VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
Minutes of a meeting held on 18th December, 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, Keith Hatton, Nic Hodges, Jeff James, Hunter Jarvie, Gwyn John, Fred Johnson, Dr. Ian Johnson, Maureen Kelly Owen, Peter King, Kevin Mahoney, Anne Moore, Neil Moore, Andrew Parker, Bob Penrose, Anthony Powell, Audrey Preston, Rhona Probert, Gwyn Roberts, John Thomas, Ray Thomas, Rhodri Traherne, Steffan Wiliam, Clive Williams, Christopher Williams, Edward Williams and Mark Wilson.
693 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
Councillors Rob Curtis, Howard Hamilton and Nic Hodges declared an interest in Agenda Item 7(a): Initial Capital Programme Proposals 2014/15. The recommendation before Council concerned the carrying forward of finance for works at Oakfield Primary School. Councillors Curtis and Hodges were Local Authority Governors for the school and, as such, were able to remain in the meeting. Councillor Hamilton, given his capacity as a Minor Authority representative on the Governing Body, left the meeting during consideration of this item.
694 MINUTES –
The minutes of the meeting held on 25th September 2013 and the Special Meeting held on 23rd October 2013 were approved as a correct record.
695 ANNOUNCEMENTS –
The Mayor made the following announcements:
(i) She referred to the recent visit by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, which had included a visit to Ewenny Priory.
(ii) She thanked all those Members and others who had contributed to the Mayor’s Christmas raffle. A total of over £1,600 had been raised for her nominated charities.
The Leader made the following announcement:
'There has been much comment into the refurbishment of this Chamber, bringing it up to a modern standard and one that actually meets the legal requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.
It was previously unsuitable for anyone with a disability, but it is now a multi-functional room and, as the main meeting place, should reflect the values, aspirations and ethos of this Council.
I am therefore extremely pleased that Diverse Cymru, Wales, a leading third sector organization, whose aim is to make a real difference to people’s lives through delivering services that reduce inequality and increase independence, decided to shortlist the Council for their Diverse Cymru 'Excellence in Access' Award this year.
I am happy to announce that last Friday night, the Council actually 'Won' the 'Excellence in Access Award' for the work carried out in this Chamber and I had the pleasure of receiving the award with Paul Scourfield, our Access / Architectural Officer, who helped design the room. I also had the honour to present other awards on the night to a variety of other award winners.
This is no mean achievement and to win this respected award is a great honour and I will ensure that the award is placed in an appropriate position within the Council.'
696 FAMILY ABSENCE FOR ELECTED MEMBERS (HDS) –
Part 2 of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 ('the Measure') introduced an entitlement to a period of family absence for Members of local authorities, during which a Member was entitled to be absent from authority meetings. The entitlement created by the Measure was subject to Members satisfying conditions prescribed by the Welsh Ministers in Regulations
There were five types of family absence to which a Member might be entitled under the Measure, subject to compliance with the Regulations:
(i) Maternity Absence – for the mother of a child, granted up to a maximum of twenty six weeks;
(ii) Newborn Absence – for a Member who was either the father of the child or who was married to, the civil partner or the partner of, the child's mother but was not the child's father, for a period of up to two consecutive weeks (N.B. in each case, the Member must have or expect to have, responsibility for the upbringing of the child);
(iii) Adopter’s Absence – for the adopter of a child, for a period of up to two consecutive weeks;
(iv) New Adoption Absence - for the husband or wife, civil partner or partner of an adopter (and who had, or expected to have, the main responsibility [apart from the responsibility of the adopter] for the upbringing of the child), for a period of up to two consecutive weeks; and
(v) Parental Absence – for a Member who became responsible for a child (and did not meet the conditions for Newborn Absence, Adopter’s Absence or New Adoption Absence), for a period of up to three months.
The Regulations prescribed the conditions that Members must satisfy to be entitled to a period of family absence, made provisions regarding the duration, start, cancellation and end of a period of family absence, and set out an administrative process for dealing with family absence. Ministers had also published Statutory Guidance on Family Absence ('the Guidance' issued under section 30 of the Measure), to which the Council was required to have regard.
The administrative process set by the Regulations provided:
(i) that the Member must give written notice to the Head of Democratic Services of his/her intention to take family absence and the intended start date (and any change or cancellation of the period of absence);
(ii) that the Head of Democratic Services must maintain a record (for at least 10 years) of all notifications and periods of family absence taken and must inform the Chairman of the Council, the Chairman of the Democratic Services Committee, and the Leaders of each political group of the Authority (the Guidance indicated that the Head of Democratic Services was also free to inform any other persons felt necessary, e.g. fellow Ward Members);
(iii) if the Head of Democratic Services informed the Authority that he/she had reasonable grounds to suspect that a Member may not be entitled to the family absence notified, the local authority may cancel or end the family absence (and if the Member then failed to resume duties, the local authority may withhold the Member's remuneration);
(iv) for the option for a Member to continue to attend particular meetings or perform particular duties during a period of maternity or parental absence, subject to permission from the Chairman of the Council (who must inform the political Group Leaders before granting permission);
(v) a requirement for the Council to make provisions regarding the extent of any duties which Members may still be required to perform during a period of family absence;
(vi) a Member may complain in writing to the Head of Democratic Services regarding a refusal to grant family absence. Any complaints received must be forwarded by the Head of Democratic Services to the Chairman of the Council.
(vii) for a requirement for the Council to appoint a Panel comprising three Members (which could not include the Chairman of the Council) to hear and determine complaints from Members, the Panel’s determination being final; and
(viii) for the right for a Member to complain to the Panel against a decision of the Authority that the Member was not entitled to a family absence; and / or against a refusal by the Chairman of the Council to grant permission for the Member to continue to attend particular meetings or perform particular duties whilst on family absence.
The Council was required to make Standing Orders, as soon as reasonably practicable after the Regulations come into force, in respect of the following matters set out in sub-paragraphs 6(iv) and (v):
(i) To describe the circumstances in which a Member on maternity or parental leave may continue to perform some duties if so desired.
The Guidance stated that this may be "where the Member has a well-known particular interest in a matter of business or if urgent business affecting their local area is being considered"; and
(ii) To provide whether any duty conferred on Members should be performed during a period of family absence.
