Meeting documents

Ordinary Meeting of the Council
Thursday, 25th January, 2018 10.00 am

Date: Thursday 25th January 2018 Time: 10.00 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale

Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

PresentAndWithReport toReport of
COUNCILLOR D. HANCOCK (THE CHAIR,
PRESIDING)
Item
No
Item/Resolution Status Action
PUBLIC
1. TUDALEN GLAWR AGENDA GYMRAEG/WELSH VERSION OF AGENDA COVERSHEET
TUDALEN GLAWR AGENDA GYMRAEG/WELSH VERSION OF AGENDA COVERSHEET (177K/bytes)
Noted
2. CONDOLENCES

The Chair referred to the sad deaths of:-

„ The mother of Councillor Peter Baldwin.

„ The son of former Councillor Jim Watkins.

„ Mr. Brian Hill, former Principal Estates Officer.

Members and officers stood in silence as a mark of respect.

Noted
3. SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

It was noted that no requests had been received for the simultaneous translation service.

Noted
4. APOLOGIES

Apologies for absence were received from:-

Councillors P. Baldwin, G. Collier, J. Collins, L. Elias, T. Sharrem, J. Wilkins and Mrs. Carol Morgans, Head Teacher - Tredegar Comprehensive School.

Noted
5. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS

The following declarations of interest were reported:-

Item No. 15: Revenue Budget 2018/2019

FMS019 - Care and Report:
Councillors J. Mason & H. Trollope

SSA012 - Reduction in Fleet Transport
Councillor M. Cross

ENV026 - Grounds Maintenance
Councillor N. Daniels

ENV018 - Town/Community Councils
Councillors M. Cross, R. Hill, W. Hodgins, J.
Holt, H. Trollope, T. Smith, B. Willis

The Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance confirmed that if any debate ensued in relation to the Town/Community Council proposal, those Members who had declared an interest would be requested to leave the meeting at this juncture.

Noted
6. MINUTE BOOK - NOVEMBER 2017 - JANUARY 2018

The Minute Book for the period November 2017 - January 2018 was submitted for consideration, whereupon:-

The Leader of the Council proposed that with the exception of Item No. 14 - Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee Minutes dated 15th December, 2017 (which were due to be considered by the Scrutiny Committee the following day) that Item Nos. 4 - 13 inclusive relating to the Minutes be approved.

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the minutes be approved and confirmed as a true record of proceedings.

Agreed
7. ORDINARY MEETING OF THE COUNCIL
Minutes (273K/bytes)
Cofnodion (225K/bytes)
Agreed
8. PLANNING COMMITTEE
Minutes (197K/bytes)
Cofnodion (137K/bytes)
Agreed
9. SPECIAL GENERAL LICENSING COMMITTEE
Minutes (85K/bytes)
Cofnodion (83K/bytes)
Agreed
10. PLANNING COMMITTEE
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Cofnodion (38K/bytes)
Agreed
11. EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
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Cofnodion (193K/bytes)
Agreed
12. EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
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Cofnodion (193K/bytes)
Agreed
13. CORPORATE OVERVIEW SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
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Cofnodion (178K/bytes)
Agreed
14. SOCIAL SERVICES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes (52K/bytes)
Cofnodion (268K/bytes)
Agreed
15. SPECIAL ENVIRONMENT, REGENERATION & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes (152K/bytes)
Cofnodion (36K/bytes)
Agreed
16. SPECIAL JOINT SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes (212K/bytes)
Cofnodion (209K/bytes)
Agreed
17. EDUCATION & LEARNING SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes (291K/bytes)
Cofnodion (225K/bytes)
Not Agreed
18. REVENUE BUDGET 2018/2019
Report (258K/bytes)
Appex 1 & 1a (134K/bytes)
Appex 2 - Social Services (2M/bytes)
Appex 2 - Corporate Services (2M/bytes)
Appex 2 - Financial Management (2M/bytes)
Appex 2 - Environment & Regeneration (4M/bytes)
Appex 2 - Education (591K/bytes)
Appex 2 - Cross Cutting (939K/bytes)
Appex 3 & 4 (75K/bytes)
Appex 5 (506K/bytes)
Appex 6 (24K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Finance Officer.

The Chair extended a warm welcome to Mr. Darren Jones (representing the Schools Budget Forum) and Mr. Paul Keane (representing Primary School Head Teachers) to the meeting.

