THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 26th September, 2018.

 

Present:  Councillor Leighton Rowlands (Mayor); Councillors Julie Aviet, Vincent Bailey, Rhiannon Birch, Jonathan Bird, Bronwen Brooks, Lis Burnett, George Carroll, Christine Cave, Janice Charles, Amelia Collins, Geoff Cox, Pamela Drake, Vincent Driscoll, Stewart Edwards, Ben Gray, Owen Griffiths, Stephen Griffiths, Anthony Hampton, Sally Hanks, Nic Hodges, Hunter Jarvie, Gwyn John, Dr. Ian Johnson, Gordon Kemp, Peter King, Matthew Lloyd, Kevin Mahoney, Kathryn McCaffer, Anne Moore, Neil Moore, Michael Morgan, Jayne Norman, Rachel Nugent-Finn, Andrew Parker, Bob Penrose, Sandra Perkes, Andrew Robertson, Ruba Sivagnanam, John Thomas, Neil Thomas, Margaret Wilkinson, Edward Williams, Mark Wilson and Marguerita Wright.

 

 

337            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors Robert Crowley and Steffan Wiliam.

 

 

338            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

The following declarations were received:

 

Councillor   Miss. A. Collins

Agenda   Item No. 10 – Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council – Personal and prejudicial   interest

Councillor   G.A. Cox

Agenda   Item No. 11 – Member of Cowbridge with Llanblethian Town Council – Personal and   prejudicial interest

Councillor   Mrs. P. Drake

Agenda   Item No. 10 – Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Barry Town Council   – Personal and prejudicial interest

Councillor   N.P. Hodges

Agenda   Item No 10 – Member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Barry Town Council –   Personal and prejudicial interest

Councillor   A.C. Parker

Agenda   Item No. 11 – Personal interest – Family – Daughter a member of Penllyn   Community Council

 

 

339            MINUTES –

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 18th July, 2018 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

340            ANNOUNCEMENTS –

 

The Mayor indicated that he had attended 113 events since his term of office had commenced and that he had been proud that the Vale of Glamorgan had hosted the first Armed Forces Day and the first 10k run at Barry Island, both being huge successes. 

 

He was also pleased to launch the first School Lego League at Cadoxton Primary School which helped with the STEM subjects.  He had also visited Cadoxton Primary School separately during the school holidays and launched the first SHEP project which educated children in healthy eating.

 

He had also recently welcomed pupils from Barry Island School to contribute to the Council’s new Corporate Plans for improving the County. 

 

He had also welcomed civic dignitaries from the Council’s twin towns of Rheinfelden, Mouscron and Fécamp and was also honoured to have welcomed the Youth Exchange from the twin towns who would work with pupils from the Vale of Glamorgan to reveal outstanding art work designed by the pupils to highlight friendship between the twin towns.

 

One of the most proud moments of his year so far had been the remembrance of those individuals who had lost their lives at sea on Merchant Navy Day. 

 

He also referred to the celebrations of the 80th year of Barry RAFA Branch at their concert and witnessing military personnel from RAF St. Athan exercising their freedom to march through the streets of the Vale of Glamorgan and in Barry.  This parade was the final of five parades that RAF St. Athan military personnel had led across South Wales and it was his personal pleasure to allow the Parade Commander, Wing Commander Rowley, to march with a rare RAF Claymore Sword, one of only three known to exist in the UK.

 

Most recently, he had attended the Royal British Legion Remembrance Festival, which had been well attended.

 

In referring to fund raising for the Mayor’s Foundation, this had continued and he had held the first Mayor’s BBQ to raise funds for charity.  He was pleased to announce that he had awarded three cheques to the Barry Round Table, the Chiropodists and Barry Athletic Youth Cricket Club and he thanked all who had supported the fund raising events so far. 

 

He concluded by stating that during his Mayoral term to date, over 20 local charities had benefited from exposure on social media and in the press and he would continue to work hard for the residents of the Vale of Glamorgan and to help and support charities and organisations within the County.

 

 

341            APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN TO THE PUBLIC PROTECTION LICENSING COMMITTEE AND THE STATUTORY LICENSING COMMITTEE (MD) –

 

The above position had become vacant following the resignation of Councillor Michael Morgan from the membership of both Committees.  This particular matter was reported separately under Agenda Item No. 7.

 

As a consequence of the above resignations, it was now necessary to fill the vacant positions of Vice-Chairman of both the Public Protection Licensing Committee and the Statutory Licensing Committee and accordingly, nominations were sought.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T Councillor Janice Charles be appointed as Vice-Chairman to the Public Protection Licensing Committee and the Statutory Licensing Committee for the remainder of the current Municipal Year.

 

Reason for decision

 

To appoint a Vice-Chairman to the Committees.

 

 

342            SCRUTINY COMMITTEES’ ANNUAL REPORT MAY 2017 – APRIL 2018 (MD) –

 

The Leader, in referring to the report, called upon Councillor George Carroll as the Chairman of the Council’s lead Scrutiny Committee, Corporate Performance and Resources, to present the Annual Report to Council.

 

Councillor Carroll indicated that the Annual Report had been produced in accordance with Section 7.4.4 of the Council’s Constitution which stated that “Scrutiny Committees must report annually to Full Council on their workings, with recommendations for their future work programmes and amended working methods if appropriate”. 

 

The Annual Report set out details of the work of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees and highlighted key achievements, significant events during the year and future working, specifically in relation to the Council’s agreement that the work of Scrutiny should be closely aligned to the Council’s Four Well-being Objectives Outcomes that formed the basis of the Council’s new Corporate Plan, which had been published separately in April 2016.

 

The Annual Report itself had been circulated to all Members of the Council’s Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group and separately considered by the five Scrutiny Committees.  He reminded Council that any comments received had been incorporated into the document before Members.  For avoidance of doubt, he indicated that the Corporate Performance and Resources Scrutiny Committee had considered the draft Report on 20th September and had made no additional comments. 

 

For information, Members were advised that the Annual Report was only “reported to Council” as opposed to it requiring actual approval.  The Annual Report itself was attached as an appendix to the agenda.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report for the period May 2017 to April 2018 be received.

 

Reason for decision

 

To receive the Scrutiny Committees’ Annual Report as required under the Council’s Constitution.

 

 

343            USE OF THE MANAGING DIRECTOR’S EMERGENCY POWERS (MD) –

 

The following use of the Managing Director’s Emergency Powers was reported:

 

(a)       To approve the request of the Leader of the Labour Group that Councillor Neil Thomas replace Councillor Owen Griffiths on the Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee with immediate effect.

 

(b)       To approve the request of the Leader of the Conservative Group that Councillor Kathryn McCaffer replace Council Michael Morgan on the Public Protection Licensing Committee and Statutory Licensing Committee with immediate effect.

 

(Scrutiny Committee – Corporate Performance and Resources)

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To inform Council.

 

 

344            REVIEW OF THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL’S LOCAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE (MO / HLDS) –

 

Previously, the Standards Committee at its meeting held on 11th April, 2014 had considered and agreed a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure to address certain complaints and breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct (the Code) and Protocol – Standards of Conduct Expected by Members, in response to Welsh Government and the former Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’ concerns.  The Public Services Ombudsman’s Guidance on the Code of Conduct for Members of Local Authorities had stated there was an expectation that Local Authorities throughout Wales would implement a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure to deal with certain complaints which were made by a Member against a fellow Member.

 

Consequently, at the Full Council meeting on 25th June, 2014, a Local Dispute Resolution Procedure (the Procedure) was duly approved and was incorporated into the Council’s Constitution.  As with the Council’s Constitution generally, the Procedure was subject to review and changes could be proposed if considered appropriate (either by the Monitoring Officer or the Standards Committee itself). 

 

Following a Local Dispute Resolution hearing, at its meeting in July 2016 the Standards Committee considered a few minor changes to the Procedure, however, following discussion it was subsequently resolved:

 

"(1)      That Stage 2 of the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure should not become mandatory.

 

(2)       That internal procedures relating to the Members’ Code of Conduct be revised to provide that any complaint lodged under the Procedure be brought to the attention of the Member against whom the complaint has been lodged within seven working days of it being received by the Monitoring Officer. Furthermore, if a Member, in lodging a complaint, has identified a specific witness(es) whom they wish to call to give evidence, details of the complaint (redacted if considered necessary) should also be forwarded to the witness(es), the contents of the Guidance be noted.

 

(3)       That a future report be submitted to a future Standards Committee meeting following a review of the Welsh Local Authorities Local Dispute Resolution Procedures."

 

On 25th January, 2018, the Committee received a copy of a proposed revised Procedure for consideration which included a copy of a procedural document to be used at Local Dispute Resolution Hearings and an administrative procedure for dealing with Local Dispute Resolution process (Local Dispute Resolution Procedure – Procedure for Dealing With Paperwork and Timescales) and recommended consultation with Group Leaders.

 

Following the consultation with Group Leaders a number of comments were received as outlined below. 

