SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT)
Minutes of a meeting held on 11th February, 2014.
Present: Councillor Mrs. A.J. Moore (Chairman); Councillor E. Hacker (Vice-Chairman); Councillors P.J. Clarke, G.A. Cox, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Mrs. P. Drake, P. King , A.G. Powell and C.J. Williams.
Prior to the matter of apologies, the Chairman informed the Committee that Councillor Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, for personal reasons, under the Managing Director’s emergency powers had been replaced on the Committee by Councillor H.J.W. James.
819 APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE –
This was received from Councillor H.J.W. James.
820 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 14th January, 2014 be approved as a correct record.
821 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
No declarations were received.
822 REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL 2013 TO 31ST DECEMBER 2013 (DDS AND DVSH) –
Committee received a report which advised of the position in respect of the revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April to 31st December 2013. It was projected that the service would outturn within target at the end of the financial year.
Appendix 1 to the report set out a graph and table which showed variance between the profiled budget and actual expenditure.
Members were advised of the following budget variances.
Highways Maintenance and Engineering Design and Procurement – there was currently a £116,000 adverse variance to the profiled budget. This was reported as mainly due to the reduction in the income being achieved by the Engineering section as a result of the reduction in the number of capital schemes requiring engineering advice / design. It was anticipated that schemes would become available later on in the financial year which should increase the level of income.
Waste Management – there was currently a £110,000 favourable variance to the profiled budget. The saving was mainly linked to vacant posts within the service and a reduction in the amount of waste being sent to landfill.
Grounds Maintenance – the budget for this service area currently showed a £30,000 favourable variance to the profiled budget. The main reason for the underspend being a reduction in the levels of overtime.
Support – there was currently a nil variance to the profiled variance.
Economic Development – the budget for this service currently showed a favourable variance of £5,000. It was currently projected that this budget would outturn within target.
Leisure – there was currently a £16,000 favourable variance to the profiled budget.
Planning and Transportation – this service area currently showed a favourable variance of £5,000 to the profiled budget. Although there had been higher than anticipated income to date, there was anticipated expenditure within the service area that was expected to result in a balanced budget at the year end.
Moving on to capital expenditure the Committee was informed that Appendix 2 to the report provided a full list of capital schemes to date. Members were also advised that the Vehicle Renewal Fund had requested that £279,000 be carried forward for the purchase of three new vehicles for Cleansing Services, to be purchased in 2014/15.
With regard to the Railway Walk Cycle Scheme, a further £41,600 had been awarded towards the cost.
In relation to the Llantwit Major Crossings capital project it was noted that an additional £5,000 had been requested for S106 funded works.
Appendix 3 to the report provided financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100,000 along with other non-financial information such as start dates, proposed completion dates and scheme constraints.
In answer to a query regarding the traffic calming measures for Llantwit Major the Committee were advised that sleeping policemen were to be erected.
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2013/14 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.
Reason for recommendation
In view of the contents of the report.
823 REQUEST FOR CONSIDERATION - WELSH GOVERNMENT’S REGENERATION FRAMEWORK 'VIBRANT AND VIABLE PLACES' – OUTCOME OF STAGE 1 ASSESSMENT PROCESS AND WAY FORWARD (COUNCILLOR DR. I.J. JOHNSON) –
A Request for Consideration of Matter had been received from Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson as detailed below:
'Full council on 25th September 2013 expressed concern about the Welsh Government’ rejection of the Council’s bid for funding under the Vibrant and Viable Places scheme.
The report presented on 16th December 2013 updating cabinet on the status of the bid should be referred to the next available meeting of the Environment and Economy scrutiny committee to apprise members of developments in the projects identified in the Vibrant and Viable Places bid and allow scrutiny of those projects.'