At the invitation of the Chair, the Chief Finance Officer spoke briefly to the report which related to the provisional/final Revenue Support Grant Settlement and outline savings proposals for the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 revenue budgets and highlighted the following salient points contained therein:-

„ Minimum Revenue Provision - Even though the Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) policy had recently been revised there still remained a funding gap and the report outlined savings proposals in the sum of 4.2m for 2018/2019 and 2.7m for 2019/2020.

„ Cost Pressures - The report recommended that Council agree the funding of currently identified and future cost pressures in the sum of 2.4m for 2018/2019 and 0.511m for 2019/2020.


„ Pay Award - A late offer from the National Employers for Local Government Services to trade unions would increase the overall pay bill - in broad terms this two year offer would equate to a 2% increase in the overall pay bill for 2018/2019 and a 2.8% increase in the overall pay bill for 2019/2020.

It was noted that up to this point the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) had assumed a 1% pay increase and this would leave the Council with a new cost pressure amounting to 0.47m.

„ Treatment of Grants and New Responsibilities - The Chief Finance Officer continued by referring to the growth pressures for 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 and the treatment of grants and new responsibilities transferring into the Settlement outlined in Paragraph 6.4 of the report and advised that Council would need to consider whether it would want to continue to support the activity formerly funded by specific grants or use the resources for other purposes.

„ Council Tax - It was proposed that Council Tax would increase by 4.2% for 2018/2019.

„ Service Cost Pressures and Growth - Included a sum of 175,000 to cover the possible introduction of the Foundation Living Wage in 2018/2019. It was noted that Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council was the only authority in the Greater Gwent area currently not paying the Foundation Living Wage. This would affect those officers currently at the lower end of the pay scale.

„ Individual Schools Budget (ISB) - Even though there was no specific requirement to protect schools budgets, a 1% increase was proposed for 2018/2019. There was also a cost pressure forecast in relation to an increase in the pupil population arising in the medium term.

„ Overall Position - If Members were minded to agree all the proposals outlined in the report there would be no requirement to draw from the Council Fund reserve.

At the invitation of the Chair, Mr. Darren Jones representing the Schools Budget Forum presented the following case regarding the virtues of school education.

He continued by stating that he was fully aware of local and national cost pressures and the difficult decisions that had to be made. However, schools were experiencing difficulties in terms of budgets and funding. Free school meals were decreasing markedly compared to other authorities - a factor that was considered by Welsh Government when decisions were made relating to the deprivation grant.

Mr. Jones continued by advising that the Education Improvement Grant had reduced by 11.2% and this was having a huge impact on staff development and innovation programmes throughout schools. In addition, the special needs budget had been reduced by 40% over the last 3 years. Whilst the cash flat budget had funded pay increases to staff the previous year there were, however, additional cost pressures that had also needed to be funded namely, increases in the local authority service level agreements with schools.

St. Mary's Church in Wales Primary School had lost 33% of teaching assistants over the last 3 years and only 50% of the intervention programme could be implemented for the most vulnerable in the school. In the 21st century, schools were reliant on parent/teachers associations to fund some school developments.

Mr. Jones reiterated by stating that he fully understood the cost pressures but concluded by stating that it was important to make the case for education in order that the young people was given the best possible chance for the future.


Mr. Keane echoed the comments made by the representative of the Schools Budget Forum. He said that he had witnessed the potential of pupils within the learning community and the dedication of the teaching professionals and he implored the Council to do all it could to fund and protect education.

Mr. Keane continued by stating that the cycle of under-achievement and under aspiration needed to be broken and children needed to be given the best opportunity in life, however, this could not be achieved without the necessary funding. Mr. Keane acknowledged that a huge amount of work had been undertaken in terms of the budget setting process but said that anything the Council could do to try and protect the day to day work of schools in order to change the future for young people would be gratefully appreciated.

The Leader of the Council stated that at this time of year (during the budget setting process) there were always difficult and unpleasant decisions that needed to be made and it was likely that this situation would deteriorate in future years.

He pointed out that the report contained a number of proposed reviews (if agreed) that the Council would be committed to undertake - these reviews would not necessarily mean the removal of services but it was felt that all parts of the budget needed to be interrogated to ensure that funding was allocated appropriately and that residents were receiving value for money. It was noted that the Joint Trade Unions and Town/Community Councils had been consulted as part of the budget setting process.

