Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CORPORATE PERFORMANCE AND RESOURCES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE: 19 JULY 2018
REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 2 JULY 2018
C353 Reshaping Services - Arrangements for the Operation and Transfer of Assets or Services to Town and Community Councils in the Vale of Glamorgan (L) (SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – CORPORATE PERFORMANCE AND RESOURCES) -
Approval was sought for a protocol for considering requests from Town & Community Councils for the operation and transfer of assets or services based on a set of engagement principles.
The Council's Reshaping Services Programme sets out how the Council's desire to continue to operate priority services and placed an increased requirement on the Council to work with others. The Programme was well established and projects sought alternative service delivery models where appropriate to do so. The Strategy underpinning Reshaping Services recognised the important role that the Council's partners had in achieving the Council's objectives.
'Town and Community Councils and Voluntary Sector', was one of the Corporate work streams in the Reshaping Services Programme. To date many discussions had taken place between senior officers of this Council and Town and Community Council officers and elected Members concerning the possible transfer of Vale of Glamorgan Council assets and responsibilities.
As previously advised, as part of the Reshaping Services Programme, Vale of Glamorgan Council officers had been engaged with Town and Community Councils for some time, seeking to establish which services or assets they may be interested in taking on, either to supplement a reduction in service frequency or standards due to reduced budgets, or in the worst case scenario to fulfil a service in some form due to its complete withdrawal.
Interest had generally been from town and/or community councils to become involved in services and functions local to their respective administrative boundaries and at a scale commensurate with their administrations and resources. This has always been with the proviso that such services/functions should be operated at a lower overall cost to the tax payer and to at least the same standard as is currently the case.
All Councils needed clarity as to how they should prepare to work together in the future to ensure that we grasp all opportunities to meet the needs of our citizens and communities, and the report sought to assist in this purpose by producing a protocol or 'blueprint' for future engagement, building on the experiences to date, the Council's Corporate Plan, its medium term financial plan and the national legislative context.
Over the next 5 years, at its projected minimum financial settlement provision, the Council should be able to resource its statutory and strategic services with all other services likely to reduce in standard / frequency, be made at least cost neutral, transferred to others (including Town and Community Councils), or cease altogether at some point during the period.
In developing the protocol, the Council had identified that it's the priority to continue to operate strategic functions/assets with all other services offered to be undertaken by others as a means of continuing to provide these to the residents of the Vale of Glamorgan.
Assets & Services
The Council undertook a range of functions and services, some of which were statutory and others that were discretionary. Some services could not be delegated to others, such as Licensing, and some can, such as open space maintenance, for example, grass cutting. There were services and functions that could be categorised as being 'strategic' to the Vale of Glamorgan as a location or destination, such as Barry Island, Penarth Pier and key parks and gardens, examples of which would include Windsor Gardens and Alexandra Park, Penarth and The Knap Gardens in Barry. Examples of strategic buildings would include the Kymin in Penarth, the Eastern and Western shelters and associated facilities on Barry Island as well as town centre and resort car parks which serve local as well as visitor users. The reason that these facilities and services were classed as strategic in nature was by virtue of them serving visitors from outside of the Vale area as well as providing for local communities. In contrast, there were services and functions which could be considered as non-strategic and more community based, such as allotments, bowling greens and small local parks and areas of public open space.
The protocol was intended to provide clarity by indicating those services and types of assets which the Council would consider to be non-strategic and therefore those that may be available for transfer or operation by others, including the broad terms of any such arrangements.
The categories of assets (and the associated operations) that were considered to be non-strategic including some examples to illustrate the categories across the various communities of the Vale of Glamorgan were:
Gladstone Road, Barry
Aberthin Road, Cowbridge
Cawnpore Street, Cogan, Penarth
Public Conveniences in non-strategic locations
Park Crescent, Barry
Town Hall Square, Cowbridge
Boverton Road, Llantwit Major
Albert Road, Penarth
Higher End, St Athan
Victoria Park, Barry
Alexandra Gardens, Barry
Glyndwr Avenue, Penarth
Areas of Open Space
Gladstone Gardens, Barry
Parc Bryn Y Don, Dinas Powys
Belle Vue Gardens, Penarth
Wick Recreation Ground, Wick
Sully Playing Fields, Sully
Downs View, Aberthin, Cowbridge
Murch Playing Fields, Dinas Powys
Ewenny Play Ground, Ewenny
Windmill Playing Fields, Llantwit Major
Pencoedtre Playing Field
Windmill Lane Playing Fields, Llantwit Major
Cogan Recreation Field
Parc Bryn y Don, Dinas Powys
Where a Town or Community Council was interested in pursuing opportunities within their area, they were encouraged to contact the Council for further discussion and more information on the specific assets which fell into the non-strategic categories above could then be provided which was relevant to the particular area in question. This would enable relevant information to be provided and for informed discussions to take place.
In addition to the assets (and associated operations) identified above, there was a range of services operating within local areas which had been reduced in frequency over several years. By way of example, this included grass cutting and street cleansing. In 2000, the Vale of Glamorgan Council generally cut grass on 16 occasions per annum, whereas this was now generally undertaken 8 times each year.