Councillor Dr. Johnson, in presenting the request, stated that it was appropriate for the Scrutiny Committee to consider the projects identified within the Vibrant and Viable Places bid. The Director of Development Services in response to the Request for Consideration, referred the Committee to the report presented to the Cabinet meeting held on 16th December 2013 which initially included two recommendations, the first was for Cabinet to note the contents of the report and the progress being made, and the second was that a further report detailing how the various initiatives and proposals contained within 'Barry – A Centre of Growth and Opportunity' were being progressed be presented to Cabinet in due course. There were a further two recommendations which had been determined at the meeting, a third one now being that a detailed delivery plan for regeneration activity in Barry be presented to Cabinet during the early part of 2014 and the fourth recommendation being that the report be presented to Cabinet prior to the end of March 2014 to consider options for future partnership working arrangements on regeneration in Barry following the conclusion of the current Welsh Government Regeneration Area in March 2014.
The Director of Development Services, in referring to his report of 16th December 2013, gave a brief background summary, stating that the Barry Regeneration Area programme was launched by Welsh Government in March 2010. It was initially intended to run for a period of three years from April 2010 to March 2013 and a total of £9.8m Welsh Government investment was allocated to the programme. However, following the spending review by the UK Government this allocation was re-profiled over a four year period and the programme would therefore close at the end of March 2014. Barry was one of seven Regeneration Areas declared by the Welsh Government under its Framework for Regeneration Areas (October 2010) policy commitment.
In February 2012 the Welsh Government began a Ministerial review of approaches to regeneration and in October 2012 published a document entitled 'Vibrant and Viable Places'. Following the consultation period which ended in January 2013, the Welsh Government’s new regeneration framework Vibrant and Viable Places was launched in March 2013 and the bidding guidance published in the following May.
The guidance issued by the Welsh Government relating to the submission of bids for Vibrant and Viable Places funding was contained in the report to Cabinet on 1st July 2013. Due to the very tight timescales for submitting the bid Cabinet, on 1st July 2013, provided delegated authority to the Director of Development Services in consultation with the Managing Director, the Leader and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation to submit the Stage 1 bid by the deadline of 12th July 2013. The Stage 1 bid was reported to Cabinet on 29th July 2013.
In terms of strategy and policy the bid argued that there was a need to maintain the momentum created by Regeneration Area status and scale-up from this base to harness the development benefits from investment such as The Quays, St. Athan – Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone, Welsh Housing Quality Standard and Renewal Area activity to realise community benefits and narrow the gap of aspiration and achievement across the town. The outline programme contained in the bid was based on seven specific investment aims as set out below:
- Create a fertile environment to develop cohesive communities by providing the tools to improve and maximise opportunities
- Develop a new housing model around the occupation of empty flats, empty commercial properties and other properties in our traditional shopping areas
- Broaden the mix and appeal of traditional shopping areas by supporting proposals to locate public facilities, leisure and homes
- Renew infrastructure to improve accessibility and perception and to promote more efficient public transportation provision and usage
- Achieve well connected complementary growth by investing in property that will stimulate business and creative industry to start up or expand
- Create a brand for the town based around its outstanding waterfront setting and the marine and lifestyle assets
- Create a strong sense of place by protecting and enhancing Barry’s heritage.
On 4th September 2013 the Council was notified by e-mail that its Stage 1 bid had been unsuccessful. On 10th September 2013 the Minister for Housing and Regeneration issued a written statement to all Assembly Members to confirm the outcome of the Stage 1 assessment process. The Minister identified 11 local authorities which were invited to proceed to Stage 2 of the bidding process, namely Bridgend, Conwy, Flintshire, Isle of Anglesey, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea, Torfaen and Wrexham. Following this the Welsh Government announced that a budget of £5m, which was later increased to £7m for the three year period of 2014/15 – 2016/17 was allocated to invest in key projects which aimed at tackling poverty in settlement areas which had not been successful at Stage 1. The Council’s bid met these criteria along with six other local authorities namely Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire and Gwynedd. The Committee noted that the Welsh Government had yet to announce further details in respect of bid criteria for the budgeted £7m. In terms of moving forward, the outline bid contained some important projects and proposals. Since the announcement in September 2013, the Council was working on revising these projects and proposals to establish which elements of the bid could be taken forward and by what means.