The Guidance stated that this may "enable a Member on family absence to be asked to attend a meeting if it might otherwise be inquorate. The Standing Orders could enable different arrangements to be made for different Members. There might be a particular area of expertise possessed by a Member which would be difficult to replace on a temporary basis, which might suggest a limited commitment could still be expected of a Member in such defined circumstances. However, the effect of any such provision under the Standing Orders should not be contrary to the purpose of the Measure and the Regulations".
The issue of making relevant provision in Standing Orders was the subject of discussion at a meeting of the all-Wales Monitoring Officers and Governance Group on 6th December 2013. It was agreed that further thought would be given to the drawing up of potential wording for consideration / adoption by Local Authorities in the New Year.
It was proposed that a sub-committee of the Democratic Services Committee (with any necessary amendments to its terms of reference) be established to hear and determine any complaints from Members regarding a refusal by the Head of Democratic Services to grant family absence. The Regulations required a membership of 3, which in terms of political balance, would mean a Sub Committee comprising 1 Labour; 1 Conservative; 1 Plaid Cymru Member
In addition to the report submitted with the agenda, Members had also been circulated prior to the meeting with supplementary information in the form of a draft Supplementary Report of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales. Members were asked to consider the draft Determinations of the Remuneration Panel as part of the discussion of this item.
The Leader proposed that the Panel’s draft Determination be submitted to the Democratic Services Committee in January for consideration. At that meeting, the Committee would also be asked to appoint the three members to the above sub committee. It was further proposed that the Head of Democratic Services be authorised to submit a response following the Democratic Services Committee to the Remuneration Panel.
(1) T H A T the Council note the provisions of the new Family Absence for Members of Local Authorities (Wales) Regulations 2013, and the statutory obligations imposed on the Council, as set out in the report.
(2) T H A T provision be made as soon as practicable in the Council's Standing Orders to ensure that the Council complies with legislative requirements in respect of Family Absence for Members and a further report be submitted to Council accordingly.
(3) T H A T the Head of Democratic Services be granted delegated powers to carry out duties as required under the Family Absence for Members of Local Authorities (Wales) Regulations 2013.
(4) T H A T the role and function of the Chairman of the Council, as set out in Article 5 of the Council's Constitution, be amended to provide for the Chairman to carry out duties as required under the Family Absence for Members of Local Authorities (Wales) Regulations 2013.
(5) T H A T a Sub Committee comprising 3 members of the Democratic Services Committee be established to hear and determine any complaints from Members regarding a refusal by the Head of Democratic Services to grant family absence; the Sub Committee to comprise 1 Labour; 1 Conservative; 1 Plaid Cymru Member; membership of the Sub Committee to be determined by the Democratic Services Committee at its meeting in January 2014.
(6) T H A T the Head of Democratic Services be authorised to respond to the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales following consideration of its draft Supplementary Report by the Democratic Services Committee in January 2014.
697 COUNCIL CONSTITUTION / OFFICER DELEGATIONS: AMENDMENTS / ADDITIONS (MO) –
Definitive Maps and Statements of Public Rights of Way were legally conclusive documents describing the existence and location of Public Rights of Way for the area(s) to which they related. In 1981, the Wildlife and Countryside Act introduced a process of continuous review, requiring maps and statements to be modified by Order where legal or evidential events occurred. The result of this was that historic Definitive Maps must be read in conjunction with Orders that had modified them. There were currently two Definitive Maps that covered the Vale of Glamorgan and around 380 Modification Orders.
Preparation of new Definitive Maps under Section 57 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 allowed republication of a Definitive Map and Statement incorporating all of those Orders that amended it. Where multiple maps existed (e.g. due to historic boundary changes), consolidation of Definitive Maps under the Act allowed a single map to be republished, again incorporating all Orders. Republication and consolidation also provided an opportunity to improve base mapping (including scale and map quality) and to update descriptive elements of statements.
Bringing the Definitive Map up to date and subsequently maintaining it were aims set out within the Vale of Glamorgan's Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP). The ROWIP included actions to complete a review of the Definitive Map and to improve procedures. The ROWIP was approved by Cabinet in October 2007 and published in November 2007, covering a period of 10 years from publication. The Public Rights of Way team had, therefore, since been working towards review and preparation of a new Definitive Map as part of ROWIP aims and actions.
Dedication of Public Rights of Way with independent landowners was ordinarily undertaken by way of negotiating dedication by agreement under Section 25 of the Highways Act 1980. Dedication of Public Rights of Way on Council- owned land was, however, complicated by the Authority acting both as Highway Authority and Landowner. In such circumstances it was not appropriate for the Authority to conclude an agreement with itself and an alternative mechanism was, therefore, required.
Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000 enabled a local authority to do anything which was likely to achieve the promotion or improvement of the economic, social or environmental well-being of the area. Dedication may, therefore, take place under this section on the basis that dedication of a route as a public footpath would achieve these objectives.
The need to consolidate Definitive Maps and amending Orders would be a continuous concern beyond the life of the ROWIP. It was suggested, therefore, that delegated authority be granted to the Director of Development Services to enable this to continue. It would also be useful in terms of providing clarity as to authority for preparation of a new map under the current review.
Authority to agree dedication with independent landowners under Section 25 of the Highways Act 1980 was already a matter delegated to the Director of Development Services. Authority to dedicate under Section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000, subject to consultation with the affected service area, would address the difficulties in concluding dedications on land in the ownership of the Council where Section 25 of the Act was unable to be used.
During discussion of this item, it was agreed that the consultation process in respect of the dedication of Public Rights of Way on land owned by the Council would also include consultation with local Members.
(1) T H A T the Director of Development Services be granted delegated powers to authorise the preparation of Definitive Maps and Statements for the relevant area and to authorise preparation of a consolidated Definitive Map and Statement for the relevant area.
(2) T H A T the Director of Development Services, in consultation with the relevant Cabinet Member, be granted delegated powers to authorise dedication of Public Rights of Way on land owned by the Council, subject to consultation with the relevant service area and local Members.
698 INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2014/15 (CHANGES TO 2013/14 CAPITAL PROGRAMME) (REF) –
RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C2074, 18th November 2013, be approved.
699 TREASURY MANAGEMENT (REF) –
During discussion of this item, Members agreed to suspend Standing Orders to enable the Section 151 Officer to speak / respond to any queries raised by Members.
RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C2075, 18th November 2013, be approved.
700 SCRAP METAL DEALERS ACT 2013 (REF) –
RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C2111, 2nd December 2013, be approved.
701 HOUSING BUSINESS PLAN 2013 (REF) –
RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C2113, 2nd December 2013, be approved.
702 COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION SCHEME 2014/15 (REF) –
RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C2119, 16th December 2013, be approved.
703 RESPONSE TO THE WELSH GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS FOR THE FUTURE DELIVERY OF EDUCATION SERVICES IN WALES (REF) –
RESOLVED – T H A T the use of the Urgent Decision Procedure (Cabinet Minute No. C2014, 9th September 2013, as set out in Article 13.09(a)(ii) of the Council’s Constitution) in relation to agreeing the Council’s response to the Welsh Government and ensure its submission by the Welsh Government deadline, be noted.
704 QUESTIONS PURSUANT TO COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULE 8.2 –
Due notice had been given of the following questions:
(i) Question from Councillor P.J. Clarke
It is a view shared by many Councillors that certain Members ask an excessive number of questions at Full Council, many of which could have been answered by telephoning the appropriate department during office hours. Coincidentally, some of these questions are often followed by a newspaper article which makes the reason for asking them obvious. Often, the supplementary is unrelated to the question, or the response, putting the recipient at a disadvantage.
Do you think it’s time to desist from this inane posturing, and consider introducing some rules such as:
- Two questions per Member.
- Supplementary should relate to the question or answer.
- Councillors should give consideration to asking any question at Full Council, which could easily be answered by asking the Officer concerned.
Reply from the Leader
I agree with the sentiments expressed by Councillor Clarke. In fact, it has long been my view and practice that unless something cannot be considered by a simple question to Officers or indeed Cabinet Members, then that would be an appropriate time to 'consider’ and I emphasise 'consider’ a question to Council. Indeed as some who were on Council at the time will remember when we set up the Standing Orders on such things as questions to Council and call-ins, there was a tacit agreement that these would not be abused. I leave it to you to consider where we are now.
To answer your question, my impression is also that the majority of Councillors consider the number of questions asked at Full Council to be excessive. However, this has not prevented a total of 231 questions being submitted for the 9 Council Meetings held since the May 2012 election (and I am quite happy to answer any questions by the way) (an average of over 25 questions per meeting!!). It is also clear that many contain multiple questions and not just one single question and again tonight we see this in operation. It is obvious that many of the questions submitted could, indeed, have been addressed to, and dealt with by, officers. However, certain Members appear to prefer to wait for a question at Council rather than seek to address matters as they arise. Perhaps they may consider it to be important to do it that way, but that is a matter for them.
Members will be aware that a new Model Welsh Constitution has been drawn up for consideration / adaptation by local authorities across Wales. A cross-party Working Group has been set up to look at this matter and I am pleased to confirm that we will be commencing those meetings in the New Year. In the meantime, officers have been busy re-drafting various sections for Members to consider at the first meeting.
The procedure for dealing with Council Questions will be considered at a later meeting of the Working Group, as part of the Council Procedure Rules and any comments / suggestions that Members may have, or they wish to be taken into account (including the points already raised by Councillor Clarke) will be considered. Members are asked to pass these through their Group Leaders, who are obviously on that Working Party.
Any proposed changes to the way in which Council Questions are dealt with that emanate from the Working Party’s consideration of the matter will be submitted to Council, who will consider the revised draft Constitution.
(ii) Question from Councillor R.J. Bertin
Given the latest proposals in the LDP for housing on the Court Road Council Depot site; will the Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration please inform us if consideration will be given to a much-needed Hannah Street relief road in Barry?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
Page 165 of the Deposit Plan advises that a robust Transport Assessment will be required that will evaluate the impact of development and inform any highway measures necessary. Clearly, in the absence of a Transport Assessment, it is premature to comment on specific measures. Councillor Bertin will however appreciate that one of the reasons this Administration produced this replacement Plan was to ensure that there was adequate mitigation to the impacts of any new development.
Councillor Bertin referred to, a few years ago, a report having been carried out into the feasibility of a relief road and he asked whether the report was still available and, if so, if he could see it.
The Cabinet Member understood there to have been work undertaken circa 2000 which looked at alternative uses for this site. That work was carried out as a result of the possible relocation of the depot facility. There was a report that was presented to the then Public Works and Highways Sub Committee in 1998 which identified a list of highway improvement schemes. She would revisit that report and, if there was anything relevant, would inform the Member accordingly.
(iii) Question from Councillor R.J. Bertin
Can the Cabinet Member for Housing please give us an update on how the Bedroom Tax is impacting on the Vale of Glamorgan?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety
Perhaps I should refer the Councillor to the report to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) on 9th October, 2013, which was circulated subsequently at the request of Councillor Anne Moore, after she had asked for the report to be brought to that meeting. I understand that Councillor Bertin is a member of that Scrutiny Committee so I would have thought he would have known this information, albeit two months ago. However, for his benefit I will go through it again.
At that time there were 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
- 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 also experiencing difficulties letting three bedroom homes.
- The Homes4U, Homelessness and Housing Management teams will continue to monitor rent arrears, homeless presentations and allocations in the context of welfare benefit changes to track any significant patterns in these areas. It is envisaged that rent arrears across the social housing sector in the Vale may be impacted more heavily as the period of Discretionary Housing Benefit comes to an end for each applicant.
- It is anticipated that some tenants may continue to experience financial difficulty when adjusting to the welfare reform proposals. The benefit cap and any reduction in Council tax benefits will have an immediate impact on an individual's gross and disposable income. Allocation of housing based on affordability is key to ensuring families and individuals can sustain a tenancy long term. Protecting the Council's income stream from rents will ensure capital investment works can be fully funded.
- Anecdotally it is accepted that there may be crime and disorder implications from reducing the sustainability of a tenancy through a reduction in a family's income e.g. anti-social behaviour and domestic violence.
Councillor Bertin asked whether Members could be updated monthly and also asked for an indication of the value of the arrears in monetary terms.
The Cabinet Member indicated that it had been agreed by the Task and Finish Group that a quarterly report would be prepared.