The Leader advised that the 'proposed outline business cases' were contained on Page 137 onwards and suggested that if items were not contended it be would assumed they were supported.


In reply to a question from the Leader of the Labour Group, the Chief Finance Officer advised that if all the proposals were accepted as outlined in the report, there would be no requirement to draw from the Council Fund Reserve.

Social Services Directorate - Outline Business Cases:

A Member made a general point that there were a number of proposals outlined within the Social Services Section of the report relating to 'alternative service' delivery and said that there were a number of uncertainties with this method of delivery. He continued by referring to the introduction of the Living Wage and the proposed reduction in the third sector grant allocation and expressed his concern that it was highly unlikely that these projects could be delivered within the specified timescale of 1 or 2 years using this approach.

SSA012 - Reduction in Transport Fleet - Community Options - 80,000 proposed saving

Councillor M. Cross declared an interest in this item and left the meeting whilst it was under discussion.

The Leader of the Labour Group advised that the above proposal had been considered by Social Services Scrutiny Committee during September 2017 and the view of Members at that juncture was that following conclusion of the consultation exercise, a further report would be presented to the Scrutiny Committee with further options before being submitted to the Executive Committee for a decision.

He, therefore, expressed his surprise that this proposal had been presented directly to Council (without a further report being presented to the Scrutiny Committee and Executive Committee for a decision) thus jeopardising the reporting process. He also expressed concern that the proposal would impact and put in jeopardy the attendance levels at those centres at which Community Option services were offered.

The Executive Member - Social Services referred to the project background and advised that a report had not yet been submitted to the Scrutiny Committee in respect of the final conclusions. However, assuming that the options explored in the previous report were progressed and fully implemented from April 2018 then an initial reduction in 2 buses would be achievable for 2018/2019 resulting in a potential saving of 80,000. Potential further savings for 2019/2020 could be achieved as the impact of assisted transport budget was embedded and citizens used their own transport to attend the service provision.

The Executive Member - Social Services concluded by advising that the proper reporting procedure would still be adhered to and upon the conclusion of the full consultation process a report would be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee for due consideration.

The Leader of the Labour Group added that this proposal could still potentially impact on the pending report however, accepted this explanation.

Councillor M. Cross returned to the meeting at this juncture.

SSA016 - Increased Income from Sale of Properties - 100,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group whilst accepting the principal of the proposal to generate income he pointed out that there was always a potential risk that the properties may not sell.

The Executive Member - Social Services advised that the sale of properties had generated income during 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 and it was hoped that further income could be generated from property sales for 2018/2019 in order to contribute towards the financial savings for this period.

SSC002 - Reduction in Placements for Looked After Children (LAC) following Implementation of the Safe LAC Reduction Strategy - 214,017 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group said that he was astonished that this proposal had been submitted for consideration given the huge increase in looked after children numbers and said that the Labour Group was not confident that this proposal could be achieved. He pointed out that the increase in looked after children numbers was a national issue and from a political perspective advised that this had been the reason that this proposal had not been tabled during the last financial year.

He continued by referring to the Safe Looked After Children Reduction Strategy and the work of the Edge of Care Team which was integral to this strategy. However, he pointed out that health and social care was experiencing enormous budgetary pressures and these looked after children were some of the most vulnerable in the community.

The Leader of the Labour Group stated that if looked after children numbers continued to increase this would place intense pressure on one of the most pressured areas of the Council. During the 2019/2020 budget setting process there may be some indication of the level of savings that could be achieved, however, he concluded by stating that the Group could not support this current proposal.

The Executive Member - Social Services referred to the Edge of Care Team and said he looked forward to reports being submitted to the Scrutiny Committee outlining the effectiveness of the intervention and the progress made. Whilst valid concerns had been raised, looked after children would continue to be treated as a priority.

The Leader of the Labour Group said that there were significant issues in the community and therefore, there was always a potential that there would be an increase in the number of looked after children. He continued by stating that the reduction in the Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) charge of 3.2m for 2018/2019 to 2021/2022 could have been used to mitigate the budget funding gap requirement for those financial years including providing assistance to schools and this course of action would also have mitigated the need to table the looked after children proposal.