  • Councillor John Thomas, Leader of the Council and Conservative Group Leader advised that he was in agreement with the documents.
  • Councillor Gwyn John, Llantwit First Group Leader advised he was happy to accept the documents.
  • Councillor Neil Moore, Labour Group Leader following a meeting continued to be concerned regarding a number of aspects and was of the view that:

-      the submission of witness statements should not be mandatory;

-      the attendance of witness(es) should only be required if a statement is disputed;

-      if a legal representative is to be in attendance at the Hearing the complaint should be referred to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and not dealt with under the Council’s Local Dispute Resolution Procedure;

-      Paragraph 28 be amended to make it clear that the representative or person accompanying a Member is entitled to speak on behalf of the Member that they are representing/accompanying including asking questions and summing-up;

-      that a representative or person accompanying a Member be permitted to provide evidence to the Hearing;

-      Paragraph 30 – an apology to a Complainant should take the form of a formal apology and made in the same way as the dispute arose. It should be in writing to the Complainant; it should not be private and confidential unless the Complainant wishes that to be the case.

 

In view of the above, a meeting was subsequently held with the Labour Group Leader, Labour Deputy Group Leader, the Monitoring Officer and Democratic Services Officer to discuss issues of concern.  Following the meeting, some responses to queries were accepted by both the Labour Group and Deputy Labour Group Leader.  The remaining concerns were brought to the attention of the Standards Committee and were subsequently considered at the Standards Committee meeting on 12th July, 2018. 

 

Following further consideration by the Standards Committee it was recommended that the Draft Local Dispute Resolution Procedure and appendices be amended as outlined below and the documents re-shared with Group Leaders with delegated authority being given to the Monitoring Officer to amend any typographical errors in consultation with the Chairman in order that the final report could be presented to Full Council in September 2018: 

  • That support to witnesses in preparing statements be provided by officers of the Council as appropriate;
  • That for paragraph 25 – should both parties agree that witnesses do not need to attend the hearing this must be made in writing to the Monitoring Officer;
  • The reference to paragraph 27 to that Members will have the right to be accompanied by a representative which may be a legal representative or otherwise this meant that only one representative to accompany the Members;
  • That a representative should not be a witness and a representative;
  • Paragraph 30 – if an apology was recommended this to take the format of a formal apology and made in the same way including the place as the dispute arose with failure to apologise in a specified manner being referred back to the Standards Committee for consideration;
  • The revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure at Appendix 1 and the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure Conduct of Stage 3 Hearing at Appendix B including the amendments as outlined above are therefore before Full Council for consideration and approval.

RESOLVED – T H A T the revised Local Dispute Resolution Procedure as set out in Appendix 1 to the report and the Local Dispute Resolution Procedure: Conduct of Stage 3 Hearing set out at Appendix B to the report, be approved and replace the existing Procedure in the Council’s Constitution.

 

Reason for decision

 

To address the recommendations of the Standards Committee following a review of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Local Dispute Resolution Procedure.

 

 

345            REVIEW OF THE COUNCIL’S CONSTITUTION / OFFICER DELEGATIONS (MO / HLDS) –

 

The report sought Council’s approval to make minor amendments / additions to the Council’s Constitution and Officer Delegations.

 

Section 25 of the Constitution – Officer Delegations – required amendments to Officer Delegations as follows:

 

(i)        That an additional delegation be granted to the Head of Regeneration and Planning and the Operational Manager for Planning and Building Control in respect of Listed Buildings as follows:

 

"To Serve an Article 4 Notice to prevent development and/or demolition that may otherwise be permitted development."

 

This is to enable protection of locally Listed Buildings or Conservation Areas or in the interest of the proper planning of the area.

 

(ii)       That in the absence of the Section 151 Officer and the Deputy Section 151 Officer, the Operational Manager Exchequer Services and the Exchequer Manager be granted delegated authority to deal with the following:

 

"The instigation of appropriate legal proceedings for the recovery of Rates, Council Tax, Non Domestic Rates and other monies due to the Council".

 

This extends the existing authority which currently is granted to the Section 151 Officer and Deputy Section 151 Officer and will ensure that there is sufficient cover during periods of absence of the above officers who are responsible for the signing of relevant documentation within a very short timeline to allow for the Council to lodge  papers in the court.

 

(iii)      That an additional delegation is granted to the Section 151 Officer and Deputy Section 151 Officer as follows:

 

"To authorise payment of grant awards from the Mayor's Foundation in consultation with the Mayor".

 

This is to enable the payment of grant awards from the Mayor's Foundation.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the changes to Officer Delegations as set out above be approved and the Council’s Constitution be amended accordingly.

 

 

Reason for decision

 

To update the Officer Delegation Scheme to reflect current structures and relevant provisions within the current Constitution.

 

 

346            COMMUNITY REVIEW – CATALINA, CEI DAFYDD, BARRY – BARUC AND CASTLELAND WARDS (VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL AND BARRY TOWN COUNCIL (ERO) –

 

The Council had a duty under the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 ("the Act") to conduct a review of the community boundary for a community in its area either of its own initiative or at the request of the community council for the community.

 

A request had been received from the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales (LDBCW), for a review to be undertaken of the community boundary at Catalina, Cei Dafydd, Barry between Baruc and Castleland Wards for the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Barry Town Council.

 

The boundary line was historic and was established prior to the residential development on the Waterfront which included the property ‘Catalina’ which consisted of 21 apartments.

 

The request highlighted that the LDBCW considered that the property had an anomaly whereby electors would be residents of one polling district yet in a different county and community ward (in this case residents of Baruc; but voting in a Castleland polling district).  The LDBCW highlighted the need to adjust the community ward boundary to address this anomaly ensuring that the entire property was contained within one polling district and community ward. 

 

Consequently, Cabinet at its meeting on 18th September, 2017 resolved (in part) (Minute No. C71 refers):

 

“(1)      T H A T delegated authority be granted to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) to conduct a review of the community boundary at Catalina, Cei Dafydd, Barry between Baruc and Castleland Wards of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Barry Town Council in accordance with the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013.

 

(2)       T H A T the terms of reference of the review attached at Appendix B to this report be approved.”

 

Appendix C summarised the submissions received during the initial consultation which had been taken into account by the ERO together with the request from the LDBCW referred to in paragraph 3.

 

The ERO’s initial proposal of no change was approved by Cabinet of 5th February, 2018 (Minute No. C213 refers).

 

No further submissions were made during the second stage of the consultation process.

 

The ERO’s final proposal of no change was approved by Cabinet on 16th July, 2018

(Minute No. C363 refers).

 

The review was brought to the attention of the mandatory consultees and such other persons the ERO considered likely to be interested in the review.  The ERO had also consulted the mandatory consultees on the intended procedure and methodology for the review.  The ERO conducted investigations as considered appropriate.

 

The ERO, following both the initial and second consultation, prepared a report containing the proposal to change the community boundary line, with the review having been published electronically and continued to be available for public inspection.

 

Copies of the report were sent to the LDBCW and the mandatory consultees.

 

Appendix A detailed the ERO’s final proposal which was to amend the boundary line to ensure the property was contained wholly within the boundary of the Castleland Ward.  The proposed changes would be submitted to the LDBCW for consideration to proceed with an Order for authorisation by the Welsh Ministers subject to approval by Council.

 

Council’s endorsement was now sought of the ERO’s final proposals to make the boundary line bisecting the property Catalina, Cei Dafydd, Barry which was currently between Baruc and Castleland Wards in the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Barry Town Council. 

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Electoral Registration Officer’s proposal as set out in Appendix A to the report be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T Electoral Registration Officer be authorised to submit the final proposal to the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales for consideration to proceed with an Order for authorisation by the Welsh Minister.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To approve the final proposal of the Electoral Registration Officer.

 

(2)       To enable the final proposal to be authorised by an Order in line with the legislative procedure and the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013.

 

(N.B. Councillors Miss A. Collins, Mrs. P. Drake and N.P. Hodges withdrew from the Chamber during consideration of the above matter.)

 

 

347            COMMUNITY REVIEW – COWBRIDGE WITH LLANBLETHIAN TOWN COUNCIL AND PENLLYN COMMUNITY COUNCIL (ERO) –

 

The Council had a duty under Section 31 of the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 ("the Act") to conduct a review of the electoral arrangements for a community in its area either of its own initiative or at the request of the Community Council for the community.

 

A request had been received from the Cowbridge with Llanblethian Town Council (“the Town Council”) for a review to be undertaken of the community boundary between Cowbridge with Llanblethian Town Council and Penllyn Community Council.

 

The request highlighted that the Town Council considered that the planned development on the land north west of Cowbridge (known as Darren Farm) would impact on community services provided by the Town Council and there was a concern that the Town Council would not benefit from an increased precept.  The Town Council therefore requested a community boundary review of its boundary with Penllyn Community Council.

 

Consequently, Cabinet received a report at its meeting on 18th September, 2017 when it resolved (in part):

 

“(1)      THAT delegated authority be granted to the Electoral Registration Officer to conduct a review of the community boundary between Cowbridge with Llanblethian Town Council and Penllyn Community Council in accordance with the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013.

 

(2)       THAT the terms of reference of the review attached at Appendix B to this report be approved.”

(Minute No. C71)

 

Appendix C to the report summarised the submissions received during the initial consultation which had been taken into account by the ERO together with the application from the Town Council referred to in paragraph 3 of the report.

 

The ERO’s initial proposal of no change was approved by Cabinet on 5th February, 2018 (Minute No. C213)

 

No further representations were made during the second stage of the consultation.

 

The ERO’s final proposal of no change was approved by Cabinet on 16th July, 2018 (Minute No. C362).

 

The terms of reference for the review were set out in the report. 