(iv) Question from Councillor R.J. Bertin
Can you please give us a reassurance that no libraries are to close under the current public consultation exercise?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services
In recent years the library service has been required to reduce operating costs and secure efficiencies. This incremental approach to reducing the budget has enabled services to be sustained in the medium term. However, given the severity of the cut to the Council's revenue settlement for 2014/15 and the anticipated reductions in funding in consecutive financial years, it is clear that further savings will be need to be secured.
Unlike a number of other Welsh local authorities which have recently announced library closures we are taking a more measured approach by carrying out an extensive review of the service which will include the development of options for delivering a sustainable library service for the future. We have recently engaged with a range of stakeholders to find out what ideas they have for development and delivery of the service and their feedback will help shape options for further consideration.
Councillor Bertin asked whether the Cabinet Member would also provide an update on the mobile library service as 'promised' by the Labour Party.
The Cabinet Member considered that to be a different question and, therefore, one he had no intention of answering.
(v) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
Could I ask the Leader whether he has considered the introduction of a publicly accessible disclosure log of all requests received under the Freedom of Information Act (2000)? Having a dedicated page on the Council’s website where all responses to freedom of information requests would be located would cost very little, and certainly far less that the thousands of pounds spent on the chairs that we are all sitting on this evening. As I am sure the Leader would agree, the introduction of such a measure would promote greater openness and greater transparency in regard to the work of the Council, and as such should surely be implemented without delay.
Reply from the Leader
I thought you would have dropped the comment about the chairs bearing in mind the Council had received an award for this building and this room because, as far as I am concerned, the improved accessibility is not just for Members, but also for members of the public and not just for Council meetings. However, this Chamber is the 'public face' of the Council and, as such, now meets the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. It is an achievement that has taken too long as far as I am concerned.
To answer your question, I have indeed considered this and have had some discussions with officers already but, as yet, no decision has been made. The volume of Freedom of Information requests has generally increased year on year. Last year there were over 750 requests received centrally and the figure for the current year already exceeds 830. The increased demand has been recognised and, from January 2014, an additional officer will be employed with the Freedom of Information team.
The way in which FOI requests are processed is currently being reviewed and, as part of that review, I will again ask officers to consider and report back to me regarding the implications of implementing the possibility of a web-based log. I am aware that some authorities do publish this information on their websites and I am also aware that some authorities make a point of publishing the costs involved in processing FOI requests. These costs can be considerable and illustrate the cost to the Council Taxpayer of responding to such requests.
The FOI process is often used by commercial organisations to save time and research costs. The same applies to the growing number of FOI requests from the media. Whilst these bodies may save money, this comes at a significant cost to the authority. In conclusion, I have thought about it and it will be considered.
(vi) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
At the September Council Meeting I raised the distressing case of a constituent from Peterston-Super-Ely who works for this Council here at the Civic Offices in Barry. Council will recall that she finishes work at 4 p.m. and used to take the 322 Bus Service at 4.15 p.m. in order to return home. However in view of the Welsh Government’s extraordinary decision to slash the Bus Operators’ Grant the 322 Bus Service became uneconomic and has been discontinued. My constituent now has to travel into Cardiff to catch the 320 Bus Service at 6.10 p.m., which means that she now gets home at around 6.40 p.m. A journey of nine miles that used to take 25 minutes now takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes. In my question to the Leader in September I asked him whether he agreed that these cuts penalised the most vulnerable in our rural communities; the elderly, those who cannot drive and those who do not have access to a car. He told me that he agreed that this was the case. I also asked him whether he understood 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. He told me that he did understand this fact. I have four questions:
Firstly, can I ask him why he is proposing to reduce the budget for supported bus services by 25% in line with the 2013/14 Welsh Government reduction to local transport services grant as laid out at Appendix 3 to Agenda Item Number 17, Cabinet Meeting 18th of November 2013, Report of the Leader, Initial Revenue Budget Proposals 2014/15.
Secondly, if he is serious about this proposal, does he realise that this will further decimate supported bus services throughout the Vale.
Thirdly, why is he even considering such a proposal if he knows and agrees that such a measure penalises the most vulnerable people in our communities?
And finally, does he understand why people are angry when they see the fiasco which is the Welsh Government’s T9 Service? A Service often referred to as the Ghost Bus as there is no one on it but a driver. A Service that is costing nearly half a million pounds a year when much needed supported bus services throughout the Vale, which cost far less, are being systematically laid waste by both the Welsh Government and this Council. Does he really think that this is the right way to spend public money?
Reply from the Leader
In response to your 4 questions, I can comment as follows: I did confirm that I was aware of the issues of bus users in the rural Vale but also pointed out that there were similar issues in the urban areas too.
In answer to your specific questions:
Councils across Wales, just like the Welsh Government, have to make extremely difficult decisions on funding and budgets. It is as a result of the cuts imposed by your Westminster Government on the Welsh Government. Since 2010 I am reliably informed that those cuts have amounted to £1.7billion. I am also aware that during that period the Welsh Government has protected many areas of public services and did, in fact, delay any cuts to them, including bus subsidies etc. This means that all services have to be looked at with a view to this Authority being able to stay within budget. Therefore the initial budget report considered savings in all services and this included the budget reduction for supported bus services.
I would have thought that you should know, from your own experience as a Cabinet Member for this very area, the initial budget proposals are put forward by the officers to the Cabinet as initial budget proposals, and these proposals are always in the first instance passed on to the Scrutiny Committees and Members for consideration along with other groups such as those on the 'Vale Viewpoint Panel’. Perhaps I should ask why your Members, when asked for their views, did not wish to raise this issue then, or was it a ploy so you could ask a question at Council. I refer you to my answer to Councillor Clarke earlier.
I would remind you that all consideration to any comments will be considered by the Budget Working Group and that a final recommendation on the budget will be brought to Council later in the New Year, which may address this issue, in possibly other ways.
I do not necessarily accept that the proposal will as he puts it 'decimate supported services'. It is actually about using the money we have available wisely and possibly differently. That is why the reduction in budget has to sit hand in glove with a review of what is essential to fund and a consideration of how we can be more creative in actually mitigating the reduction in budget. I have asked for a report on the potential for bolstering the funds available to support public transport in the New Year and this report will also consider the future of the Greenlinks Community Transport service that has proved to be so effective over the last year or so. I should also confirm that I have had discussions with the Minister and it may just be possible for a different solution to be proposed in the New Year, working in conjunction with the Welsh Government. There are also other ways of funding public transport being considered within the Council and I hope that all will be clearer when next year’s budget can be finalised.