Attached at Appendix 3 was a status report which set out each investment aim and component that was included in the Council’s Stage 1 bid identifying a potential Project Manager and Project Sponsor and providing details as to the current status of that component. The Committee noted that particular relevance was shown in the progress made in respect of the Innovation Quarter and the Pumphouse and this was the subject of a separate report to the Cabinet meeting on 16th December 2013. Alongside this, there had also been significant progress in terms of delivering the Barry Island link road and also progress made with the current regeneration work to the Island based around Eastern Promenade.
With reference to the status report dated November 2013 the Committee were made aware of progress in respect of the Castleland Renewal Area project which included investment into Upper Holton Road; continuing discussions with the managing agent for the new owners of land at Barry Docks Station; and, the legacy programme for Barry Island. Finally, the Director of Development Services advised Members that a further report would be presented in due course.
At this juncture Councillor Dr. Johnson, having thanked the Director of Development Services for his report, stated that he was also pleased that the report dealt with partnership working but he queried who would take the lead on these projects and what decisions had been made to date. Councillor Dr. Johnson also queried as to how set in stone the projects contained within the programme were, was it open to new development ideas, whether there was a priority list and how projects were allocated due to their importance and how the Authority was able to analyse the success of the projects that had been implemented?
In response to the queries the Director of Development Services began by advising Members that for the seven local authorities who had failed with the Stage 1 bidding the £7m allocation criteria was still to be set out. It was clear, however, that this would not be a bidding process but the money would be allocated directly by the Welsh Government. It should be expected that this would probably be linked to the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation and the Authority would have to wait until the specified guidelines had been issued.
With further reference to the Welsh Government’s funding arrangements, Members were advised to note the valuable work in relation to the Stage 1 bid that had been undertaken and that any further project work would be led by the Authority for which it would be the Authority’s responsibility to seek future funding.
The Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation also responded by stating that she was pleased to note the progress being made to date and that the Stage 1 bid represented the projects and schemes that the Authority wanted to take forward. Regeneration however, was not just a physical undertaking and the Council needed to build upon the ability to improve the community and to offer real advantages to the people of the town. Members were also advised that the Council was seeking to work with anyone or any organisation that could bring benefits and that exciting work had already been done in critical areas so far.
Members noted that a new Town Centre Manager for Barry had been appointed and that this was an internal promotion as opposed to an external appointment. The person would take up their role sometime during March.
Responding to the query as to how the Council’s priorities had been ranked, the Committee were advised that there were many factors which affected how projects were prioritised. These included timescales, funding, the likely key output from the project and that some schemes may require significant partnership engagement.
In referring the Committee to action point 2b – Main Street Action Plan the Chairman commented that as Cadoxton Station was a main entry point into Barry, the 'unsightly' build up of rubbish was a cause for concern and that as a priority this should not be allowed to slip despite funding issues.
Councillor Dr. Johnson, in summary, stated that he was disappointed that Barry did not meet the Welsh Government’s criteria for funding. He felt however that it would be advantageous to look at the possibility of perhaps acquiring the Welsh Government’s own analysis of the proposed projects which would assist the Authority as the lead organisation for the future.
As a final response to the Request for Consideration the Cabinet Member commented that the Authority would take the lead and would meet with various developers. Although the bid at Stage 1 had not been successful, of note was the fact that considerable good work had already taken place. In noting that future reports would be presented to Cabinet in due course, it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the Committee also be presented with the reports which would detail how the various initiatives and proposals contained within 'Barry – A Centre for Growth and Opportunity' would be progressed.
Reason for recommendation
To ensure that the regeneration of Barry is maintained and that momentum is not lost.