to introduce car parking charges. A report would be submitted to Cabinet shortly and Members would be kept fully aware.
428 EMPLOYEE PAY POLICY 2014/15 (REF) –
All Chief Officers left the meeting prior to consideration of this item.
RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C2019, 9th September 2013, be approved.