Agenda Item No
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Cabinet Meeting: 9 September 2013
Report of the Leader
Revised Charter with Town and Community Councils
Purpose of the Report
1. To adopt a revised charter between the Vale of Glamorgan Council and town and community councils.
1. That the revised charter be adopted by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
2. That a further report be submitted to Cabinet identifying those town and community councils that have agreed to become signatories and proposing an action plan for implementing the charter.
Reasons for the Recommendations
1. So that the charter revision can be progressed;
2. In order to implement the principles of the charter.
2. The Welsh Government (WG) has published guidelines for good practice on the development of charters between unitary and town and community councils. WG considers the adoption of charters to assist in effective joint working and to illustrate good practice.
3. The Community Liaison Committee agreed a charter between the Vale of Glamorgan Council and town and community councils in November 2007. It was subsequently agreed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Cabinet in February 2008. An action plan was agreed in February 2009. Twenty-two town and community councils were signatories to the first charter.
4. At its meeting of 31 July 2012, the Community Liaison Committee was advised that a new charter and action plan should be developed following the local elections. In addition, since it was first agreed, there have been various changes in legislation and in economic circumstances. This is the first review of the charter.
5. A report proposing how the review could be achieved was considered by Community Liaison Committee on 23 October 2012, and a group of councillors (including Cllr Chris Elmore on behalf of the Vale Council) was subsequently brought together to revise the charter.
6. The revised charter (attached at Appendix A) outlines the aims on which the unitary council and town and community councils wish to work together for the benefit of local communities, whilst also recognising their respective responsibilities as autonomous democratically elected statutory bodies. It was agreed by Community Liaison Committee on 9 July 2013.
Relevant Issues and Options
7. For information, and to assist in the understanding of how the charter has operated since 2008:
· Agenda papers and minutes of the Vale of Glamorgan Council are now available to access on the council website. Details of public reports and consultations are also placed on the website to assist access.
· Where information is provided in hard copy (for example leaflets or other publications), the Vale Council will provide sufficient copies to the T&CCs concerned so that each elected member can have their own copy. However, with more and more information becoming available through the website, these hard copies will continue to reduce in number.
· Not all agenda papers and minutes of town and community councils are automatically circulated to the Vale Council (nor would it want them to be). Some T&CCs have their own websites, to which the Vale Council website is hyperlinked. This provides the easiest means of sharing papers.
· A member of Democratic Services staff has acted as the nominated liaison officer for the council.
· Key local partnerships are those defined within the Community Strategy.
· Vale Council officers and members strive to attend meetings of town and community councils where there is an appropriate item on the agenda. However, due to the shear number of meetings, they can not guarantee to attend all to which they are invited.
· In some exceptional circumstances, for example when responses are required urgently by other organisations (Welsh Government, for example), normal consultations are unable to take place. A written explanation should be provided by officers where it is not possible to consult T&CCs.
· The Vale Council and T&CCs work together on many issues, including planning, public art, resolving local concerns, etc. Meetings of clerks of T&CCs are organised by the Democratic Services Department. These meetings assist clerks in carrying out their duties more effectively and can assist in answering queries and improving service delivery to residents and visitors.
· A process is in place outlining how services can be devolved from the Vale Council to the T&CCs. Requests for devolved services are given serious consideration by the Vale Council following receipt of a business case for devolution.
· Where devolution of services isn't agreed, the proposals for improving services contained within the business case (and supporting documentation) will be taken into consideration as a means of improving service delivery.
· Where there is a devolution of services, the issue of double taxation needs to be addressed. Community and town councils generally raise funds for their activities through a precept levied in Council Tax. A double levy for the provision of the same service should be avoided; this does not preclude the provision of match or joint funding, where this enhances or extends functions with added value to address community needs.
· There are many opportunities for officers and elected members to work together, which leads to better communication and engagement with local residents. The content and positioning of public art is one example of provision that has been enhanced by the involvement of town and community councillors.
· Joint training with Vale councillors, particularly in the induction of new town and community councillors, has been offered in the past. Some bespoke courses can also be offered to enhance understanding and joint working.
· There is a representative from T&CCs on the Standards Committee (currently from Penarth Town Council). Clerks have an opportunity to clarify queries in the clerks' meeting.
· The council is actively involved in promoting sustainable development, and the cabinet regularly receives details of the work being undertaken in this matter.
· Town and community councils are consulted in the development of the Vale's Community Strategy. There is also an Implementation Group in which T&CCs can become involved.
· Elected members have opportunities to discuss the administration of elections at Community Liaison Committee. Clerks have a similar opportunity through the meeting of clerks arranged by Democratic Services.
· The Vale Council provides promotional materials to assist in publicising forthcoming elections and in increasing voter registration. Town and community councils also have a responsibility to assist in promoting elections locally, in recruiting candidates and in encouraging members of the public to vote through election publicity and canvassing.
8. An action plan will be developed relating to the revised charter following formal adoption by the Vale Council and T&CCs. The Operational Manager - Corporate Policy and Communications is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the action plan.
