Agenda Item No. 9

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet: 15th October 2018

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regulatory and Legal Services

Register Office Ceremonies and Fees

Purpose of the Report

  1. To present to Cabinet proposals to extend the range of services offered by the Council's Registration Service and a review of associated fees and charges.

Recommendations

  1. That Cabinet approves the revised fees and charges in respect of Ceremony fees from 1st April, 2019 with the revised fees in relation to the Priority Certificate Service fee, Postage of Certificates service fee, Booking and Save the Date fees and the Administration fee being implemented from 1st November, 2019 as set out in this report.
  2. That delegated authority be granted to the Operational Manager (Democratic Services), in the capacity as Proper Officer for the Vale of Glamorgan Registration Service, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Regulatory and Legal Services of the Council and Monitoring Officer / Head of Legal and Democratic Services to explore opportunities for making additional Council venues "Approved Premises" and to implement accordingly if considered feasible.
  3. That a further report be presented to Cabinet within 12 months of the implementation of the new arrangements.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To extend and enhance the service options available to Registration Service customers and to ensure any changes to fees and charges are aligned with the principles of the Income Generation and Commercial Opportunities Strategy.
  2. To enable additional Council-owned venues to become Approved Premises as and when required.
  3. To allow Cabinet to consider fully the impacts of the new arrangements and the need for any further revisions to those arrangements.

Background

  1. On 23rd October, 2017 Cabinet considered proposals to extend the range of services offered by the Council's Registration Service and a review of associated fees and charges. The proposals included implementing additional ceremony / registration options within the Civic Offices along with revised fees and charges and the introduction of a new priority service for the production of copy certificates and the postage of these. That report is contained within the background papers to this report.
  2. The proposals were subsequently approved by Cabinet and the new services, revised fees and associated charges have been in place since November 2017. Cabinet also agreed at that time to receive a further report within 12 months of the implementation of the new arrangements to allow Cabinet to consider fully their impact and, if necessary, the need for any further revisions.
  3. As part of the Income Generation and Commercial Opportunities Programme, and in light of the above, work has been undertaken to analyse the impact of the new arrangements and consequently to identify opportunities to further expand the current service offered. This report outlines this work in more detail.

Relevant Issues and Options

Review of Current Arrangements

 

Marriage and Civil Partnership Ceremonies

  1. In 2017, the Registration Service was reviewed, which included the Council's Marriage and Civil Partnership Ceremonies offering.  In November 2017, changes to the service were made, which included offering greater choice to customers and consequently, fees and charges were amended as a result.
  2. Historically, the Council would allow ceremonies / registrations to take place in any of the Council's licensed rooms in the Civic Offices for the statutory fee of £46, regardless of guest numbers.  The process has changed to provide access to the Register Office (max 8 attendees) for a statutory ceremony (£46), and additional options are also now available in the Civic Offices for a higher fee i.e. in The Vale of Glamorgan Suite.  Prices also differ depending on whether a ceremony / registration falls on a weekday or on a weekend.
  3. The changes implemented in November 2017 have been successful, and demand for the service has been unaffected.
  4. From November 2017, the Council's Marriage and Civil Partnership ceremonies offering in the Civic Offices is as follows:

Marriage Ceremony or Civil Partnership Registration

Capacity

Availability

Fees and Charges

Statutory Ceremony or Registration in 'Register Office'

Capacity: 8

(couple, 2 witnesses, 2 registrars, 2 guests)

Monday to Thursday

(from 09.00 - 16.00)

£46 (statutory)

Enhanced Ceremony in 'Approved Premise' in Civic Offices ( Vale of Glamorgan Suite)

Capacity: maximum 80

(including couple, 2 witnesses, 2 Registrars)

Monday to Friday (from 09.00 - 18.00)

£146

Enhanced Ceremony in 'Approved Premise' in Civic Offices (Vale of Glamorgan Suite)

Capacity: maximum 80

(including couple, 2 witnesses, 2 Registrars)

Saturday (up to 13.30)

£176

  1. In addition to this, the Council also offers ceremony / registration services (attendance of a Registrar) at approved premises throughout the Vale of Glamorgan. The fees and charges for this service remained unchanged in November 2017 and are as follows:

Monday to Friday: £405 for the attendance of Registrars.