I believe that I have already answered this. We are in extremely challenging times, but I do believe that we can minimise the impact of the planned budget reductions.
As the Member only too well knows, the T9 service is funded by the Welsh Government. It is their proposal and their service and answers on this subject have already been answered previously in this Chamber.
My personal opinion is that when you run an International Airport, effective connections to the heart of the capital city of Wales are essential, especially when one considers that a fast bus service links Swansea, Cardiff and Newport with Bristol Airport. What would be a 'fiasco’ as you put it, is if a National Government invests in an Airport and then pays no consideration of the links to that Airport.
As a matter of interest I visited the Airport yesterday and met with the Managing Director of the Airport. While there I saw at first hand the buses arrive and saw very many dozens of passengers actually using the service. Like any new service it will have a bedding-in period but not to have a bus link from Cardiff Station may indeed be missing a trick. I should also confirm that last week I met with the Minister and discussed this very subject and made some comments to her, which, on discussing with the Airport MD, were in common agreement. It was also confirmed by the Minister that there will be a review of this bus service in the New Year too. Perhaps we should wait and see what develops.
Councillor Traherne asked if, indeed, this particular cut was just a proposal, whether the Leader would rule out any reduction in the budget for supported bus services so that he could reassure the elderly and the many other people that rely on the one remaining bus service in his Ward that there would still be a bus service available to them next year.
The Leader stated he was unable to do that as, put very simply, the Council was in the process of looking at the budget and as previously explained, there might be alternatives which were currently being developed.
(vii) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
On 6th March 2013, over nine 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. Council will recall that I asked her whether she had the details for me on 25th September but again she failed to provide an answer. However she did say and I quote '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’. As it is now December and some two months later, and as I have heard nothing from the Cabinet Member, I can only assume that she still does not have the information. Now I am sure that Council will agree that this really is not 'rocket science’ and one has to question why this simple piece of information cannot be provided to democratically elected members of this Council, who have a legitimate interest in the economic prosperity of the Vale of Glamorgan. However as it seems that we will never know the answer to this question I would be most grateful if the Cabinet Member could provide the answer to an even simpler one. Can I ask her how many companies have relocated to the Enterprise Zone in the two years since the Minister’s announcement in September 2011?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Innovation, Regeneration, Planning and Transport
We are all aware that companies have established within the Enterprise Zone and, in due course, figures will be published by Welsh Government to provide information on the jobs created across all 7 Enterprise Zones. If Councillor Traherne is not happy with the position, I can only suggest that he contacts the Minister directly.
Stating that just three companies had relocated to the Enterprise Zone in the last two years, Councillor Traherne asked whether the Cabinet Member (presumably with some responsibility for the Enterprise Zone) considered she should know a little bit more about what was going on there.
The Cabinet Member referred to the Administration as working very closely with the Enterprise Zone Board and, during discussions with the Minister recently, they had confirmed support for the Board and would continue to work closely with them.
(viii) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
The Cabinet Member may recall that some 12 months ago I asked her in this Council Chamber whether she would be consulting with stakeholders with a view to taking advantage of Welsh Government start-up funding for a Business Improvement District or BID for Barry. I was therefore pleased to read in a recent Cabinet Report that the Cabinet Member is intending to seek Welsh Government BID start-up funding for Penarth. This is very good news and I am delighted that the Cabinet Member has decided to press ahead with measures that will undoubtedly do much to help the 'Business Community’ in Penarth. That said, it would be my judgement that the Council should also be focussing its efforts on improving the business climate in Barry by whatever means possible. Barry is by far the largest town in the Vale, indeed it is the largest town in Wales, and there is little doubt that retailers on the High Street, and I use the word generically, are in need of as much help as possible. Whilst probably not top of her Christmas Reading List, the Cabinet Member will no doubt be aware that on page 40 of the Welsh Government’s 'Vibrant and Viable Places’ it states, and I quote, that 'there is overwhelming evidence from across the world that the BID model is having a positive impact on regeneration and local growth.' In view of the fact that we have no more regeneration money for Barry, why have you decided not to bid for start-up Business Improvement District funding for the Town?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Innovation, Regeneration, Planning and Transport
The Cabinet report of 18th November provided information as to why a Business Improvement District (BID) was being taken forward in Penarth. One of the key factors of a BID is that it is driven by the local businesses themselves. There is a real appetite being shown by Penarth Town Council to work with this Council in taking forward a BID. There is a precedent of collaborative action within the town evidenced by Gwyrddio Penarth Greenings Shop in Penarth card. In addition, the Town Council has also commissioned its own work on the Town Centre, which will seek to build upon the work undertaken on behalf of this Council over the last 12–18 months relating to all the Town Centres in the Vale. I am sure Councillor Traherne appreciates that regeneration is not about picking one option or community over another and I am disappointed that he seeks to play off communities against each other. It is about working with each at a time and pace relevant to them and using a suite of measures designed to achieve sustainable solutions.
As a 'whole Vale’ administration, we will continue to explore all opportunities to support local people and their communities across the Vale.
Barry has benefitted from regeneration funding and Councillor Traherne would have read the report presented to Cabinet only this Monday on future activity within Barry to build on the investment secured in the town over the past 4 years. You will be aware of the excellent progress made on the Island in terms of investment, the progress being made in bringing forward the link road, the progress being made in seeking a long term future for the pumphouse and our continued commitment to reinvigorating the Holton Road and High Street / Broad Street areas of the Town. If a Business Improvement District or any other initiative is relevant or appropriate as part of those initiatives we will work with local businesses to implement them.
Councillor Traherne asked what efforts the Cabinet Member personally had made to engage with, and persuade, the retailers of Barry that Business Improvement Districts were well-proven and excellent vehicles for encouraging regeneration and economic growth as well as giving businesses a real stake in the management and future development of town centres, commercial centres and tourism and visitor areas. He understood the deadline for applications for start-up bid funding to be 29th November 2013 and, as such, it appeared to him that Barry had again missed out on funding to regenerate the town.
