Agenda Item No. 10
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Cabinet Meeting: 2nd July 2018
Report of the Leader
Reshaping Services - Arrangements for the Operation & Transfer of Assets or Services to Town and Community Councils in the Vale of Glamorgan
Purpose of the Report
- To provide an update on the work undertaken to date with Town & Community Councils in line with the Reshaping Services Programme.
- To seek approval 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.
- That Cabinet note the contents of this report.
- That Cabinet approve, in principle, 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.
- That Cabinet approve, in principle, 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.
- That subject to recommendations 2 and 3, this report be issued to all clerks of Town and Community Councils for information and consideration.
- That, subject to recommendations two and three, Cabinet receives further updates in due course on the general operation of the protocol and any specific projects as required.
- That, subject to recommendations two and three, 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 the Recommendations
1. To provide Cabinet with an update on 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).
4. To enable the matters to be communicated to all clerks and Community Councils for information purposes.
5. To enable Cabinet to consider progress and to approve any specific projects as required.
6. In order to align the Corporate guidance with the principles of protocol.
- The Council's Reshaping Services Programme sets out how the Council's desire to continue to operate priority services and places an increased requirement on the Council to work with others. The Programme is well established and projects seek alternative service delivery models where appropriate to do so. The Strategy underpinning Reshaping Services recognises the important role that the Council's partners have in achieving the Council's objectives.
- 'Town and Community Councils and Voluntary Sector', is one of the Corporate work streams in the Reshaping Services Programme. To date many discussions have 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.
- The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 places a legal duty on public bodies to work together to improve the well-being of Wales. It also places specific well-being duties on certain Town and Community Councils depending on their annual turnover. As an articulation of this Council's commitment to the Five Ways of Working introduced by the Act, Reshaping Services project teams comprise representatives from the voluntary and Town and Community Council sectors. The regular updates provided on Reshaping Services to the Community Liaison Committee demonstrate a commitment to involving and collaborating with colleagues in this part of the public sector.
- It should be recognised that the primary driver for wishing to either work in partnership or to devolve assets and / or services to Town and Community councils is the reducing level of finance available to this Council and the wish to protect the services for our residents and visitors that are considered to be of most value to them. There are other influencing factors in working in collaboration with other bodies, however, it is incumbent upon the Council to ensure that overall the tax-payer receives value for money for the public assets and services operated on their behalf.
- In 2013 Cabinet agreed a 'Charter' to assist this Council's engagement with Town and Community Councils. The Charter is referenced in the background papers to this report and sets out how we should work together for the benefit of the local communities, whilst recognising our respective responsibilities as autonomous, democratically elected statutory bodies. Though the Charter touches on matters such as 'Joint Working and Engagement' and 'Delegating Responsibility for Service Provision', it does not provide sufficient detail to meet the engagement challenges of the Reshaping Services Programme or cover the new legislative requirements of Councils in Wales introduced since 2013.
- An update of The Charter is to commence shortly in collaboration with colleagues from the Town and Community Council sector in the Vale of Glamorgan. It is proposed that the resolutions of Cabinet from this report and any related documentation, such as an engagement protocol for the transfer of assets, be referenced in the updated Charter document. It is planned to report to Cabinet on an updated Charter later in 2018/19 following the report of the Welsh Government's Panel on the Town and Community Council sector.
- This report sets out a series of principles that together form a protocol for working in this area and it is intended that this should assist all Councils in meeting the needs of our local communities, mitigating the confines of reducing public finances and addressing the current legislative position.
- The report should be considered in conjunction with the principles of the Council's Income Generation and Commercial Opportunities Policy agreed in December 2017 (Minute no C158 refers).
Relevant Issues and Options
- As previously advised, as part of the Reshaping Services Programme, Vale of Glamorgan Council officers have 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 has 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.
- The discussions undertaken to date have provided a useful learning opportunity for all concerned. As would be expected, different Town and Community Councils have expressed varying levels of interest in this agenda so far. Through effective management of Council services, there has also not been a need to progress discussions relating to the wholesale withdrawal of services or the closure of assets. Whilst this demonstrates successful management of services to date, there are clearly future pressures that are likely to change this situation. Without providing details of services or assets that are to be withdrawn or to cease, Town and Community Councils have also lacked some clarity in terms of their scope and the desired outcomes from any potential projects. The discussions have also prompted the need to address the question of which services and assets the Vale of Glamorgan Council operates at a very 'local' level (i.e. for specific local communities) and those which are strategically operated (i.e. for the benefit of the area/region/country as a whole). This has again not provided clarity for potential partners in which services/assets the Council would be willing to progress discussions in order to fulfil the Council's Well-being Objectives and to deliver the sufficient level of financial saving that this Council would ultimately require from such arrangements.
- This uncertainty has resulted in considerable effort being expended by our officers in producing work schedules, costings, plans and bills of quantities for town and community councils, who have been assessing assets and services selected as being of interest to them. This time could ultimately be wasted if the wishes of the town and community councils concerned are not in accord with that of this Council.
- It has also resulted in town and community councils being unable to properly prepare themselves for any future increases in their activities and this includes making the necessary additional provisions within their budgets and precepts.
- With current financial predictions suggesting an increasing need for alternative forms of service delivery from 2018/19 onwards, which will include a greater role for partnerships and collaborations and the possible full transfer of services to others, a more streamlined and transparent process for engaging and working with town and community councils is required in order to provide a clear way forward for all parties.