Saturday: £435 for the attendance of Registrars.

Sunday and Bank Holidays: £475 for the attendance of Registrars.

  1. The following table shows the volume of ceremony / registrations booked in the Civic Offices between 1st December, 2017 and 30th November, 2018 (to include planned ceremonies) compared with the same period the previous year to illustrate the impact of the fee changes.
 

01/12/2016 to 30/11/2017

01/12/2017 to 30/11/2018

Register Office (old) - mixture of small and large ceremony/ registrations

100

n/a

Register Office (new) - max 8

n/a

79

Approved Premise (Civic)

n/a

31

Total

100

110

  1. It can be seen that demand for the service has increased since fees have increased. It is also apparent that there is a spread of ceremonies registrations throughout the week, with the highest concentrations on Friday, and Saturday between 1st December 2017 and 30th November 2018 as illustrated below.
 

   Mon

   Tues

   Weds

   Thurs

   Fri

   Sat

   Total

Vale of Glamorgan Suite   

3

 

3

1

14

10

31

Register Office

11

8

7

21

20

12

79

Total

14

8

10

22

34

22

110

 

Priority Certificate Service

  1. In November 2017, a new priority service was introduced for the production of copy certificates within a shorter timescale within existing resources.  The national standards expectation is that all copy certificates are issued within five working days from the date a completed application form, together with full payment, is received by the Registrars (whether by post, e-mail, telephone or in person).  Unlike many Local Authorities, the Vale of Glamorgan Register Office did not provide a priority service to customers for the issue of certificates within a shorter timescale prior to November 2017.
  2. A benchmarking exercise was undertaken and identified that 16 Welsh Local Authorities provide a priority certificate service and all of these aim to issue the certificate on the same day as an application is received (subject to receiving the application before a specified time).  When averaged out, the cost of a same day priority service for all Welsh Authorities was calculated as £19.20. 
  3. The revised service provides for the certificate being available for collection or posted before close of business on the next working day immediately following the request being made.  This is subject to a completed application form and payment having been made.  The fee for this priority service is £17 to reflect the next day service.
  4. Since the introduction of the service and associated charge in November 2017, there have been approximately 20 requests per month for this service, generating income in the region of £1,500.

Postage of Certificates

  1. Prior to November 2017, when customers requested copy certificates to be posted the Council did not charge any cost for postage in addition to the certificate fee.
  2. In relation to the number of copy certificates issued in 2016/17, it is estimated that two thirds were posted to customers at no additional cost.  Certificates are posted first class.  A benchmarking exercise was undertaken and, based on that information; the Council introduced a charge of £2 for the postage of copy certificates since November 2017. Between November 2017 and end July 2018, 179 certificates were posted out with postage paid by the customer.

Enhancements to Existing Services

  1. Given the success of the changes implemented in November 2017, it is proposed that further enhancements are made to Registration Services to further generate income in this area and to offer a wider choice for customers, the details of which are set out below.

Booking and Save the Date Fees

  1. At present, if a customer wishes to book a ceremony / registration or an Approved Premise (including the Vale of Glamorgan Suite) on a particular date, a £50 non-refundable booking fee is required to secure the booking. This is then deducted from the cost of the balance upon payment.  It is proposed that this fee is increased to £100. The fee will continue to be deducted from the balance upon payment, but will be retained by the Council should the ceremony / registration not go ahead, as per current process. In the last 12 months there have been 15 instances where a ceremony / registration has not gone ahead and the £50 fee has been retained resulting in £750 of income which has off-set the administration cost and potential foregone income associated with cancellations. Should the proposal go ahead to increase the booking fee to £100 and the same level of cancellations be received in the 12 months following implementation, this income would double to £1,500.
  2. At present, payment of the £50 booking fee is the only way an approved premise ceremony / registration date can be reserved. With this in mind, it is proposed that a 'Save the Date' fee is introduced for Approved Premises which would allow customers to book a ceremony as far ahead as they wish, but giving them a set amount of time (21 days) to make all the other necessary arrangements before committing to a booking.  
  3. It is proposed that save the date bookings be made with a fee of £25 payable in respect of a specific venue, date and time.
  4. The fee would be non-refundable should the customer cancel or choose not to proceed and should the customer wish to change any arrangements, a further save the date fee would be payable.
  5. If customers choose not to save the date, the Registration Service will advise them of current availability, although this may change by the time they make a confirmed booking and / or complete the necessary legal preliminaries, as per the current process.