 

The Town Clerk subsequently submitted further comments on 6th August, 2018 to which they were advised on 9th August that the closing date for submissions for the second phase of the consultation was 27th April, 2018 (Appendices D and E refer). Clarification had also been given to the Town Clerk that the Leader and Councillor Jarvie following the September 2017 Cabinet Meeting solely indicated that they were in agreement for the Community Review taking place, with associated delegated authority being granted to the ERO.  

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the Council notes and endorses the Electoral Registration Officer’s final proposal of no change as set out in Appendix A to the report.

 

Reason for decision

 

To approve the final proposal of the Electoral Registration Officer in line with the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013.

 

(N.B. Councillors G.A. Cox and A.C. Parker withdrew from the Chamber during consideration of the above matter.)

 

 

348            COMMUNITY REVIEW – ST. BRIDES MAJOR COMMUNITY COUNCIL (ERO) –

 

The Council had a duty under Section 31 of the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 ("the Act") to conduct a review of the electoral arrangements for a community in its area either of its own initiative or at the request of the Community Council for the community.

 

A request had been received from the St. Brides Major Community Council (“the Community Council”), for a review to be undertaken of the number of Members elected to the Ogmore by Sea Ward. 

 

The request highlighted that the Community Council considered that due to the increase in properties there was an unfair ratio of Members to electors in the Ogmore by Sea Ward, proposing that the total number of Members for the Ogmore by Sea Ward be increased from five to six.

 

The Community Council was currently made up of five Members for the Ogmore by Sea Ward and six Members for the St. Brides Major Ward.  The current electorate for Ogmore by Sea was 942 which gave a ratio of 1:189.  The current electors for St. Brides Major was 798 which gave a ratio of 1:133.  The planning forecast indicated an additional 100 dwellings in the Ogmore by Sea Ward between 2017-2019.

 

The 100 dwellings were already included in the current property database on the Electoral Register and were reflected in 18th September, 2017 Cabinet Report.

 

It was proposed by the ERO that as part of the review that the number of Members elected to both Wards of the  Community Council be reviewed in light of the number of Community Councillors on the Council.

 

Consequently, Cabinet received a report at its meeting on 18th September, 2017 when it resolved (in part):

 

“(1)      THAT delegated authority be granted to the Electoral Registration Officer to conduct a review of electoral arrangements in relation to the number of members representing the St.Brides Major Community Council, in accordance with the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013.

 

(2) THAT the terms of reference of the review attached at Appendix B to this report be approved.”

(Minute No. C71)

 

Appendix C to the report summarised the submissions received during the initial consultation which had been taken into account by the ERO together with the application from the Community Council referred to in paragraph 3 of the report.

 

The ERO’s initial proposal of no change was approved by Cabinet on 5th February, 2018. (Minute No. C214)

 

No further representations were made during the second stage of the consultation.

 

The ERO’s final proposal of no change was approved by Cabinet on 16th July, 2018 (Minute No. C361).

 

The terms of reference for the review were set out in the report.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the Council notes and endorses the Electoral Registration Officer’s final proposal of no change as set out in Appendix A to the report.

 

Reason for decision

 

To approve the final proposal of the Electoral Registration Officer in line with the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013.

 

 

349            STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS 2017/18 (S151O) –

 

The Leader in referring to the purpose of the report, sought the Council’s approval of the Statement of Accounts and the Annual Governance Statement and agree the Final Letter of Representation for 2017/18. 

 

He referred to the Wales Audit Office as the body responsible for undertaking the internal audit work within the Vale of Glamorgan Council and under the Accounts and Audit Wales Amendments Regulations 2018; the Council and the Auditor General were required to meet earlier statutory deadlines with regard to the closure of accounts.  Under the amended Regulations, these revised deadlines were being phased in with the final change taking effect from 2020/21.  In the Audit of Financial Statements Report, the WAO had acknowledged that in terms of the 2017/18 Financial Statements, Council officers had made strong progress in producing the draft Financial Statements two weeks earlier than in prior years without compromising the quality of the draft accounts or the supporting working papers.  Officers had fully engaged with the Auditors in resolving their audit queries, these attributes were crucial in enabling the WAO to conclude their main testing by the end of August and he personally thanked officers for all their work in meeting these new shorter deadlines. 

 

In this proposed audit report to this Council, the Auditor General had stated that the financial statements gave a true and fair view of the financial position of the Vale of Glamorgan Council as at 31st March, 2018 and of its income and expenditure for the year then ended and had been properly prepared in accordance with the Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United Kingdom 2017/18.  He had also stated that it was the intention of the Appointed Auditor to issue an unqualified audit report on the Financial Statements once the relevant Council officers had provided a signed Final Letter of Representation.  Under the Accounts and Audit Regulations, the Statement of Accounts must be approved before 30th September and signed and dated by the Mayor as Chairman of the Council and in addition the Annual Governance Statement needed to be formally approved by the Council and signed and dated by the Leader of the Council.

 

He alluded to the Audit Committee meeting on 19th September, 2018 which considered an agenda item entitled “Audit of the 2017/18 Financial Statements: Reporting to Those Charged with Governance”.  Audit Committee recommended that the report of the Wales Audit Office be approved and that the 2017/18 Financial Statements including the Final Letter of Representation and the Annual Governance Statement be recommended for signature by those authorised. 

 

The Leader moved that the Letter of Representation to the Wales Audit Office for 2017/18 be noted and agreed and signed and dated by the Mayor as Chairman of the Council.  Secondly, that the Annual Governance Statement (within the Statement of Accounts) for 2017/18 be approved and signed and dated by himself as Leader of the Council, and thirdly, that the Statement of Accounts for 2017/18 be approved and signed and dated by the Mayor as Chairman of the Council.  This was duly seconded by the Deputy Leader.

 

Councillor Wilson, Chairman of the Audit Committee, was pleased with the manner in which officers had dealt with the task of reporting two weeks in advance of the Auditor General’s deadline.  He also alluded to pressures on all Councils in Wales as a consequence of austerity.  Given the potential for a deteriorating future and increased pressure by the Auditor General to submit reports earlier, it may be the case that the Audit Committee and Council convene meetings in the future in August.  He also thanked officers for their efforts in producing the reports.

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson, a fellow Member of the Audit Committee, reiterated the comments of the Leader and the Chairman of the Audit Committee with regards to the hard work of the staff in putting together the Annual Statement of Accounts.  He considered it to be no mean feat to do this for an organisation the size of the Council with a turnover in excess of £380m without needing a substantial number of corrections to be made.  He was very pleased to have an unqualified audit and only a small number of changes required from the draft version.  Putting this into context, he referred to another South Wales Authority much smaller than the Council, which was currently awaiting an investigation into around £12m of misstatements from the previous year’s accounts.  In that context, staff had done an excellent job.  He also made reference to preparation of the Annual Accounts being made harder because the deadlines for end of year closures in future being brought forward, the transition being earlier in September and then into July.  He alluded to the suggestion made at the Audit Committee meeting before the summer that it should be a matter for the Audit Committee to provide assurance on the final set of accounts, subject to Full Council approval.  He considered the reason for this was that Audit Committee engaged with the detail of the accounts, but agreement in Full Council offered the opportunity for all Councillors to scrutinise the figures, to be able to show that they have had them shown to them and just as important, given existing limited webcasting of meetings, an opportunity for the public to debate these issues as well.  He considered this to be important given the detailed discussion frequently around the setting of Council Tax and budgets. 

 

Alluding to the accounts from the 2017/18 financial year and the budget setting process some 18 months ago, he considered a lot of things had taken place in that time and made reference to the Council making a profit of £6.7m in 2017/18 which was put into reserves.  He felt that was a surprising figure because he often heard from the Council the dire straits it was facing and severe problems as it moved forward.  He considered the figure as hidden in plain sight of the public within page 2 of the Annual Statement.  He also referred to the collection of Council Tax which resulted in just over £1.5m more than anticipated in the last financial year and added to the General Policy took the figure to £3.2m profit, £1.4m profit in the Managing Director and Resources area, and £1.7m from Social Services.  He took account of the losses of circa £0.5m from the Environment and Housing Department and circa £700k taken from Reserves.  Once these had been factored in / out, the movement in the Reserves Statement showed an increase in the General Council Fund in earmarked reserves from £76.7m to £78.7m with the other monies placed in the Capital Receipts Reserve or what he termed Unusable Reserves that could not be accessed at this moment in time as it included paper re-evaluations.  He also alluded to Councils in England which faced huge cuts which were resulting in major service cuts and the issuing of Section 114 Notices.  He considered that the Council not to be in that position was in part due to Plaid Cymru in the Welsh Assembly who had argued that local Council services were important and could not be cut to the bone.  He hoped that all Councillors present should be contacting their local Assembly Members to argue on our behalf in the next couple of weeks before declarations regarding next year’s settlement.  He restated his previous comments made at other Council meetings about the need to balance Council Tax rises and services against the existing reserves held.  Unnecessary Council Tax rises or service cuts affected residents most in need and that was why impact assessments were so very important.  He felt that the Council should not shy away from making long term investments that benefited communities such as the recent completion of the Council Housing Improvement Programme the WHQS.  In summing up, he echoed his previous comments regarding the efforts of officers and support provided to Audit Committee Members and gave his support to the recommendations as he thought it was a very good statement of the Council’s finances.

 

The Leader, in response to Councillor Wilson, thanked him for his comments and concurred with everything he said.  He acknowledged that there was a need to keep abreast of the new target dates for getting the accounts signed off, however he felt that there was little that could be done to change those arrangements. 