The Cabinet Member felt Councillor Traherne would probably be aware that there were consultations with each town as a result of the Town Centre Framework recently and within that process the 'appetites' for bids were explored. He would also be aware that applications for support for bids were restricted to one per local authority, in which case it was viewed necessary to decide which one would be the preferred option on this occasion. Should work go ahead with Holton Road and High Street, which she hoped it would, the matter would be discussed at that time.
(ix) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
The Director of CBI Wales, Emma Watkins, has said that, and I quote, 'The creation of city regions for South West and South East Wales has huge potential to unlock growth. Considering the collective needs of two major Welsh conurbations should increase efficiency and enhance the attractiveness of the regions as places to do business.' The Leader will be aware I know that the Welsh Government Minister for the Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart, has announced the composition of the Board for the South East Wales City Region and it would appear that there is no representation at all from the Vale of Glamorgan. I have a number of questions:
Firstly, is it not a fact that within the Vale of Glamorgan we have Barry - the largest town in Wales, an Enterprise Zone, a large number of thriving businesses, a successful tourism industry and Wales’ one and only International Airport. As such can the Leader explain why we do not have any representation on the Board?
Secondly, can he explain how the interests of businesses, business generally and the economic prosperity of the Vale can be positioned to take advantage of the City Region if we are not at the top table shaping policy and representing the Vale of Glamorgan.
And finally, is the Leader content that it would appear that once again the Vale of Glamorgan Council and the people of the Vale have been marginalised by the Welsh Government?
Reply from the Leader
Can I remind Council that in many partnerships one Council will represent more than their own. For example, I sit on various WLGA Committees representing the Vale and Cardiff, such as the Partnership Council for Wales and indeed the Finance Sub Group.
In relation to the Wales City Board, the decision as to who is represented on the City Region Board is one for the Minister not me, although there can be an opportunity to have changes to the Leaders on the Board by mutual consent. That was also in her statement. Can I also remind you that there are four out of the ten Leaders on that particular Board therefore, we are not particularly marginalised as far as I am concerned. This is a position that has been made perfectly clear by the Minister and is understood by the Leaders in the 10 counties within our City Region area. However, I can inform you that I am assured that even though we are not currently on the Board itself, we will be playing a pivotal role in the Delivery Units that will actually carry out the functions within the City Region. I can also confirm that I have discussed this matter with the majority of the Leaders as well as with the Minister and members of the university who will be providing support to the Board and the Delivery Units.
It should also be emphasised that this Council has a direct involvement in both the Enterprise Zone and the Airport Task Force and this I would argue is the place to be directly involved at the sharp end and not just at the top table as you put it! Indeed, also as far as the Delivery Units are concerned.
In this regard I refer to your second question and I suggest that you fail to understand the remit of the Board and the rationale for its establishment. It is to enable the region to work collaboratively for the common good of the entire region, not a particular part of that region or, indeed, one County within it. In my view all members of the Board would need to work to that principle and would not only be on the Board to represent a particular authority. That said, as I have indicated, I had a very positive meeting with Mrs. Hart last week and discussed with her ways in which the Vale will make a full contribution to the future success of the City Region.
Therefore I would totally refute your assertion that the Vale of Glamorgan Council and the people of the Vale have been marginalised by the Welsh Government.
(x) Question from Councillor R.L. Traherne
In a recent report to the Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee regarding 'The Financial Position in Adult Services’, Members were alerted to the alarming fact that, in regard to Adult Social Services, the Vale provides the lowest spend per head in Wales. This is due to the fact that the Council is heavily dependent on funding from the Welsh Government and the formula used to allocate this funding is, and I quote from the Report, 'especially problematic for the Vale of Glamorgan'. I have three questions:
Firstly can I ask the Leader whether he is content with the current 'funding formula’ which clearly discriminates against the people of the Vale of Glamorgan?
Secondly can I ask whether the Leader has made any representations to the Welsh Government in regard to this discrimination and the clear requirement to make the formula more equitable?
Finally can I ask whether the Leader has raised the matter with our Assembly Member, Jane Hutt, who is after all also the Welsh Government’s Finance Minister and, as such, should surely be able to provide some leadership and assistance to her constituents on this most important of issues?
Reply from the Leader
As Councillor Traherne will be aware, the standard spending assessment (SSA) is the amount of revenue expenditure which the Minister for Local Government considers necessary to ensure that each local authority is able to provide a standard of service, taking into account their differing characteristics.
This is, in essence, a formula that was set up when local Government took place under his party’s stewardship and so we can thank his party and if I recall we can also thank his erstwhile colleagues Mr. Redwood and Mr. Hunt for the 74% to 26% split of resources when the previous South Glamorgan was abolished when this Council received only 26% of the funding irrespective of the needs within the new County.
The characteristics the formula uses to calculate SSAs reflects issues such as size of population, density and rurality, numbers of older adults, etc.
I am acutely aware that the formula puts this Council at a disadvantage in one key area - deprivation. 14.7% of the weighting is based upon deprivation factors and these are not a key driver in the scale of demand for some social services, especially in respect of meeting the care and support needs of older people.
I had a similar discussion with the Vale MP on this subject last Friday as it happens and I will confirm what I told him, that as I understand it the formulae has been considered and I fear that this particular characteristic could well mean that our share might not improve. I would urge some caution possibly. However, I can assure you I have had, and will continue to have, discussions on the funding arrangements with our AM. Indeed, I had a meeting with her last Friday and expressed my concerns in relation to the First Steps particularly.
I would confirm that both the Deputy Leader and I have made repeated and detailed representations to the relevant Ministers, pointing out the serious and adverse consequences for our adult services budget. A copy of the report sent to Welsh Government outlining the full impact of the measure for the Vale of Glamorgan was presented to the Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee in November and, indeed, some of the representations did actually alter the way that the Council had some funding for this year at least.
(xi) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
What is the most recent estimate of GVA for the Vale of Glamorgan county area?
Reply from the Leader
The latest Gross Value Added (GVA) statistics were published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 12th December 2013. The latest figures are the provisional figures for 2012. A separate figure for the Vale is not included in the publication. The Headline GVA Index per head of population for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan is 102.4, compared with the UK base of 100 and 75.2 for Wales. Unfortunately, that is all the information that I can provide because I am not sure if the ONS actually 'drilled down' and if they do have, I have not had time to research it.