This had been in response to funding reductions as well as the changing way the service was operated to promote biodiversity. Whilst a regime of 8 cuts per year appears to now be acceptable, a higher standard could be achieved with increased numbers of cuts. Individual Town and Community Councils may choose to enhance this level of service. If Town and Community Councils wished to enhance these types of services, the Vale of Glamorgan Council would discuss arrangements that could provide additional services either through the payment of this Council to undertake the work or for this to be undertaken by the Town and Community Councils locally (at their cost).
Whilst at the current time there were no specific proposals to reduce these services, it was important that this information was provided alongside an indication of what options were available to Town and Community Councils, if service standards were further amended.
Arrangements for Operating or Transferring Services and Assets
Based on lessons learned from projects both within the Vale of Glamorgan and elsewhere, there were several possible forms of arrangement for the operation or transfer of services and assets to Town and Community Councils.
Community Asset Transfer. The Council had an established Community Asset Transfer guidance and protocol which set out a process through the submission of an expression of interest and (where judged to be viable) a business case that was considered by the Council's CAT Working Group, Insight Board and Cabinet. This guidance was currently under review. Town and Community Councils may wish to consider the CAT process for asset categories listed above where a viable business case exists for operating these.
'Soft-CAT' or pilot. There was also the possibility of Town and Community Councils working on a 'soft-CAT' or pilot basis, whereby the Town or Community Council could operate the service/asset on a service level agreement basis for a period of time (for example, two years) initially to enable risks to be managed and to develop learning and understanding. These forms of arrangement would be developed on the basis of a 'light touch' business case, produced collaboratively. The Town or Community Council would assume the responsibility for operating the service/asset on the basis of an agreed service level. This may lead to a formal CAT application in time for assets or a more permanent arrangement regarding service delivery. It was proposed that this "soft-CAT" option would be reflected in the updated Corporate CAT guidance which would be reported to Cabinet later this summer.
Licence or other agreement. The Council had operated licences and other forms of occupation/service agreements with a range of organisations, including Town and Community Councils, for many years. These agreements could take the form of leases, for example, or service level agreements whereby Town and Community Councils 'contract' the Vale of Glamorgan Council to undertake work on their behalf.
This Council would be looking to achieve financial savings by any arrangement proposed. Though this may not necessarily be in the first year of operation, it would require at least a cost neutral arrangement for this period with savings to the overall public purse evidenced thereafter. It should also be noted that this Council would need to take into account any increases in the precepts of town or community councils proposed as a consequence of the service / asset transfer or operation as part of any proposal. Levels of operational service efficiency and performance were clearly a matter for individual Town or Community Councils, but this Council must safeguard against the risk of costs to the public increasing disproportionately in any given area as a consequence of the service or asset being transferred.
It was suggested that some initial financial support to operate these assets/services could be provided initially, with this being phased out over time with the service or asset then managed in its entirety by the other party. The financial arrangements would be agreed on a case by case basis, but underpinned by the principle that tax payers in the Vale of Glamorgan Council should see an overall reduction in the cost of operating these assets/services over time. This could be achieved, for example, by Town and Community Councils working in partnership with the voluntary sector, the attraction of grants, reallocating resources within precepted budgets and/or by generating additional income from activities.
The Council had established the Strong Communities Grant Fund to provide a source of funding to organisations that were seeking to develop sustainable services or assets which are consistent with the Council's Corporate Plan, Reshaping Services Programme and the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
This was a matter for Executive decision
Cabinet, having considered the report and all the issues and implications contained therein
(1) T H A T the contents of this report be noted.
(2) T H A T the approach and principles of the protocol as a basis for referral to Community Liaison Committee and Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Performance & Resources) for consideration, prior to reaching a final determination be approved in principle.
(3) T H A T the asset/service types described in the report as a basis for referral to Community Liaison Committee and Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Performance & Resources) for consideration, prior to reaching a final determination be approved in principle.
(4) T H A T subject to resolutions 2 and 3 above, the report be issued to all clerks of Town and Community Councils for information and consideration.
(5) T H A T subject to resolutions two and three above, Cabinet receives further updates in due course on the general operation of the protocol and any specific projects as required.
(6) T H A T subject to resolutions two and three above, the Head of Finance is authorised to update the Corporate Community Asset Transfer Guidance to reflect the principles of the protocol and report this to Cabinet in due course.
Reasons for decisions
(1) To note the work undertaken on this agenda to date.
(2&3) To enable the Council to establish an approach and principle-based protocol for engaging with Town & Community Councils, informed by the consideration of the Community Liaison Committee and Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Performance & Resources).
(3) To enable the matters to be communicated to all clerks and Community Councils for information purposes.
(4) To enable Cabinet to consider progress and to approve any specific projects as required.
(5) In order to align the Corporate guidance with the principles of protocol.
Attached as Appendix – Report to Cabinet – 2 JULY 2018