The Executive Member - Social Services advised that the proposal was based on reducing the Residential and Independent Foster Agency budget by the cost of one placement each in 2018/2019 and a further one placement each in 2019/2020. This would achieve 214,017 savings per financial year.

The Corporate Director of Social Services advised that all the proposals had an associated element of risk, however, some were more pronounced than others. In terms of looked after children this was a vulnerable area and investment had been made into an Edge of Care Team, which once embedded could potentially reduce the number of looked after children - it was noted that this number may stabilise to begin with but subsequently there could be a potential reduction in numbers over time, which may present the opportunity to secure savings.

The Leader of the Labour Group reiterated that Council should protect the most vulnerable in the community and requested that proposal be removed. Another Member reminded Council of the high risk factor that was associated with the proposal and said that the full introduction of Universal Credit in June 2018 would potentially affect residents and this may also impact on looked after children numbers.

The Executive Member - Social Services said that the proposal would be kept under review and Members would be fully involved and engaged with as part of these discussions.

Councillor G. A. Davies joined the meeting at this juncture.

A brief discussion ensued regarding voting on proposals when it was agreed that a vote in respect of all the proposals would be taken at the conclusion of the meeting.

Corporate Strategy Directorate - Outline Business Cases:

CSS010 - Reduce the Number of Scrutiny Committees from 4 to 3 - 6,700 proposed saving

The Leader of the Council advised that the proposed reduction in the number of Scrutiny Committees was not supported.

He continued by stating that the only obvious Committees that could potentially be merged would have been the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee and Social Services Scrutiny Committee. However, this would result in a forward work programme for the Scrutiny Committee that would be far too onerous - it was also noted that the regulators, Estyn and CSSIW could also have a viewpoint if this merger proceeded.

The Leader of Council continued by pointing out the Council was not even 12 months into the new administration and there were a number of 'up and coming' Councillors that were 'learning the ropes' and the more knowledge that these Members could obtain in respect of individual departments and portfolios the better. It was noted that this proposal would result in the reduction of one senior responsibility allowance and the Leader concluded by suggesting that this proposal be reconsidered at some point in the future.

The Leader of the Labour Group suggested that these discussions should also include the Planning and Licensing Committees in the future and also pointed out that there was no reason that the number of Executive Members could be reduced in the fullness of time i.e. four Executive Members aligned to four Scrutiny Committees.

The Leader of the Council confirmed that dialogue would take place in future years regarding this issue and would involve the Leader of the Labour Group. However, with regard to the suggestion to merge Planning and Licensing Committees he pointed out that these were statutory Committees and there could be legal arguments if this course of action was pursued.

A Member said that he believed that scrutiny had improved over the last 5/6 years and was more accountable than ever. Whilst improvements were always sought, if Committees were overburdened and made too onerous the thrust of scrutiny would be lost.

CSS003 - Removal of Welsh Language Budget - 100,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group said that whilst the Group was not against the proposal, this business case if supported could result in a reputational risk for the authority. Another Member said he supported the proposal.

The Leader of the Council said that all budget areas needed to be interrogated and a responsible approach adopted in considering very serious issues. The proposal would result in the removal of the overall corporate budget for Welsh Language and each department would be responsible to carry out the Welsh Language requirements, the costs of which would need to be found from existing budgets within the Council. Therefore, there would be a departmental risk associated with this proposal.

A Member referred to the points raised by the educationalists at the commencement of the meeting and said that the Council should be investing in Welsh Language i.e. the Council should lead from the front. It was noted that education had received directives from Welsh Government to fund Welsh Language thus increasing pressures on schools and education in particular.

Resources Directorate - Outline Business Cases:

FMS001 - Cease Allocation of Local (Special Levy), General and Allotment Grants - 86,670 proposed saving

The Leader of the Council advised that this proposal was split into 3 specific grant areas:-

„ Members Special Levy (to fund support to local organisations in the sum of 57,270.

It was proposed that this grant be retained in its totality.

„ General Grants in the sum of 24,670

It was proposed that this grant be reduced to 20,000

„ Allotment Grants - there were currently 9 allotments in the County Borough that received an annual grant in the sum of 525.

It was, therefore, proposed that this grant be reduced to 300 from this financial year and for future years i.e. this budget would be reduced by 2,030 to 2,700.

The above proposals would equate to a total saving of 6,790.