 

The Leader, in referring to Councillor Dr. Johnson’s usual statements regarding the Council’s reserves and over-collection of Council Tax, reminded Members that the Council’s Council Tax over-collection as Councillor Dr. Johnson described it was not an issue of concern.  The Council was predicting 97.7% collection rate which was within a percentage point of the collection rate that the Council had predicted and stated.  He also reiterated previous comments made at other Council meetings when the matter had been raised, in that his preference regarding collection rates would be on or above the predicted rate and without doing so would result in a much larger hole in the Council’s budget that was currently being managed. 

 

In referring to Councillor Dr. Johnson’s comments regarding Council reserves and the level of these reserves, he reminded Councillor Dr. Johnson as he had done so at the Council meeting when the Council Tax setting discussion had taken place, that much of the Council’s reserves were earmarked for certain projects which he had failed to mention in his comments.  He considered that Councillor Dr. Johnson believed that the Council had plenty of money, the case was the opposite with the Council being required to make savings over £50m across the period of the last nine years.  He also reminded Councillor Dr. Johnson that the Council was now required to continue to make savings and approximately £17m was required to be saved over the next two years.  He was content with the report before Council and he considered that the Council’s usable reserves were not excessive.  He hoped over the next few years the Council would be able to maintain reserves to enable it to address the challenges that came its way. 

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Letter of Representation to the Wales Audit Office for 2017/18 be noted and is agreed and signed and dated by the Mayor as Chairman of the Council.

 

(2)       T H A T the Annual Governance Statement (within the Statement of Accounts) for 2017/18 be approved and signed and dated by the Leader of the Council.

 

(3)       T H A T the Statement of Accounts for 2017/18 be approved and signed and dated by the Mayor as Chairman of the Council.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       That the signed representation letter is returned to the Wales Audit Office.

 

(2)       That the Annual Governance Statement is signed and dated as required.

 

(3)       That the Statement of Accounts be approved prior to the deadline.

 

 

350            TREASURY MANAGEMENT CLOSING REPORT 2017/18 (REF) –

 

The above report was considered by Cabinet at its meeting held on 16th July, 2018 (Minute. No. C365 refers) and was now being referred on to Council for approval.

 

The Leader, in outlining the report, indicated that in July 2016, Cabinet considered and approved the Annual Report on the Council’s Treasury Management operations for the period 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018.  The report in itself outlined the changing conditions under which Treasury Management operations were carried out during the above period.  The Council’s primary objectives for the management of its investments were to give priority to the security and liquidity of its funds before seeking the best rate of return.  This being the case, the Council placed the majority of funds available for investment purposes with other Local Authorities and the investments attracted a more favourable rate of return than investing with the UK Government.  In addition, he indicated that when managing the Council’s debt, the primary objective was to ensure long term affordability.  In 2017/18 the Council continued to finance a significant proportion of its capital expenditure from internal sources. 

 

Insofar as the Council’s Treasury Management operations entered into for the period were concerned, all Treasury Management activity undertaken during the financial year had complied with the amended approved strategy, the CIPFA Code of Practice and the relevant legislative provisions. 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C365, 16th July, 2018, be approved.

 

Reason for decision

 

To formally approve the Annual Report on Treasury Management 2017/18.

 

 

351            VALE OF GLAMORGAN ANNUAL REPORT (IMPROVEMENT PLAN PART 2) 2017-18) (REF) –

 

The above report was considered by the Cabinet at its meeting held on 17th September, 2018 (Minute No. C412 refers) and was now being referred on to Council for approval.

 

The report is a reference from Cabinet and seeks your endorsement of the Annual Improvement Report (Improvement plan Part 2).

 

The purpose of the report is set out in the Cabinet papers of the 17th September and that report has been considered by all Scrutiny committees.

 

In terms of process, the following Scrutiny Committees considered the issue in advance of the reporting the matter to Cabinet on 17th September:

 

-        Environment and Regeneration;

-        Healthy Living and Social Care;

-        Homes and Safe Communities; and

-        Corporate Performance and Resources.

 

The comments of the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee were reflected in the reference tabled at the meeting.

 

The Leader, whilst not dwelling on the detail of the report, considered it to be worthwhile pointing out the structure and purpose of the report, i.e.: 

  • The report was comprehensive and reviews the previous year's performance by Well-being Outcome and Objective as set out in the Corporate Plan.
  • It also incorporated the Council’s statutory reporting requirements including:

-        outlining overall Council contribution to the national well-being goals;

-        a comparison of our performance using national benchmarking data, where available;

-        progress against our strategic collaborations;

-        what Auditors say about us;

-        how the Council would have used its resources and,

-        how the Council had engaged with its residents.

 

In terms of the highlights, he referred to the following:

 

-        Performance against each of the Well-being Outcomes outlined in the Corporate Plan and an overall performance status for the Corporate Plan was AMBER for 2017/18.  3 out of 4 Corporate Plan Well-being Outcomes were attributed an overall RAG status of Amber reflecting the strong progress made in delivering our Corporate Plan priorities for 2017/18.  The fourth Well-being Outcome (Active and Healthy Vale) achieved a green status.  Corporate Health achieved a green status at end of year.

-        The Council’s performance against the national performance indicator set relative to all Welsh Local Authorities was extremely pleasing.  He recalled, just after forming the new Administration, Councillor Dr. Johnson announcing to this Chamber that he would be looking forward to holding the Administration to account when the 2017/18 data was released.  He indicated the Council had not only remained the top performing Council in Wales for the fourth year running in relation to this dataset, but done so by some considerable distance and made reference to the following: 

  • 10 out of 18 indicators (a staggering 55%) were in the top quartile of performers in Wales.  These were in areas such as preventing homelessness, highway cleanliness standards, responses to fly tipping incidents, participation in leisure activities, pupil attainment at GSCE level, young people who were known not to be in education, employment or training, pupil attendance in primary and secondary schools and speed of determining planning applications.
  • Overall, the Council had performed better than the Welsh average in all but two indicators (88%).  The Council was performing in the lower to bottom quartiles when compared with the rest of Wales, in only two indicators, relating to recycling totals and condition of A roads.  These were matters that were subject to scrutiny at the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee recently.

He suggested that this was staggering, given the fact that the Council had a very challenging funding situation and was constantly transforming the way that services were delivered services at the same time as focusing on these key measures.  For the Council to have not only retained its position, but to actually move to a position of leading the way by some considerable distance was particularly rewarding.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the proposals of the Cabinet, as set out in Cabinet Minute No. C412, 17th September, 2018, be approved and the Vale of Glamorgan Annual Report (Improvement Plan Part 2) 2017/18 be approved.

 

Reason for decision

 

To meet new requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure to publish an annual review of Council performance and ensure that actions taken to continually improve and to note the performance of the Vale of Glamorgan Council relative to other Welsh Local Authorities during 2017/18.

 

 

352            QUESTIONS PURSUANT TO SECTION 4.18 OF THE COUNCIL’S CONSTITUTION –

 

Due notice had been given of the following questions:

 

(i)         Question from Councillor Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson

 

Recent reports suggest that the Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Local Government Pension Fund has investments in excess of £45 million in companies associated with fracking.

 

Will the Leader commit to actively divesting Vale of Glamorgan pension funds from such companies?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

Cardiff Council is solely responsible for administering the Fund and the Vale Council does not have a formal role in setting the investment policies, but the Vale is able to send an observer to Investment Panel meetings.

 

Having said that, I can confirm that environmental campaigners have been engaging with Cardiff Council for several years in relation to the Pension Fund’s investments in companies extracting and processing fossil fuels.  There is currently a commitment for the Pensions Committee to consider divesting Council investments from fossil fuel companies.  To this end, work is ongoing to develop a “Climate Change Investment Policy” to address this commitment and it is proposed to have a draft ready for consideration by the Committee before the end of 2018.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Mrs. Wilkinson enquired of the Leader if he would keep Members of the Council informed of progress in relation to matters and requested details of the voting patterns of the Pensions Committee.

 

The Leader indicated that he was content to keep the Member informed, but with regard to the provision of voting patterns of the Committee, he was unsure of their existence, but if available he would make these available to the Member.

 

 

(ii)        Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson

 

Following a recent Prime Minister’s Question from Plaid Cymru MP, Ben Lake, the UK Government have announced that they will contribute £23.5m to the Welsh Government towards already announced increases in teachers’ pay and conditions. What amount of this money has been allocated to the Vale of Glamorgan Council and what will be the impact of this additional funding upon the Council’s overall budget?

 

Reply from the Leader

 

I can confirm that the Council has been notified that the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document has been published by the Department for Education and has now been laid in Parliament.

 

I am aware of the announcements that have been made by Government indicating that financial support will be available to support the implementation of the pay award however, we are still awaiting further details of what that funding will be.  It is anticipated that Welsh Government will announce something as part of their budget in a few weeks.  I sincerely hope, as, I suspect do all Members in this Chamber, that any funding will be over and above the settlement and not, has been the case in many other instances, simply moving money around to generate headlines – with no real increase in funding.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson, in referring to the Council’s potential allocation, enquired if it were the case that funding was over and above that previously promised would the funding go to schools or would it go into Council reserves.

 

The Leader suggested to Councillor Dr. Johnson that it would be more the case of the Council wondering whether it would have sufficient funding to pay the settlement and not whether the Council would have more than enough, but if there was any funding over and above this would be prioritised in the best way possible.