Administration Charge

  1. It is proposed that an administration fee of £25 is chargeable should a customer require any changes made to the date and time of any ceremony booked to cover staff and administrative costs associated with this. It is estimated that around 10 requests per year are received at present for this type of request and this is currently not charged for.

Changes to Ceremony Fees

  1. The fees for Ceremonies are usually reviewed annually in April. However, given the changes to Registration Services in November 2017, fees for the Vale of Glamorgan Suite have not been reviewed since. The fees for (external) Approved Premises were increased by inflation in April 2018. Given the slightly increased demand for ceremonies / registrations in the Civic Offices since the changes, it is proposed that the services and associated fees are amended as follows:

VOG SUITE

   Current Fee

   Proposed Fee

Monday through Wednesday

£146

£146

Thursday and Friday

£146

£176

Saturday

£176

£200

APPROVED PREMISES

Monday through Wednesday

£405

£405

Thursday and Friday

£405

£435

Saturday

£435

£475

Sunday / Bank Holiday

£475

£500

     
  1. Analysis of ceremony / registration bookings in the Vale of Glamorgan Suite has shown that if the above fees were implemented for the VOG Suite alone and demand was unaffected (as previously), an additional £690 would be generated in income.

Priority Certificates

  1. Following the successful implementation of the Priority Service for copy certificates in November 2017, it is proposed that this fee is increased further to £25 to bring it in line with other service fees in the department i.e. the proposed Save the Date and Administration fees.

Introduction of New Services

  1. Given the level of demand for ceremonies being held in the Civic Offices, it is proposed that delegated authority be granted to the Operational Manager (Democratic Services), in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Regulatory and Legal Services and Monitoring Officer / Head of Legal and Democratic Services, to explore the possibility of making additional Council Venues 'Approved Premises' and to implement accordingly if considered financially and logistically feasible.
  2. Additional Council Venues could include the Docks Office, Arts Central and various locations at Barry Island, including Beach Huts. Should Cabinet approve this proposal, work to scope the possibility of these locations and others will commence in due course.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. As alluded to above, it is proposed that all of the above changes are administered within existing resources.  The level of cost recovery / fees will be assessed and included as part of a further report to be submitted to Cabinet within 12 months of implementation of the new arrangements.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. Legislation requires the Council to provide a basic facility for Marriages and Civil Partnerships at the statutory fee. This is reflected in the body of the report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The impact of these proposals on any protected characteristics has been assessed and an equalities impact assessment was considered.  It was determined that the proposals will have no impact on protected characteristics and therefore a full equalities impact assessment was not required.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The strategic objectives from the Income Generation and Commercial Opportunities Strategy that relate to these opportunities include:
    • to support consistency across the Council in its approach to income generation and commercial opportunities, including setting, collecting and reviewing fees and charges
    • to aim towards achieving full cost recovery where it is appropriate to do so and to develop a standard approach to the application of concessions
    • to influence demand and use of Council services whilst promoting equity and fairness
    • to support the delivery of the Corporate Plan, the Medium Term Financial Plan and the Reshaping Services Programme as well as other corporate planning documents.
  1. By implementing each of the proposals the Council will also ensure to work with the delivery of the Council's transformational change programme, Reshaping Services, which seeks to mitigate the impact of budget reductions by reshaping the way in which the Council provides services.  By reporting the matter back to Cabinet following 12 months of implementation of the new arrangements, a review of how the changes meet the above strategic objectives will be possible.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. There are no implications for Ward Members arising from this report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Corporate Performance and Resources

Background Papers

http://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/Documents/_Committee%20Reports/Cabinet/2017/17-10-23/Reports/Register-Office-Ceremonies-and-Fees-Cabinet-Report.pdf

Contact Officer

Jeff Rees, Operational Manager (Democratic Services), Tel: (01446) 709413

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager (Performance and Policy)

Superintendent Registrar

Monitoring Officer/ Head of Legal and Democratic Services

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Managing Director