The Leader of the Labour Group pointed out that if the above proposals were accepted this would leave a shortfall of approximately 79,000. In the face of huge cost pressures these were non statutory services and whilst he had sympathy for the organisations concerned, the reduction should have been equitable across all the grant areas and not just the allotment grants.

The Leader of the Council explained that the Authority allocated grants to 9 allotments across the County Borough - this was an historic allocation which had been verbally agreed upon local government reorganisation in 1974. It was noted that there were a number of other allotments associations within the County Borough that did not receive grants.

He continued by stating that in many respects this was not a difficult budget to settle, however next year would be the defining year and these were the types of proposals that would need to be considered in the coming years.

The Leader of the Labour Group supported the proposal and said that as the budget situation became even more challenging Members may be minded to remove the whole budget.

A Member pointed out that 83% of residents had agreed with the proposal to cease all Councillor grants and levies as part of the Budget Challenge engagement process.

The Leader of the Council referred to the budget engagement exercise that had taken place in Tredegar and said that once the residents had received information about what the proposal would actually mean in detail, they had changed their view and supported retention of these grants.

Engagement Survey - a Member pointed out that feedback had been received from residents regarding the recent engagement survey. Residents had felt that the questions had not been easy to understand and the survey itself had not been 'user friendly'.

FMS005 - Closure of Cash Desk Facilities in Civic Centre and Replacement of Automated Machine - 13,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Council confirmed that this proposal was not supported.

Environment & Regeneration Directorate - Outline Business Cases:

ENV001 - Removal of Mixed Recyclates Skip - 5,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group advised that the Group supported this proposal in light of the forthcoming recycling venture.

ENV003 - Reduction of Street Lighting Provision - 25,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group advised that this proposal was not supported. Residents had expressed their concern regarding the deplorable condition of the highways (potholes) and concerns had been raised that a reduction in the street lighting provision would make driving conditions even more hazardous.

ENV012 - Cease Provision of Disabled Person Parking Bays (DPPB) - 6,000 proposed saving

It was noted that both the Independent and Labour Groups did not support this proposal.

ENV018 - Full Cost Recovery of Premises related Costs for Occupancy of Town & Community Councils - 10,625 proposed saving

Councillors H. Trollope, W. Hodgins, B. Willis, M. Cross, T. Smith, J. Hill and J. Holt declared an interest in this item and left the meeting whilst it was under discussion.

Councillor D. Wilkshire left the meeting at this juncture.

The Leader of the Labour Group referred to the proposal and pointed out that Tredegar Town Council paid a higher premium than the other Town/Community Councils and in addition, had taken on additional responsibilities i.e. a joint venture in respect of the public toilets and the Town Council had also taken over responsibility for a playing field. He requested that this proposal be removed and reconsidered to ensure that there was a sense of fairness.

A Member expressed her concern that the Town/Community Councils had set their precepts the previous week and had not budgeted for this cost. It was noted that Ebbw Vale was the only town that did not have a Town/Community Council and asked how this sum was to be divided between the four Town/Community Councils. The Member concluded by expressing her concern that insufficient information had been provided regarding this proposal.

Another Member said that Town/Community Councils provided a very good service and referred to the services mentioned earlier that Tredegar Town Council was now responsible for. As Ebbw Vale did not have a Town Council he felt that this area was being subsidised.

The Leader of the Council said that both he and the Chief Finance Officer had been unaware until the previous day at a consultation meeting that the Town/Community Councils had set their precepts. Whilst there was a case presented for full cost recovery of 42,500 this would potentially be over a 4 year period. He continued by suggesting that as the precept had been set that the proposal remain for this financial year and discussions take place with Town/Community Councils during the year regarding this issue.

A Member pointed that that Nantyglo & Blaina Town Council had recently entered into a new service level agreement due to its relocation to new premises within the town i.e. the Institute Building and enquired whether it would be lawful to amend this agreement.

The Leader of the Council advised that advice had been sought regarding this agreement and confirmation had been received that the proposal was legal. He confirmed that the Deputy Leader/Executive Member - Regeneration was also content with the proposal and he had also been unaware that the precept had been set early. He reiterated that whilst the proposal would remain dialogue would be entered into with the Town/Community Councils regarding this issue throughout the course of the year.

The Leader of the Labour Group reiterated that his Group did not support this proposal.

Councillors H. Trollope, W. Hodgins, B. Willis, M. Cross, T. Smith, J. Hill, J. Holt and D. Wilkshire returned to the meeting at this juncture.