- All Councils need clarity as to how we 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 this report seeks to assist in this purpose by producing a protocol or 'blueprint' for future engagement, building on the experiences to date, this 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, this 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 this protocol, this Council has 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 undertakes a range of functions and services, some of which are statutory and others that are discretionary. Some services cannot be delegated to others, such as Licensing, and some can, such as open space maintenance, for example, grass cutting. There are 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 are classed as strategic in nature is by virtue of them serving visitors from outside of the Vale area as well as providing for local communities. In contrast, there are 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.
- This protocol is 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 are considered to be non-strategic including some examples to illustrate the categories across the various communities of the Vale of Glamorgan are:
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 Majo
Cogan Recreation Field
Parc Bryn y Don, Dinas Powys
- Where a Town or Community Council is interested in pursuing opportunities within their area, they are encouraged to contact the Council for further discussion and more information on the specific assets which fall into the non-strategic categories above can then be provided which is relevant to the particular area in question. This will enable relevant information to be provided and for informed discussions to take place. In addition to this protocol, Cabinet will also be considering proposals for changes to the operation of single-use sports facilities (for example bowling greens and tennis clubs) which are also being reported on this agenda.
- In addition to the assets (and associated operations) identified above, there are a range of services operating within local areas which have been reduced in frequency over several years. By way of example, this includes grass cutting and street cleansing. In 2000, the Vale of Glamorgan Council generally cut grass on 16 occasions per annum, whereas this is now generally undertaken 8 times each year. This has been in response to funding reductions as well as the changing way this service is 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 wish to enhance these types of services, the Vale of Glamorgan Council will 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 are no specific proposals to reduce these services, it is important that this information is provided alongside an indication of what options are available to Town and Community Councils, if service standards are further amended. Cabinet will note that the assets and services are operated currently by the Environment & Housing Directorate. Over time, and as lessons are learnt, other Directorate's services and/or assets may be added to the list of categories and subject to discussion with other organisations.
Arrangements for Operating or Transferring Services and Assets
- Based on lessons learned from projects both within the Vale of Glamorgan and elsewhere, there are several possible forms of arrangement for the operation or transfer of services and assets to Town and Community Councils.
- Community Asset Transfer. The Council has an established Community Asset Transfer guidance and protocol which sets out a process through the submission of an expression of interest and (where judged to be viable) a business case that is considered by the Council's CAT Working Group, Insight Board and Cabinet. This guidance is 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 is 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 is proposed that this "soft-CAT" option will be reflected in the updated Corporate CAT guidance which will be reported to Cabinet later this summer.
- Licence or other agreement. The Council has 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 will 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 will 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 are 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 is 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.
- Cabinet will note that the Council has established the Strong Communities Grant Fund to provide a source of funding to organisations that are 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.
Protocol for Engagement
- It is proposed that subsequent to the consideration by Cabinet, Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Performance and Resources) and the Community Liaison Committee, this report should be sent to all Clerks to Town and Community Councils for information and consideration. If a Town or Community Council is interested in exploring opportunities within their area, they are encouraged to contact the Council to discuss the specific assets which fall into these categories within their area. If any of these specific assets are of interest, the Town or Community Council would be requested to do so via a formal resolution of their Council. This would show that there is the requisite interest from the locally elected representatives to progress discussions. Where a formal Community Asset Transfer is the preferred route, that process should be followed (the details of which are published on the Council's website). Notification of interest in any other form of arrangement should be provided to the Director of Environment and Housing Services who will arrange a meeting of the relevant interested parties to assess the full details of the request and consider its merits or otherwise. If after initial discussions the Town or Community Council wishes their request to be considered, a report detailing the request and the business case for the change will be drafted by the Director for consideration by the Reshaping Services Programme Board. If agreed by the Board the matter will then be referred to Cabinet for a decision.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
- The protocol described above is predicated on the need to deliver financial savings from the Council's activities in reflection of the overall reductions in available funding available to the Council.
- The specific financial implications associated with any proposals will be the subject of discussions with Town and Community Councils, with full information provided to inform decision making.
- As described above, any transfer or operation of services or assets should be at a lower overall cost to the public.
- There may be employment implications associated with any proposals, for example, the potential transfer of staff to another organisation. These will be identified and managed in accordance with the Council's local arrangements and any relevant legislative duties on a case by case basis.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
- In developing these proposals, the Council's duties under the Well-being of Future Generations Act have been considered, including the Five Ways of Working introduced by the Act. The Council is seeking to collaborate with Town and Community Councils to ensure the long-term sustainability of local services. Proposals which demonstrate working collectively through integrating activity across organisations would provide opportunities in this area. In proactively developing the protocol, the Council is seeking to prevent future issues arising from any need to make short-term decisions regarding services and assets due to diminishing budgets. In working together with Town and Community Councils in operating services or assets, there are opportunities to enhance the contribution to the national Well-being Goals for Wales. Cabinet will note the recommendation to refer this report for consideration by Community Liaison Committee and Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Performance and Resources) as a way of involving others in the development of the protocol.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- There are no specific legal implications associated with this report. However, the transfer or operation of services and assets by Town and Community Councils would need to be the subject of specific legal arrangements, executed, for example, through licence, lease or contracts.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- There are no specific crime and disorder implications associated with this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- There are no specific equal opportunities implications associated with this report. Equalities considerations form a part of the Council's process for Community Asset Transfer.
- These proposals are consistent with the Council's Corporate Plan and Reshaping Services Programme.
Policy Framework and Budget
- This is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
- It is proposed that this report be referred to Community Liaison Committee and Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Performance and Resources) for consideration before Cabinet reach a final determination.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
- Corporate Performance and Resources.
Charter with Town and Community Councils, Cabinet, September 2013
Corporate Management Team
Operational Manager, Property
Operational Manager, Policy & Performance
Miles Punter - Director of Environment and Housing Services