 

 

(iii)       Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson 

 

Will the Cabinet Member list any errors identified in the Draft Parking Strategy document provided by Capita and used as the basis for public consultation, and the appropriate corrections that should be made?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport

 

The Capita Draft Parking Strategy is currently subject to public consultation with a closing date for comments of 28th September, 2018.  Fortunately for you Councillor Dr. Johnson there are still two days to left for you to make any comments you wish, including pointing out any errors you feel may be evident within the Capita report.  All comments made, including those suggesting any errors in the Report, will then be considered by the relevant Cabinet and Scrutiny Meetings before a final Strategy is produced.

 

Supplemental

 

Seeking confirmation from the Cabinet Member that there was a table missing regarding on-street parking charges for the High Street area around 199 parking places, why he didn’t ensure that these issues were corrected prior to the consultation exercise rather than wasting two months discussing errors in the document for which the Council had paid £48k. 

 

The Cabinet Member indicated that all he could do was assure Councillor Dr. Johnson that any errors and any comments relating to the consultation exercise outcome would be discussed with the Cabinet and also by the Scrutiny Committees in due course.

 

 

(iv)       Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson

 

What assessment has the Cabinet Member made of the performance of Holton Road Shopping Quarter since he took over the role of Regeneration and Planning last year?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning

 

Members will be aware that you are asked similar questions at a number of previous Councils, and I will try not to repeat myself with regard to previous answers. 

 

It is clearly unfortunate that in the last 12 months there have been a number of closures of national retail operators including Sports Direct and Dorothy Perkins in Holton Road.  These closures are largely driven by trends and issues affecting the retailing sector and town centres nationally and against which Barry had done remarkably well against up until the recent closures.

 

Nevertheless the Council is doing all it can to try and help the town centres and its retailers through this difficult period and this includes: 

  • Developing and reporting on the town centre framework;
  • Developing and attending the Holton Road Town Centre Forum with traders, through which there have been a number of items of support developed for traders including improved parking arrangements;
  • Meetings have also been held with the traders regarding the development of a Business Improvement District for Barry and the Council have approached Welsh Government to secure funding to take this process forward;
  • The Council is working with Barry Town Council to hold a Town Centre Summit in the autumn with traders and property owners with the aim of listening and helping to promote ideas for support the Town Centre;
  • The Council has been successful in conjunction within Barry Town Council and the Memo Arts Centre in its bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery to support the development of the Sense of Place work for Barry of which a key part will be the town centre and we hope to appoint a place manager for Barry in the next month and take this work forward.

Finally, I think all Members would agree that it is important that keeping the vibrancy and vitality in our town centres is important and taking a positive and flexible approach to the uses which can operate outside of the centre, will also help in ensuring that empty premises are kept to a minimum.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson, in concurring with the Cabinet Member that it was indeed déjà vu because the policy was not working, alluded to his earlier walk through the town centre past a parade of 12 shops of which nine were closed and asked the Cabinet Member if he would commit to not supporting actions that would have a negative impact on Holton Road, such as the car parking proposals that his Cabinet had put forward.

 

The Cabinet Member reminded Councillor Dr. Johnson that the car parking consultation was currently taking place and he had personally urged all traders to submit their comments.  He held some belief that the right car parking strategy would benefit traders and would not be a hindrance and separately, would always support traders in any way he could, taking account of limited funds and grant schemes that came from Welsh Government he would do all he possibly could to encourage trade and keep Barry as vibrant as possible. 

 

 

(v)        Question from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson

 

What assessment has the Council made of the impact of Brexit upon the Vale of Glamorgan?

 

Reply from the Leader

 

I can confirm that the Council has included the risks associated with Brexit and its possible fallout within its quarterly updated risk register and has been working regionally the Welsh Local Government Association and liaising with colleagues from Welsh and UK government throughout the Brexit process to ensure that harm to the economy and future of the Vale of Glamorgan is minimised.  This includes working with the WLGA and other Councils to lobby Welsh and UK Government to ensure that replacement funding for schemes such as the Rural Community Development Fund (RCDF) and other Assisted Areas funding is secured from the proposed Shared Prosperity Fund.

 

Locally, we will continue to offer support and, where appropriate, advice to businesses farmers and traders (or where necessary direct them to the relevant external advice) on the possible effects and opportunities of Brexit and try to help business navigate and survive the undoubted challenges the process of leaving the EU will bring.

 

Supplemental

 

In referring to Brexit happening before the beginning of the next financial year and acknowledging how short the timescales were, Councillor Dr. Johnson asked the Leader if he would bring a report to Cabinet, alluding to a similar report previously considered by Pembrokeshire Council, which examined in detail the potential impact of Brexit upon the area so that residents could see and make their own preparations for what would happen after 31st March, 2019.

 

The Leader indicated that he would certainly look into it.

 

 

(vi)       Question from Councillor N.P. Hodges

 

Can the Cabinet Member tell me why paintings by the renowned artist Margaret Lindsay Williams were left in the basement of Dyffryn House after the handover to the National Trust?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture

 

The transfer of Dyffryn House to the National Trust was subject to a number of legal agreements including a lease for a 50 year term.  Included in that transfer was a wide range of fixed and movable assets linked to the property which are in the care of the National Trust subject to those agreements for the term of the lease.

 

Supplemental

 

Indicating that he was stunned by the Cabinet Member’s response, Councillor Hodges asked if the Cabinet Member would commit the Council to undertaking an inventory of historical artefacts and other cultural items held by the Trust and submit a report to the Cabinet on the matter. 

 

The Cabinet Member, referring to his shared interest with Councillor Hodges in paintings and paintings of the artist in question, gave an assurance that he would look into the matter with the relevant officers to ensure all paintings etc. were covered in the Agreement.

 

 

(vii)      Question from Councillor N.P. Hodges

 

What is this Council's position on the release in the Severn Channel, only a few miles from our coastline, of mud taken from the immediate vicinity of Hinkley Point nuclear power station?

 

Reply from the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Regulatory and Legal Services

 

A surprising question.  You should be aware of the Authority’s position.  We have expressed considerable concerns.  The matter has been the subject of debate at both Scrutiny and Cabinet over recent months.  You will also be aware that this Authority’s concerns have been expressed to Welsh Government at Cabinet Secretary level, official level and at Natural Resources Wales Level.  It is our interest and concern that actually led to this issue being raised regionally and nationally.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Hodges, in referring to the potential continuance of the scheme, enquired of the Cabinet Member as to what monitoring would be undertaken to ensure the safety of residents and businesses.

 

The Cabinet Member, in considering the question to be another instance of déjà vu, reminded Members that the Regulating Authority for this process was Natural Resources Wales (NRW).  They had provided the latest detailed information on the topic on their website and he respectfully requested Members to read it.  He recognised the public concern on the issue and the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee considered the grant of the licence in November 2017.  Officers in the Council had also been in contact with NRW and had met representatives from the organisation to discuss the process and the basis for which the Marine Licence was granted.  NRW were advised by experts from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and also consulted Public Health Wales and Public Health England.  Separately, the Council was also advised that all relevant checks had been undertaken, the material was safe for disposal with no risk to persons or the environment.  Clearly, like many if not all Members in the Chamber, he would rather the disposal point be further away from the County’s coastline, but the Council had no powers to determine this and had to trust the views of the Regulating Authority and their associated experts. 

 

 

(viii)     Question from Councillor Ms. R.M. Birch

 

Can the Administration claim complete confidence in the tests and assessments carried out by NRW on the content of the material presently being dumped off the Vale’s coastline?

 

Reply from the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Regulatory and Legal Services

 

The Council recognises the public concern on this issue and as indicated in my reply to the previous question, the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee considered the grant of the Licence in November 2017.  Officers from the Council have also been in contact with NRW and have met representatives from the company to discuss the process and the basis on which the Marine Licence was granted.

 

NRW was advised by experts from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and also consulted Public Health Wales and Public Health England.  The Council are advised that all relevant checks have been undertaken and the material is safe for disposal with no risk to persons or the environment.  

 

Clearly, like many if not all Members in this chamber, I would rather if a disposal point further away from our coastline had been selected but the Council has no powers to determine this and has to trust the views of the regulating authority and their associated experts.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Ms. Birch alluded to the risk of the Cabinet Member repeating himself, and enquired if the Council would be carrying out monitoring of the water quality in the relevant area.

 

Having no plans to authorise monitoring by the Council of those things, the Cabinet Member indicated that he was assured that the Severn had been tested independently and the results scrutinised by nuclear and public health experts, all working to international standards as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency.   Results showed that the Severn contained only a very small amount of radioactivity, most of which was naturally occurring and well within acceptable limits for disposal at sea.  He reiterated his earlier comments made to the previous Council question that he would rather the material be disposed of in another location, primarily due to the public’s concern that genuinely existed on the issue. 

 

 

(ix)       Question from Councillor Mrs. S.D. Perkes

 

What contingency plans has the Council made in preparation for the imminent introduction of Universal Credit?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

I am confident that the necessary plans are in place to support the implementation of Universal Credit in the Vale both within the Authority and also to provide the necessary support for individuals in the Vale of Glamorgan who will experience these changes.

 

I would refer you to a report that was considered by Corporate Performance and Resources Scrutiny Committee on 20th September, 2018.  The report outlines the impact of welfare reform to date in the Vale and outlines the work that has been ongoing to ensure that appropriate levels of support are in place to support our citizens when the full roll out commences next month.