ENV019 - Reduction in Residual Waste Disposal Costs - 25,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group said that the proposed saving was predicated from 1st April, 2018 and if the proposal was approved this would need to be progressed as a matter of urgency.

The Leader of the Council said that whilst the savings had been predicated from 1st April, 2018 the Executive Member - Environment had included a caveat that if all the outcomes could not be achieved this timescale may have to be adjusted accordingly. Therefore, if there was a delay it would be for the correct reason but it was acknowledged that this would have an adverse effect on the potential level of savings.

ENV024 - Highway Infrastructure Revenue Budget Reduction - 75,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group pointed out if the proposal was approved this would result in a reduction in highway infrastructure repairs.

ENV025 - Revision of Charges for Bulky Waste Collection Service - 5,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group confirmed that the bulky waste collection required consideration.

ENV026 - Increase Fees of Grounds Maintenance whilst Undertaking Community Asset Transfers - 71,000 proposed saving

Councillor N. Daniels declared an interest in this item but remained in the meeting and spoke on the item as per the advice received from the Monitoring Officer at the Executive Committee held during September 2017.

The Leader of the Labour Group referred to discussions in previous years regarding an increase in grounds maintenance fees and pointed out that the previous year the Independent Group had not wanted to vote for more than a 5% increase. However, a 20% increase was now proposed - 4 times the percentage level that had been unacceptable the previous year.

He continued by referring to Community Asset Transfers (CAT) and said that it was disappointing to note that only a few clubs had taken this up the transfer option. He pointed out that the Leader of the Council may have to declare an interest with regard to the Community Asset Transfer because the club that he was associated with had received 40% of the CAT budget. Therefore, it was felt that the Leader was now content to increase the grounds maintenance fee to 20% because the CAT transfer for this particular club had now concluded.

The Leader of the Labour Group continued by stating that he hoped that more clubs would be encouraged to take part in the CAT scheme in order that the funding was equitably shared amongst each organisation. He concluded by stating that whilst the Leader of the Council had declared that he was President of this particular club he pointed out that it was public perception that counted.

In response to a request by the Leader of the Council, the Leader of the Labour Group confirmed that the name of the club he was referring to was 'Abertillery Excelsiors'.

The Leader of the Council commenced by pointing out that Abertillery Excelsiors was based in Cwmtillery. He confirmed that he would declare an interest but advised that when this item was considered by the Executive Committee the Monitoring Officer had given an assurance that Club President was a 'title role' only because he played no role from a financial or decision making perspective and was not appointed to any of the club's committees. Therefore, this would not preclude him from speaking on the matter.

With regard to the 5% increase last year this had been predicated because at that time there was no direction of travel in terms of protecting grounds maintenance. It was noted that the outline business case the previous year had indicated that any club who did not wish to pursue a CAT transfer by 2018 would have their facilities closed.

The Leader of the Council continued by advising that with regard to the CAT for Abertillery Excelsiors he had played no part in the process - this was not his club. Two family members played at various levels for the club but his only interest was that of a spectator. It was noted that this club had taken over two facilities which included two playing fields, a changing room facility and stand and floodlights (floodlights at the request of the Council).

The Leader of the Council pointed out that all 40 sporting organisations had been consulted as part of the budget setting process and understood that the Council was unable to sustain grounds maintenance in its current format. However, simultaneously the Council did not want to hand over any liabilities to the clubs.

The Leader of the Labour Group raised a point of order at this juncture but the Chair confirmed that there was no valid point of order to be made.

The Leader of the Council continued by stating that the amount of funding that had been spent on those two grounds and two pitches was exactly the same amount of funding that the Council would save in the coming years.


The Leader of the Labour Group said that he also met with clubs the previous year and reiterated that the Leader of the Council had declared an interest at the Executive Committee on 27th September, 2017 that he was President of the Club.

The Leader of the Council at this juncture raised a point of order and reiterated that Club President was a 'title role' only.

The Leader of the Labour Group reiterated the points he had made previously.

It was noted that a club located in Hilltop, Ebbw Vale and one in Blaina had also received funding. In addition, the Leader of the Council advised that Bedwellty Park Bowls Club had also received funding.