9. The revised charter was agreed by Community Liaison Committee on 9 July 2013. It will now go forward to individual town and community councils for adoption.
10. Representatives of councils who adopt the charter will be invited to attend an action planning workshop, to identify what work needs to be undertaken in order to implement the aspirations outlined in the charter.
11. The following revised timetable is proposed:
· Revised charter to be sent to and considered by individual unitary, town and community councils (July-September 2013)
· Action planning workshop held (October 2013)
· Action plan considered by Community Liaison Committee (December 2013)
Evaluation of the previous charter
12. A questionnaire was circulated to Vale Council officers and to clerks of the signatory town and community councils. Although not statistically valid due to the low numbers taking part in the survey, it provides a general view on the strength of feeling regarding the charter.
13. The general feeling is that relationships between town and community councils and the unitary council have improved somewhat in recent years; no one surveyed felt that relationships had worsened. This may or may not have been as a consequence of having the charter in place.
14. Signatory town and community councils strongly feel that they are not represented on key partnerships within the Vale, although there was an action arising from the charter to increase access to key partnerships.
15. There are mixed views from town and community councils regarding the usefulness of Community Liaison Committee meetings. A view remains that the Vale Council doesn't listen sufficiently to the views of (particularly) community councils. They would especially like more input into planning decisions and discussions. However, town and community councils are consulted on every single planning and related application and where they respond (not in all cases) their views are considered alongside other material factors.
16. When consultation is undertaken, town and community councils feel that they do not receive enough notice to make a response. The time given on planning consultation is statutory and allows for only 21 days, but in a significant number of cases, the views can still be considered, when they are received beyond the 21 day period, provided the application remains undetermined.
17. Although they are regularly asked, town and community councils rarely request items to be placed on the agenda of the Community Liaison committee. Although they suggest that officers don't attend meetings regularly, few officers are actually requested to attend.
18. There are mixed views on consultation with town and community councils about decisions affecting local communities; a number of officers admit to not consulting, and a number of town and community councils feel that they aren't consulted. There is more work to do in this area.
19. An area of good practice is the Town and Community Council Planning Liaison Group, whereby all town and community councils are invited to send two representatives per council to discuss matters of mutual interest, with the town and community councils being able to raise items for discussion. This forum also serves as training and development opportunities. It has had only mixed attendance, however, it provides an opportunity to raise concerns and issues.
20. Several town and community councils feel that communication with the unitary council remains poor due to delays in the contact centre and the lack of named contact officers. There are also complaints about long delays awaiting an officer to respond. Town and community councils would like a more direct route than through the contact centre, which is sometimes seen as a barrier.
21. Only half of those responding from town and community councils have attended meetings for clerks. Those who do attend find it very useful. Less than half of respondents have had training on planning issues (as proposed in the charter). Of those who have attended training, this is provided either by the Vale Council or from One Voice Wales.
22. Most town and community councils have participated in site visits (land use planning) but complain that they feel excluded by not being able to speak. They would also like a representative to be able to speak at Planning Committee meetings. Most say that they regularly receive copies of planning decisions made affecting their area.
23. Only one service has received a request for a delegation of services. Several town and community councils have taken up support services provided by the Vale Council, including IT, legal, personnel and training support.
24. The provision of induction training to newly appointed elected members in town and community councils is variable. Several newly appointed clerks have also not received any training.
25. Town and community councils on the whole feel that they can get timely and appropriate advice on ethics. A code of conduct handout for newly elected members was suggested as being a helpful addition to this service. The Vale Council is facilitating and funding training sessions for town and community councillors and clerks by One Voice Wales. Despite there being no cost involved for the councils themselves, relatively few elected members are attending.
26. Most town and community councils feel that they are becoming more proactive on green issues. Nearly all have adopted more electronic ways of working.
27. There were mixed views as to whether there has been more interest by the general public in the work of town and community councils. Most agreed that elections ran smoothly, although some complained that election charges were high, considering that some seats were uncontested.
28. The general feeling is that the charter has been helpful in identifying responsibilities and increasing communication and improving relationships. It has also been helpful in identifying areas where opportunities for engagement have been increased. Town and community councils that have taken up these opportunities have generally found them to be worthwhile.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
29. There are no immediate financial implications as a result of this report.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
30. Sustainability is a key priority of the charter.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
31. Charters are written partnership agreements which are not legally binding.
Crime and Disorder Implications
32. None arising from this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
33. None arising from this report.
34. Community leadership
Policy Framework and Budget
35. This is a matter for Executive decision
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
36. Community Liaison Committee; representatives of town and community councils were involved in developing the content of the revised charter.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
37. Corporate Resources
A Shared Community – relationship building and charters for unitary authorities and community and town councils issued by the Welsh Assembly Government
Beverly Noon (01446 709746)
Heads of Service
Operational Manager - Democratic Services
Operational Manager - Customer Services
Operational Manager - Human Resources
Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer
Responsible Officer: Sian Davies, Managing Director