Councillor Dr. Johnson stated he had also been unable to locate more localised figures and that he believed the information was collated under NUTS Level 3, which was for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. Although the figures for Cardiff and the Vale were the best figures for Wales, he referred to them as being far below the figures, for example, for Edinburgh and Belfast, which suggested that Cardiff had a specific lag potentially as a result of the Vale. He asked whether the Leader would request from ONS in future a Vale-specific figure, which might be helpful, for example, in accessing European funding similar to neighbouring counties, rather than being 'lumped in' with Cardiff which was an economic driver.
The Leader confirmed he would ask, but he was not sure he would succeed, given the way the figures were collected.
(xii) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
To provide an update on the future of the ATC Woodlands site.
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services
The day service currently based at Woodlands will be moving to Hen Goleg before the end of December, if essential improvement work at the new base has been completed. Following the move, it is intended to demolish the buildings at Woodlands. The Social Services Directorate has no plans for using the site. In a meeting of Cabinet on 18th November, the Director of Resources was granted authority to consider options for the site and asked to report back.
Councillor Dr. Johnson asked whether the Cabinet Member would ensure there was an opportunity for residents of Barry (as residents of Dinas Powys had regarding the Bryneithin site) in ensuring consultation regarding future use of the sites after its disposal.
The Cabinet Member pointed out that, as the matter was no longer within his remit, it would be very difficult for him to give any assurance. He reiterated the fact that the Director of Resources had been granted authority to consider the options for the site. As such, the Member would need to ask the Director of Resources what the intentions were regarding consultation in respect of the future use of the site.
(xiii) Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson
To update Council on the number of (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful applications for Discretionary Housing Payments so far in the financial year 2013-14, the number of households currently in receipt of DHP and the profile of this budget against anticipated spend for the year.
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety
The latest position is as follows -
There have been (a) 338 successful applications and (b) 420 unsuccessful applications for DHP payments so far this financial year.
We also have 58 DHP applications to consider, we are awaiting further information on 22 applications and 6 requests for redetermination.
There are 144 DHPs currently in payment.
We have paid out £144,375.83
Committed to an additional £30,776.64
Giving a total of £175,152.47
The DWP have allocated funding of £219,639. The Council can supplement this funding from its own resources if required.
Referring to having had some complaints from residents whose applications had been refused, Councillor Dr. Johnson asked whether there would be any reconsideration of the criteria at any point and, whether the Cabinet Member would be ensuring the budget was also similarly placed in 2014/2015 or whether there would be any loss of ability to cover this amount.
The Cabinet Member stated that the nature of the question fell outside her remit, but that she would arrange for a reply to be forwarded.
(xiv) Question from Councillor G.A. Cox
At the Council meeting of 23rd January last I asked about the non-implementation of the Vale Labour party election pledge to reinstate a Mobile Library Service.
Your response was that you were consulting with town and community councils on developing a new service in partnership with the Council. This was, I believe, dependent on their willingness to fund the service.
After the consultation exercise, expected to be completed by 16th March, a further report was to be compiled.
Has this report been issued and, if so, what were the conclusions and recommendations?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Adult Services
Letters were sent to all schools and Town and Community Councils earlier in the year to assess the level of interest in the introduction of a new targeted mobile library service in partnership with the Council.
We did received 11 replies from schools and 11 from Town and Community Councils. Only Barry Town Council indicated a positive desire to support a mobile library service. Several respondents stated that they had no wish to support a mobile library and several others expressed some interest but stated they could not provide any financial support.
Barry Town Council has agreed in principle to a model for providing the new service and further discussion and negotiation will now take place to develop a detailed proposal.
Expressing disappointment that the response was fairly similar to a response given on 16th March, 2013, Councillor Cox again asked whether the report had been issued and what were its conclusions and recommendations.
The Cabinet Member, in turn, was disappointed that no other Town and Community Councils or schools wanted to actually try and introduce a targeted mobile library service in the Vale. Any such initiative was always going to be based on working in partnership and collaboration. He considered it a pity that the other Town and Community Councils were not in a position to help financially with a targeted mobile library service, but he had to respect that. There was, in effect, no report to bring back because only one Council had actually shown any interest. However, he was quite happy to make available to Councillor Cox and any other Members who wanted a copy, the responses that had been received.
(xv) Question from Councillor G.A. Cox
With the curtailment of many public transport services in the rural Vale some roads which previously carried buses no longer do so.
Traditionally bus routes had priority for winter gritting.
Will the Cabinet Member please give an assurance that he will continue to grit these roads under the winter maintenance schedule, despite the lack of buses?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Environment and Visible Services
We currently pre-salt over 43% of our highway network and treat all A and B class roads, commuter and most major bus routes. Changes to bus operations are unlikely to affect the pre-salting schedule as this is no longer a major factor when determining the routes.
In addition to concentrating on our A and B classification roads our schedule seeks to treat:
- Important commuter routes including those that lead to our main centres of employment;
- Routes through, or between, large centres of population;
- Routes serving hospitals, ambulance and fire stations and fuel depots;
- Routes leading to important industrial and retail complexes, including the airport;
- Single accesses to villages.
As Councillor Cox is aware, we review the schedule annually prior to the start of the winter season and the schedule for 2013 / 2014 is available on our website. The schedule for 2014 / 2015 will be determined based on the criteria I have mentioned from this current winter period. Can I also add that I am holding Winter Awareness sessions at the Alps Depot in January 2014. I hope Councillor Cox and many other Members will join me on those sessions.
(xvi) Question from Councillor N.P. Hodges
Following the huge success of the 2012 National Eisteddfod held in the Vale of Glamorgan, will the Council invite the Urdd National Eisteddfod to the County at the earliest opportunity?
Reply from the Leader
I agree that the National Eisteddfod was a huge success. The Urdd will be visiting Caerphilly in 2015, after which it will return to North Wales and Flintshire in 2016. It last came to the Vale in 1977 when it visited Barry.
As I said, I agree with Councillor Hodges that the National Eisteddfod was a huge success last year when it visited Llandow, not only for the Eisteddfod itself but also for the Vale of Glamorgan Council and businesses in the area. Whilst we will clearly engage with the Urdd and colleagues within Welsh Government on future venues, I have to advise that against a background of significant financial pressures, we have to exercise caution and responsibility when planning and committing to events and festivals. However, we will certainly look into it.