 

Supplemental

 

Councillor Mrs. Perkes, in referring to existing procedures, sought an assurance from the Leader that no action would be taken against residents affected by the roll out of Universal Credit.

 

The Leader reminded Councillor Mrs. Perkes that the Council, as it had done over previous years, would do everything that was possible to assist those in difficulty as a result of its introduction.

 

 

(x)        Question from Councillor Mrs. S.D. Perkes

 

What is the expected outlay for implementing Parking Charges across the Vale of Glamorgan and what income will the charges generate?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport

 

The Resources Section of the Cabinet Report on Capita’s Draft Parking Strategy presented to Cabinet on 2nd July, 2018 advised the total estimated potential maximum revenue, estimated capital and revenue costs.  Para 45 of the report gives all the information you have requested.  I am a bit surprised at the question.

 

However, and to be as helpful as possible, the annual maximum revenue from charges is estimated at £1.5m though the annual revenue costs of £238k would have to be deducted from this.  The Capital outlay will depend on future decisions as to whether car parking charges are introduced, and if so, in what areas and locations.

 

As I have previously advised the Capita Draft Parking Strategy is currently subject to public consultation with a closing date for comments of 28th September 2018.  As no decision has been taken by Cabinet on what the final Draft Parking Strategy will include and therefore what it will cost to implement and what revenue would be generated. 

 

Supplemental

 

Referring to the draft Strategy, Councillor Mrs. Perkes asked the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport if its introduction was worth it in the context of the potential impact on local residents. 

 

The Cabinet Member, taking account that the draft Strategy was still subject to consultation with the Council’s Scrutiny Committees prior to final consideration by the Cabinet, was unable to comment as he was keeping an open mind on the draft report and consequently could not confirm if the proposal would be implemented.

 

 

(xi)       Question from Councillor Mrs. S.D. Perkes

 

How will the proposed parking charges boost footfall in town centres in the Vale? 

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport

 

The relationship between car parking and footfall is complex.  However, it is clear that it is not appropriate for car parking spaces close to retail areas to be occupied all day by the same cars as this does not allow a turnover of car parking spaces for customers to town centre shops.  Allowing a free car parking period in car parks, (i.e. making the first one or two hours free then applying charges after that ), can encourage a greater turnover of parking spaces in car parks and on street, thereby making it easier for those that wish to visit the town centre to find convenient and safe parking.  This in turn can boost the local town centre economy and footfall. 

 

Supplemental

 

In contrast to the Council’s move towards introducing the Living Wage for its employees, Councillor Mrs. Perkes suggested that it was difficult to justify the impact on many local people currently employed on minimum wages in town centres of the Vale. 

 

Alluding to the related studies which had been produced on town centre car parking, the Cabinet Member referred to the independent evidence that supported that such arrangements had a good effect on the local economy.  One of the main themes emerging from such studies was that it was not about having as many car parking spaces as possible, but ensuring spaces remained available to those who needed them the most and better management of car parking could enhance public spaces making town centres more attractive to visitors and improving the economy and economic viability.  He was sure that Councillor Mrs. Perkes, like himself, had travelled round in circles trying to find car parking spaces with none available.  The draft report clearly stated that there would be time periods where no charges would be made and therefore time for Vale residents to shop without being charged.

 

 

353            PUBLIC QUESTIONS –

 

The following questions were submitted and replied to as shown, in accordance with the protocol agreed by Council on 5th May, 2010:

 

(i)         Question from Mr. D. Weston

 

Can you please advise who, in the full Council meeting, is responsible to ensure that when a question is asked, that question is appropriately answered?  Even if the person who asks a question and may not agree with an answer, does the person asking the question have a right to demand that the question is answered fairly and in terminology that is appropriate to the person asking the question and wider attendees?  What action should be taken by a person who asks a question, and subsequently feels that the question has not been answered, but waffled over, and to whom and how should that person raise the issue?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

Thank you for the question.  Without having the specific details it is difficult to comment in full, but I will do my best.

 

Questions should be directed to the relevant Cabinet Member and it is the responsibility of that Cabinet Member to answer the question raised.   I know I speak for all my colleagues that when in receipt of questions, they will always endeavour to answer as fully as possible.  If however, you remain concerned or are dissatisfied with any answer provided, then you are able to raise the matter directly with the Cabinet Member in question, or with myself as Leader.  As Members we regularly receive correspondence from constituents and we always seek to respond to all correspondence in as full a manner as possible.  Alternatively, if you feel aggrieved you also have the option of contacting the Council’s Monitoring Officer.

 

 

(ii)        Question from Mr. J. Brown

 

It has been almost a year since bids closed on the southern development site in Barry which is advocated primarily for commercial / leisure uses.  Can the Member give us an update on progress?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning

 

The Council has marketed the IQ Southern Development Site as a mixed use development opportunity and during February 2018 selected a preferred bidder.   The Council is presently engaged in ongoing discussions with the preferred bidder.  Due to the commercial confidentiality of these discussions it is not possible to provide any further information at this stage.

 

 

(iii)       Question from Mr. J. Brown

 

Does the Council plan to market the Nell’s Point land again for tourism / leisure uses after previous positive interest from companies such as Warners?


Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning

 

The Council does intend to re-market the Nell’s Point site in the coming months and hopes to attract suitable leisure and hotel operators back to the Island to build on the considerable improvement already undertaken by the Council to the Island.

 

 

(iv)       Question from Mr. D. Weston

 

Would the Council considering following the example set by neighbouring and other Local Authorities and allow motorcycles to use bus lanes and sign post them accordingly?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport

 

The Council's Traffic and Highway Design team has considered the situation regarding motorcycle access to bus lanes within the Vale and particularly those along Port Road in some detail.  The issues to be considered are specifically related to the design characteristics of the bus lane in question, which will dictate whether it is suitable and safe to accommodate all motorcycle users safely.

 

Due to the highway constraints along Port Road, particularly the width of carriageway available, the design characteristics associated with the bus lane along this route are distinctly different to bus lanes in other Local Authority areas as well as the speed limit being significantly higher than bus lanes in Cardiff City centre which are limited to 30mph.  As a consequence, the Council’s experienced and professional Highway and Traffic Engineers have several safety concerns regarding their use by motorcyclists, which they are currently working through to establish a definitive position.

 

Discussions have taken place between Council traffic officers and the Motor Cycle Action Group (MAGG) on this matter and they have acknowledged the Council officers’ current concerns. 

 

We aim to conclude our studies in this area and provide a position on the request for the use of the lane by motorcyclists by the end of the calendar year.

 

 

(v)        Question from Mr. A. Farquharson

 

Since 2004, the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s ‘Creative Rural Communities’ scheme has been seeking to support and assist rural communities with regeneration, projects, and ideas that will create long term social and economic benefits for the Vale of Glamorgan.  Indeed, the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning is quoted on the Welsh Government website (article dated 31st May 2018) as saying: "We are delighted to see new initiatives being developed in the rural Vale to help bring people together giving them opportunities to meet new people, play a stronger role in their community and address social isolation”.  However on 7th June 2018 a Vale of Glamorgan Officer submitted a response to the Welsh Government’s consultation on the School Organisational Code stating the following: “In terms of the inclusion of a school within the Vale of Glamorgan area, namely Llancarfan Primary School, the Authority would not consider the school as strictly rural in nature.  The school is not remote compared to other Authority schools in Wales”.  Furthermore: “The size of a school should also be a factor in classifying whether a school is rural or not.  Rural schools are likely to be small in nature.” Llancarfan Primary School is currently the only School that the Vale of Glamorgan has listed as ‘rural’ by the Welsh Government.  Please could the Council Member for Regeneration and Planning explain how the above comments to the Welsh Government support the Council’s idea to ‘address social isolation’ and support rural communities?  Please could you also explain the Council's definition of a 'rural community'?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning

 

Creative Rural Communities is a European and Welsh Government grant led initiative under the Rural Development Plan for Wales. Its geographic coverage reflects criteria set for that particular programme, and it has indeed been highly successful in facilitating community led regeneration. There is of course no single definition of rurality, and rurality must be considered within the context of a given area and the services in question.

 

The Rural Development Plan criteria set in Brussels bear no direct relevance to the categorisation of local schools and Creative Rural Communities is unable to deliver regeneration through supporting statutory services. Local context and the subjective interpretation of what it means to be rural is part of the rationale for Welsh Government’s consultation on the classification of schools as rural or not. Any universal definition across sectors is not applicable. If it had been applicable, the question of whether a school is rural or not would be a forgone conclusion and would have negated the need for Welsh Government to develop a list of designated rural schools.

 

 

(vi)       Question from Mrs. C. Ockerby

 

With the Council looking to maximise revenue through parking charges across the Vale, it is ludicrous that in Barry you have chosen not to charge your own workers. Why would you choose to lose out on potentially £182,000 of valuable revenue across a year through not charging your own workers at the Civic Offices when you are happy to charge other workers in the Vale to park?  Please explain your double standards of charging your school teachers, library staff and other workers in the town, some of whom are voluntary, but not your own workers at the Civic Offices, Alps or Docks Offices?  Calculations available if needed!