The Leader of the Labour Group said that whilst he was not opposing the proposal he advised that the Chief Finance Officer had furnished the following figures of actual and committed spend in 2017/2018 in relation to CAT process:-

- 3,000 Blaina
- 8,000 Woodland Field
- 9,000 Jim Owen Field, Cwmtillery
- 430 Brynteg, Ebbw Vale

The Leader of the Council said the forthcoming summer sports season would be last for summer sports and the 2019/2020 season would be the last winter sports - after that time CAT would be applicable. It was noted that whilst a number of clubs wanted to progress a CAT, currently it was more financially prudent to continue within an acceptable increase.

He continued by stating that he resented the implication made by the Leader of the Labour Group that the club had benefitted from him being Leader of the Council and the Leader of the Labour Group needed to be very clear in terms of what he was implying. The Leader of the Labour Group confirmed that that this was the 'perception'.

The Vice-Chair of Council said that he was Vice-President of Cwmtillery Excelsiors and this club ran 43 teams and pointed out that any funding was used for the benefit of the community to provide local facilities. This particular funding had been utilised to improve the changing facilities at the Jim Owen Field. Whilst circumstances changed from year to year and he concluded by pointing out that a number of clubs had not currently wanted to progress a CAT due to the condition of their premises.

The Leader of the Labour Group said that the Group reserved the right to challenge any aspect of the budget and said that there were other deserving clubs in the community and clubs in other areas needed to be supported and championed.

ENV027 - Review of Recycling Routes and Reduction of One Vehicle - 130,000 proposed saving

A Member referred to the inclement weather conditions that were experienced during December and pointed out that during this period the majority of areas in the County Borough had not received a recycling collection for a week. At present the Authority was still not achieving the 58% recycling target and this target was due to increase to 64% in 2019/2020.

He continued by expressing his concern that if the statutory target was currently unachievable how could this be achieved in the future with a reduction in fleet. The Member requested reassurance that the service would not be affected by this proposal.

The Leader of the Council confirmed that the recycling routes would be optimised as per the original business case for the service to ensure greater efficiency.

ENV031 - Staffing Reduction in Environmental Protection (Collaborative Service) - 13,905 proposed saving

A Member said that he hoped that the proposal would not have a detrimental impact on enforcement activity. The Leader of the Council advised that this was a collaborative service provided by Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen Councils and officers were satisfied that any resulting potential impact could be managed.

ENV033 - Review of the Pest Control Service - 44,250 2018/19 proposed saving and 14,750 2019/2020 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group referred to the problems experienced with vermin and requested that this service be retained.

The Leader of the Council confirmed that this proposal was not supported.

Education Directorate - Outline Business Cases:

EDU004 - Reduction in the Inflationary Increase Applied to the Individual Schools Budget from 2.2% to 1% - 499,800 2018/2018 proposed saving and 430,650 2019/2020 proposed saving

A Member pointed out that the authority had endured 5 years of toil to remove the County Borough out of special measures - this had not been an easy task and Estyn was due back for a further inspection during 2019. Therefore, the Council could not afford for standards to decline. A 2.2% increase would meet the inflationary increase - any further reduction in education and schools funding would make it much more difficult to progress. In addition, a further increase in some schools in the pupil population was also predicated in the medium term together with a potential 1% increase in teacher's pay both of which would have an adverse impact on budgets.


The Member continued by referring to a 10% reduction in the Pupil Deprivation Grant which would result in a loss of 300,000 to schools and the reduction in the Education Improvement Grant which would result in a loss of 130,000 - schools would, therefore, be taking a massive budget reduction moving forward. The new Estyn framework would review targets and effective intervention. However, schools would be unable to implement intervention measures if they did not receive the necessary level of funding.

The Member concluded by advising that schools would be moving into positions of redundancy the following week and to only passport a 1% increase was not correct and would be sending out the wrong message.

The Executive Member - Education said that the budgeted inflation factor was a 2.5% increase last year but schools received a cash flat budget. This year a 1% uplift was proposed - these were challenging times. He believed that 1% indicated to Welsh Government that the Council was not overlooking education in these times of austerity and indicated the Council's intentions of being a forward looking authority.

The Corporate Director of Education advised that:-

„ The Individual Schools Budget (ISB) would increase in 2018/2019 by 100,000 and in 2019/2020 by 135,000 due to an increase in pupil numbers.

„ The Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG) would remain at the same level but the way in which it was calculated would affect schools i.e. schools would receive less funding.