Councillor Hodges considered the Urdd to represent an opportunity, not only for cultural activities, but also for tourism activities and he hoped the Leader would try and make this happen.
The Leader reiterated the fact that he would look into it, but again pointed out the outcome was dependent on a number of factors, including finance.
(xvii) Question from Councillor N.P. Hodges
What arrangements are being made to publicise the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny’s report on surplus school places due to be released on 2nd January 2014?
Reply from the Leader
As I explained previously, the Part II report is NOT the property of the Cabinet. It was a Part II report under your chairmanship and in order to make it thus you had to confirm the reasons why, in fact, it was Part II.
Only you or your Committee can agree that it should now be released, but I would have thought that the reasons why it was given that status in the first place would have to be overcome.
For these reasons I have made no arrangements to release the Part II report.
I understand that subject to relevant officers confirming that any issues relating to the inappropriate disclosure of personal data have been addressed, the report itself will be made available via Democratic Services but clearly that is something that is not within my behest. With regard to publicising the report, I will leave that to you.
Councillor Hodges referred to the Scrutiny Committee as having decided the report should be released to the public as it was an important document and should be taken seriously. However, he asked whether the Cabinet would continue to 'cherry pick’ from the report or whether the public would be allowed to see what the Scrutiny Committee decided could be a legitimate way forward for school places within the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Leader reiterated his earlier comment that it was not the Cabinet’s report to release and that it was up to Councillor Hodges’ Committee to release it, following which any issues would be dealt with as and when the Cabinet saw fit.
(xviii) Question from Councillor N.P. Hodges
What plans are in place to support and promote Heritage Tourism in the Vale of Glamorgan?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation
I am proud of the work that has been undertaken and is underway on Heritage Tourism in the Vale. I prefer to use the phrase 'place based tourism’ which brings a range of factors, including heritage, culture and local environment into the mix and adds value to local communities. I will outline some examples, which include:
The work of the team at the Heritage Coast Centre in Dunraven.
The recent refurbishment of the Dunraven Gardens.
The work the Council is taking forward as Heritage Coast branding project to establish an identifiable brand for the coast and businesses operating within it.
The Council’s Creative Rural Communities team based in Cowbridge have and continue to offer support to a range of businesses across the rural Vale of Glamorgan and a considerable amount of their involvement revolves around tourism.
Interactive kiosks have recently been installed in Cowbridge High Street, Llantwit Major (St. Illtud’s Church), Dyffryn Gardens and the Watermill at Ogmore.
The Tourism Matters Grant Scheme in recent years has supported projects in Cosmeston, Southerndown, Cowbridge and St. Athan.
The Council continues to administer a 'Pride in our Heritage' grant scheme and this has funded major works at Old Place, Llantwit Major and Galilee Chapel as well as supporting small scale events across the rural Vale.
Of course Heritage means many things to many people. Our current major investment is in Barry Island where works to enhance the Eastern Promenade includes work to the listed Eastern Shelter and the former toy factory.
Members will also be aware of the investment made in the recently opened Penarth Pier Pavilion, another excellent example of Partnership working by this Administration.
This is an extremely brief run through of some initiatives that have been and are being undertaken so I have not given it justice in the time I have available.
Given his view that Heritage Tourism had the ability to create jobs, Councillor Hodges asked whether consideration could be given to the usage of more brown signs to highlight heritage sites within the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Cabinet Member considered signage to be important but indicated she would hand over the query to the relevant Cabinet Member responsible for him to be able to provide an answer.
(xix) Question from Councillor N.P. Hodges
Will you make a statement on the recently reported 2013 Comprehensive schools banding grades?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services
The 2013 secondary school bandings were published by the Welsh Government last Thursday. The newly released bandings placed Stanwell School and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg in band 1 and Cowbridge Comprehensive in band 2. St. Richard Gwyn and Bryn Hafren Schools were placed in band 3. St. Cyres and Llantwit Major Schools were placed in band 4 and Barry Comprehensive was placed in band 5.
The recently published final GCSE results for 2013 showed that the proportion of Vale students achieving 5 A* to C grades at GCSE including mathematics and English/Welsh had increased. This year’s bandings are based principally on those results and take into account the socio-economic background of the schools and comparisons with 2012: attendance is also measured.
I am delighted to see Vale schools once again in the top bands and I congratulate these schools for their achievements. I understand that we have the second highest proportion of schools in band 1 compared with the other 22 local authorities in Wales.
You will be aware that the Central South Consortium School Improvement Service on behalf of the Council provides challenge, support and intervention services to local schools according to their needs. The three secondary schools in bands 4 and 5 receive more intensive support and challenge. You will also be aware that the Chief Learning and Skills Officer has previously sent formal warning letters with agreed targets for higher standards to be achieved by the summer to these three schools. And I am grateful to members of the Scrutiny Committee, of which you are the Chair, who have agreed at Cabinet’s request to convene individual school progress meetings for each of the schools concerned.
Discussion continues about the need for further development of the banding arrangements for future years, including, for example, whether they place sufficient emphasis on the progress of children and young people entitled to free school meals. I am clear that bandings should continue to be published.
A banding system can never capture the full complexity of school improvement and I would always recommend that parents get to know schools by visiting them and talking to the children and young people who attend the school on a daily basis: no banding system will ever replace first hand knowledge about our schools.
(xx) Question from Councillor R.J. Bertin
Do you think the school banding system is working?
Reply from the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services
The introduction of banding for secondary schools in place for 2011 provided parents with more information about school performance in Wales. Banding is based principally on the most recent GCSE performance taking into account the socio-economic background of the school community and comparisons with the previous year: attendance is also measured. School performance is of course a more complex business than a five category system can ever capture. Whilst it is proper that discussion should take place about the further development of the banding arrangements for future years they play a useful role and should continue to be published. I would hope there will be an opportunity to review the detailed methodology underpinning the bandings to see whether modifications are needed. But I would always recommend that parents get to know schools by visiting them and talking to the children and young people who attend the school on a daily basis. Now, as I said before, no banding system will ever replace first hand knowledge of any of our schools.