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

The first point I will make is that the Council has not yet taken a decision to introduce any new car park charging arrangements.  The Capita Draft Car Parking Strategy report is currently subject to comprehensive public consultation and any decisions ultimately taken on parking arrangements will be based on the available evidence with consideration given to the views expressed in the consultation process.  The Capita report recommends charging at town centre car parks which are frequented by shoppers and other car parks, such as those in coastal areas and historic towns and villages, which are visitor attractors. None of the main Council offices fall into these categories.  Even the Civic Offices which are open for free shopper parking at weekends and evenings is largely empty during these times. In the Capita report this car park is suggested as being a long stay car park with charging at certain times and our officers will have to consider the viability of this in view of any charging infrastructure costs and its limited current use at weekends.

 

 

(vii)      Question from Mr. S. Parry

 

Do the Council believe that they are fortunate to have a designated rural school in the Vale of Glamorgan, and do they support the Welsh Government rural schools policy?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

The Council is proud of its rural communities and offers a number of mechanisms for support such as the Creative Rural Communities Support Grant, which organisations in Llancarfan have benefitted from.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council supports the principle of supporting rural schools, however disagrees with the application of the definition under Welsh Government’s current proposal regarding rural schools.  Specifically the Council has asserted that Llancarfan Village is no different to other areas within the Vale which have not been included.  A better definition of a rural school in regard to the presumption against closure would be the distance required to be travelled to the next available school.  The Council has other schools in the Vale of Glamorgan area which are considered from an educational perspective to be similar to Llancarfan which Welsh Government has not designated as rural schools, for example Llansannor and Llangan.

 

The ethos of Welsh Government’s approach to the presumption against the closure of rural schools does not mean that a rural school will never close, but  the case for closure must be strong and all viable options to closure must have been conscientiously considered by the proposer, including federation.  With regard to the proposal on reconfiguring primary school provision in the Western Vale and having regard to the School Organisation Code the proposal is not considered a school closure.

 

 

(viii)     Question from Mrs. P. Fell

 

Do the Council believe a school still qualifies as rural if it is sited in a semi-urban area?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

The legal definition of a ‘rural school is determined by Welsh Government, not by the Council.  Welsh Government has advised that it uses the National Statistics Urban-Rural Classification as the basis for the designation and the Council will adhere to the requirements of the proposed second edition of the School Organisation Code in regard to this matter.

 

 

(ix)       Question from Mr. M. Valencia

 

The Welsh Government is committed to protecting rural schools because of the evidence of their value which has emerged from other countries such as Finland.  Is the Council now willing to take up an offer from the local community to work alongside it to develop the Vale’s only rural school in a way that could gain national recognition?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

The proposed second edition of the School Organisation Code (2013) makes special provisions in regard to rural schools aimed at establishing a procedural presumption against their closure.  This will require proposers to follow a more detailed set of procedures and requirements in formulating any proposal relating to a rural school closure.

 

The Council’s proposal in regard to the reconfiguration of primary school provision in the Western Vale is a ‘regulated alteration’ under section 2.2 of the School Organisation Code (2013).  The alternatives considered were outlined in the consultation proposal and following this in the Consultation Report and the appendices, which were considered by Cabinet on 17th September, 2018.

 

In respect to school organisation the Council is under a statutory duty to ensure amongst other things, that the right schools are in the right places, for the right number of pupils, in the Council’s area, to provide all pupils with the opportunity for appropriate education.

 

The proposal to reconfigure primary school provision in the Western Vale would enable the Council to meet its statutory requirements in regard to the provision of school places as well as sustaining Llancarfan School into the future by providing a brand new building which is fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

 

At a national level, there is much that can be learned from the educational approaches used by other Countries.  However, there is a need to contextualise that learning and adapt it to fit the national culture and structure.  The Welsh Government drew on research into a range of education systems during the development of the National Mission for Education in Wales 2017 – 20.  The Council ensures all schools in the Vale of Glamorgan are supported to work towards the goals set out in that Mission.  One of the key actions which supports this national plan is the continuation of upgrading the quality of school buildings through the 21st Century Schools and Education Programme.

 

We facilitate and support schools to share best practice and collaborate to improve learner outcomes.  You might be aware that there are a number of schools in the Vale of Glamorgan that have received national recognition for their excellent practice. 

 

Community engagement and involvement in schools is an important element of education.  Schools across the Vale are already seeing positive benefits as a result of engaging their communities in school life.  Naturally, we would encourage the community to support and engage with Llancarfan Primary School in the future.

 

 

(x)        Question from Dr. R. Farquharson

 

The proposal sells the idea of nursery provision as a benefit over Llancarfan Primary School in its current location, however the Consultation Report states that ‘transport would not be provided to a nursery and for breakfast and after school requirements’. As a young professional who works in Cardiff, where my commute often takes an hour in rush hour traffic, travelling 5 miles in each direction to access the wrap around care or nursery provision (as outlined in these proposals) is not workable for myself and many other families in the rural Vale.  Can you please reassure working families in the rural Vale that they will not be forced to sell their properties or leave their jobs in order for their children to access the educational provision outlined by this proposal?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture

 

Nursery provision develops and supports consistency across the Foundation Phase and is a known contributor towards pupils’ levels of attainment, as highlighted in the Donaldson Report.

 

All children in Wales are entitled to a minimum of 10 hours of free, part-time Foundation Phase education in a school, or funded private nursery, in the term following their third birthday although parents are not required to access this entitlement.

 

The Council has a statutory duty to ensure the right schools, including nursery units are in the right locations and provide sufficient places for the area it serves.  The proposal to reconfigure primary school provision in the Western Vale highlights that the majority of pupils who attend Llancarfan Primary School do not live within the catchment area.

 

In developing proposals parents are not being forced to move house or leave their jobs.  Parents have the opportunity to express a preference for any school even across county borders, should parents decide that it is in their or their children’s best interest to do so.

 

As it currently stands, there is no local nursery provision in Llancarfan.  The nearest is 3.4 miles at St. Athan, followed by 3.6m in Rhoose and 4.7 miles in Llanfair.

 

It is not possible for the Council to develop proposals on school organisation based on the personal circumstances of parents such as work location.  Free school transport is available for primary aged pupils from the September after they turn 4 who reside two or more miles away from their school.  Details of this have been included within the consultation documentation and subsequent consultation report.

 

 

(xi)       Question from Mrs. B. Loveluck-Edwards

 

Please could the Council explain why the current proposal to close the Llancarfan School site is deemed suitable and necessary when the previous Administration’s proposal to close the School did not progress?  Would the Council be prepared to share this previous proposal to understand the thinking behind this proposal?

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

No statutory proposals with regard to Llancarfan Primary School were developed or consulted on prior to the consultation in respect of this proposal which commenced in March 2018.  School organisation and access requires an agile approach in managing school place planning, and is of course affected  by a number of variables across an ever changing landscape, not least of which includes  new housing developments and increased demand for school places In certain areas.

 

Councils are required by Welsh Government to constantly review and rationalise school places and to support schools through investment initiatives such as the 21st Century Schools Programme to ensure learning environments are fit for purpose and support teaching reflective of the aims of an evolving national curriculum.

 

 

(xii)      Question from Mrs. J. Bettley

 

If the proposal to "transfer" Llancarfan Primary School to a new site on the edge of a Rhoose housing estate proceeds does the Council anticipate it will have one or nil schools classified as rural at the next assessment and if nil, how does it expect to manage the severe political and legal fall out it will face having extinguished a rural school?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture

The designation of rural schools for the purposes of the presumption against closure is intended to ensure that proposers follow a more detailed set of procedures and requirements in formulating a rural school closure proposal and in consulting on and reaching a decision as to whether to implement a rural school closure proposal.  This does not mean that rural schools will never close, but the case for closure must be strong and not taken until all viable alternatives have been considered.  It is the Welsh Government’s responsibility to maintain its list of designated rural schools and not a matter for the Council.

 

As previously stated, the proposal in part is to move the staff and pupils to a new site and is a regulated alteration under section 2.2 of the School Organisation Code (2013).  It is not a school closure.

 

The Council’s primary statutory duty  in relation to primary school education is to ensure that there is adequate provision, support and opportunity to succeed for all pupils, staff and schools we provide services to, and we should be judged on our ability to deliver that, which I believe this proposal will contribute to.

 

 

(xiii)     Question from Mr. M. Lock

 

As already pointed out to both Scrutiny meetings the calculations for the civic offices forecast is completely inaccurate.  It states there are 140 spaces at the Civic Offices with 14 in use at the time of the survey and this is presented as 35% and calculations are then based on this figure.  I checked with a ten year old and 14 spaces out of 140 is 10% not 35%.  Even with the stated annual forecast of £875 with a cost of £7,500 p.a., why on earth are we consulting on charges for a car park that will not turn a profit?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport

 

I would apologise to Mr Lock for the rather obvious error in the Consultant’s report.  Also the occupancy rate for this car park at the time of the survey was indeed low.  Whilst its use could increase with additional parking controls in the town and primarily controls that our officers have planned for the leisure centre car park, it may not ultimately be viable to introduce charging at this location.  This will be assessed and determined prior to the Final Parking Strategy document being produced.

 

 

(xiv)     Question from Mr. M. Lock

 

Since the Cabinet decided to ignore recommendations from two Scrutiny meetings about the parking strategy, how can you assure the public that their views and survey responses will be properly respected and considered and that this proposal is not already predetermined and just going through the legal motions?  Will the results of the survey be properly published?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport

 

There is a world of difference between determining that a draft Parking Strategy document should be released into the public domain in full for comment, rather than not and properly considering the views of the public, the worth of which being the main reason for Cabinet’s decision.

 

I can assure you that the consultation document will be published and properly considered as part of our final decision making process.

 

 

(xv)      Question from Mr. M. Lock

 

A recent press article states that Bristol issues about 1000 FPN per month and most of these are for cigarette butts being dropped.  During our recent beach clean ups, the number of discarded cigarette ends was staggering.  Why are the Vale failing to learn from this example?  At £50 a ticket, with just 10 tickets a day would raise £500, resulting in £167,000 p.a.

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

Thank you for the question Mr Lock, I am aware of the issue as you will be aware that I joined you for one of your beach clean sessions earlier in the season but looking particularly at the example of Bristol this is not a new initiative.

 

The Vale of Glamorgan has worked with a private environmental enforcement partner for the past 5 years.  The Bristol scheme is a pilot, based on a share of any profits when all costs, borne by the private enforcement company have been taken out.  The best performance of such arrangements are generally cost neutral and there is always a preference by the private companies towards issuing fixed penalty notices to smokers.  Whilst all littering is abhorrent, members of the public generally are more concerned about dog fouling or litter such as fast food containers.  Hence our arrangements with our private enforcement partners 3GS are designed to mirror this and not just to penalise, what is often perceived, as an easy target, smokers.

 

To date, 3GS has issued 1,280 fixed penalty notices on behalf of the Council, 25.3% of these have been for smoking related litter, whereas 40% have been for general litter.  The remainder are for other general waste and dog control offences. 

 

I would also point out that in terms of enforcement on the beach at Barry Island this would be very difficult due to the sheer number of visitors at peak times.  The sight of enforcement officers walking between groups of bathers and families on the beach would not be positive and we would rather use other methods to reinforce the appropriate management of litter such as regular tannoy announcements and public information boards.

 

 

(xvi)     Question from Mr. M. Lock

 

It has been mentioned that new webcasting equipment is being purchased to improve the live streaming of Council meetings.  With this investment can you confirm that more Council meetings will be live-streamed such as the five Scrutiny Committees and Cabinet meetings?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

The investment in new webcasting equipment will enable us to live stream more Committee meetings, including meetings of Scrutiny and Cabinet.  This is something that I am keen to plan for, so that we can make progress once the new equipment is installed which is estimated to be by the end of October.  I will of course need to discuss arrangements with all Councillors in the hope of getting agreement to widen the webcasting service in this way.

 

 

(xvii)    Question from Mr. M. Lock

 

Does the Council admit that at a time when it is looking to save £17 million over 3 years that having to spend £1.7 million on new changing facilities at Barry and Penarth Leisure centres is highlighting a complete failure of any maintenance program for these facilities?

 

Reply from the Cabinet Member for Social Care, Health and Leisure

 

No, I do not.  I see it as an example of this Council in investing in the future and investing in the health and well-being of residents of the Vale of Glamorgan.  I believe this is an excellent example of a Council achieving the best value from its facilities over time but also investing in future generations to ensure that our Leisure provision meet the expectations of our customers for a long time to come.

 

 

(xviii)   Question from Mr. M. Lock

 

Why are Council Members given follow up questions but members of the public are not given the same courtesy?  How is this not discrimination?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

Thank you Mr. Lock for your question.

 

I would refer you to the Council Constitution which is available to the public on the Council’s website.

 

The Council makes provision for public questions and has a procedure, which in my opinion is one of the most open in Wales when compared to some other Councils, for example, some Councils have a cap on the number of questions any one individual can submit.  We have also demonstrated that as a Council we can be flexible with our procedure, as demonstrated at the previous Council meeting when my Council colleagues agreed to waive the 30 minute period for public questions in order that all public questions could be answered.

 

Council Procedure Rule 14.8.7 (page 22 of the Council’s Constitution for your reference) does provide for Members to ask a supplementary question.  However, this is conditional.  The supplemental question must arise out of the original question or reply.  It is important to note that the Mayor is the final arbiter on the validity of such a question.

 

I do not see this as an issue of discrimination, but an issue of Elected Members having the mandate of the electorate.

 

If you do have a further question (I note that you have submitted several for this meeting) I would invite you to e-mail me personally (my contact details are available on the Council website) with the view to developing dialogue on matters of mutual concern and interest.

 

 

(xix)     Question from Mr. M. Lock

 

Could you please tell me how many times the draft parking consultation drop ins have been mentioned on your Facebook page up until Sept 11 (time of writing this question) and why is a popular and free marketing platform not being used more effectively?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

We have published one post on Facebook regarding the Draft Parking Strategy Consultation, which reached 13,862 people.  We have also promoted it on Twitter, in the local newspapers (adverts in 3 editions of the Gem, as well as articles in all of the local papers and on Wales online).  Posters advertising the drop-in sessions have been in all main Council buildings, sent to Town and Community Councils and Libraries.

 

For most consultation projects we share 2 Facebook posts, one at the beginning of the consultation and one towards the end.  This is due to the nature of Facebook and the impact the posts have, if we over promote something people tend not to take any notice of it.  We’ve found fewer posts make a bigger impression.

 

I’m happy to schedule in more tweets if you wish?

 

 

(xx)      Question from Mr. D. Clarke

 

And there is no way I will be saying this as it is Question time is perceived as a mere sop to the public; something that fails to achieve anything due to the apparent intention to ensure answers are of a political, non-committal nature.  The public believes that the lack of a follow up question or comment is because the Council knows that every follow up question or comment will be the same and something along the lines of ‘please answer the question’.  Is it beyond the wit of Council to devise something better so that members of the public who try to take part in our democratic process do not then go away wondering why they bothered.  It is more important to involve the public in the process than to make sure life is easier for councillors and officers by reducing the involvement of the electorate.  On the assumption the Council is able to come up with a more satisfactory system the question is ‘will you do so and will you do it soon’?.

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

Thank you for the question Mr. Clarke.  I am surprised to receive the question.  I have met and been in communication with you on a regular and frequent basis since forming the new administration in May of last year.  We have always had, what I thought was a constructive dialogue on matters of mutual concern and interest.  As a result, I am surprised that the opportunity has not been taken to raise this issue with me personally during our ongoing dialogue. 

 

On this occasion, I must say that I do not share the concerns expressed.  I personally have always attempted to answer the questions asked of me and I know my Cabinet colleagues do the same.  That said, and in terms of the specific question, right at the end of what is otherwise a statement, I am more than happy to consider how we can improve on the current system as this is a Council that takes every opportunity to improve, wherever possible.

 

 

(xxi)     Question from Mr. K. Stockdale

 

Council will be aware of the growing concern in our town of the need for a more healthy environment.  Residents understand how it is possible for Council decisions to have a serious impact on, for example, the quality of the air we breathe.  This is a global concern as people and governments come to understand the decisions that have been made in the past and how those decisions impact greatly on the health of those living in the vicinity and reduces significantly their expectation of a healthy lifespan.  The Council has an important duty to do what it can to promote good health for present residents and future generations.  Council delegates a number of decision-making chores to officers who are meant to know better than Councillors. When matters are delegated to officers it seems that the oversight is greatly reduced as decisions of officers can be nodded through with minimum information being made available to Councillors.  The information might be wrong, it might be deficient, it might even be correct on occasions.  The point is that where decisions have a potential for significant impact on our air quality the level of oversight the public expects is that much higher so that delegation is inappropriate in those cases.  We believe we have seen a manipulation of the information made available to the public recently so that it is difficult for the public to comment on an application that worries many.  Relying on Councillors to call in such matters is too random.  Will this Council as a matter of urgency revisit its process of delegation to officers to ensure that all applications with a potential to be of significant health concern are never dealt with under delegated powers and that steps are taken to ensure the portal is properly populated with documents to allow the public to make informed comments?

 

Reply from the Executive Leader and Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources

 

It assumed that the above question relates to planning applications, although as it does not expressly state this, it is difficult to second guess what the actual issue relates to particularly as issues around air quality and pollution are not the sole responsibility of the Council.  Nevertheless on the assumption that it is related to the planning process it is important to note that each year the Council considers approximately 1,300 planning applications ranging from simple household extensions to major housing and industrial developments.  Around 4-5% of mainly the largest and most important applications in the Vale of Glamorgan are dealt with by Planning Committee with the remainder by designated Chief Officers under the approved scheme of delegation.

 

The scheme of delegations allows those applications that are likely to be minor in nature or impact to be dealt with by officers, acting impartially, taking account of the adopted Local Development Plan and any other material considerations.   This process is required by Welsh Government, who advocates Planning Committee delegating most planning decisions to ensure timely decisions and freeing up committee members to concentrate on major development, policy issues or controversial cases.

 

Those matters that are reported to Planning Committee include those major developments that are of importance to the wider general public or those matters that require more public scrutiny because of the specifics of the application.

 

Irrespective of whether planning applications are determined under delegated powers or by Planning Committee, all relevant information is made available to all Councillors and the public through the Council’s online planning register so that interested persons have every opportunity to engage with the Council as Local Planning Authority.  Whilst comments from third parties are not automatically available, because they do not form part of the planning application, they can be viewed on request.

 

The Council’s scheme of delegation has been operating successfully for many years (in accordance with clear advice from Welsh Government) and has been adapted over time in response to changes in the regulatory framework and is considered to be appropriate and fit for purpose.  Therefore the Council does not intend to revisit its process of delegation to officers.  However, any Member of the public interested in a particular planning application is invited to liaise with the planning department about their concerns and contact their local Councillor to share their concerns or request their representative to call in an application to Planning Committee at their discretion.