„ An indication had been received that the Education Improvement Grant (EIG) would reduce by 11% however, clarity had been sought regarding the actual cut and in the next few days it was anticipated that further information would be received regarding this matter.

The Chief Finance Officer advised that Welsh Government did not give direction to local authorities regarding the level of increase that should be applied to schools budgets. It was noted that 2.2% was an internal inflation figure that was used for the Council's budget setting process. The officer reminded Council a vote on specific education grants was not required at this meeting.

The Member continued by pointing out that schools had received a flat budget the previous year. The reduction in the EIG and PDG would impact on schools and pointed out that whilst it would not be across the board an increase in the school population was also predicted in the medium term.

The Member concluded by emphasising that Estyn would be conducting an inspection of the Council in 2019 (i.e. not schools) and one of the reasons that the Council had been placed into special measures during the last inspection was due to the inadequate level of financing of schools.

Another Member said that external factors that would affect residents needed to be considered - one such factor was the introduction of Universal Credit and this could potentially have an adverse effect on free school meals. There had also been an increase in the number of exclusions this year and the local education authority needed to consider these types of issues in conjunction with the external factors that would impact on residents.

Cross Cutting Projects - Outline Business Cases:

CC007 - Council Tax Increase by 5% - 728,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Council advised that a 5% Council Tax increase was not supported. He proposed that this percentage be reduced to 4.2%.

The Leader of the Labour Group proposed a 3.7% increase in Council Tax.


CC008 - Increase of Fees and Charges of 5% above Inflation - 50,000 proposed saving

The Leader of the Council said that Group reluctantly supported the 5% increase above inflation with the exception of Cemetery Fees and Charges which would only receive a 2.2% uplift.

The Leader of the Labour Group supported this proposal.

CC006 - Management Review - Phase 2 - 150,000 2018/2019 proposed saving and 150,000 2019/2020 proposed saving

The Leader of the Labour Group stated that details of the review were required because it would result in implications for service areas.

CC003 - Review of the Council's Redundancy Policy - Teacher's Budget - 100,000 proposed saving

A Member said that whilst he understood the rational of the proposal he questioned the feasibility of the proposed saving. He took on board the consultation with trade unions but pointed out that schools had gone into redundancy mode and if staff submitted expressions of interest for redundancy the existing policy would have to be adhered to thus reducing the 100,000 savings proposal.

The Leader of the Council said that assurances had been received that the savings could be realised. The Managing Director confirmed that this was the case.

CC004 - Removal of the Employee Assistance Programme - 6,000 proposed saving

A Member referred to the high sickness absence rate within the Council and the capacity issues arising therefrom. She said that the Employee Assistance Programme was a valuable tool because it helped staff return to work from sickness absences and questioned whether this proposal should be approved for a saving of 6,000 - 1 per employee.

The recommendations were then considered on an individual basis:-

Recommendation 1: The national and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council settlement information be noted.

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously RESOLVED accordingly.

Recommendation 2: The 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 savings proposals summarised in Appendix 1 and 1a (detailed in Appendix 2), except Outline Business Case CC007 (increase in Council Tax) be agreed.

The Leader of the Council proposed that the majority of the proposals be supported with the exception of the following which were not supported:

- Reduction in the number of Scrutiny Committees from 4 to 3 - 6,700 saving.
- Closure of the Cash Desk facilities at the Civic Centre - 13,000.
- Cease Provision of Disabled Persons Parking Bays - 6,000.
- Review of Pest Control Contract - 44,250.
- 5% increase in the level of Council Tax - a 4.2% increase was proposed.

It was proposed that the following proposals also be supported:

- Retain but reduce the General Grants to a level of 20,000.
- Retain but reduce the Allotment Grants to a level of 2,700.
- Increase in Fees and Charges 5% above inflation - it was proposed that Cemetery Fees and Charges would only receive a 2.2% uplift.

It was further proposed that the following be retained:

- ENV243 - General Entertainments Budget in the sum of 4,000

The Leader of the Council said that the proposals would amount to 392,000 - this would still retain a balanced budget without a draw on the Council Fund Reserve.

The Leader of the Labour Group submitted an amendment and proposed that the following proposals be not supported:

- SSC002 - Reduction in Placements for Looked After Children - 214,017.
- ENV003 - Reduction of Street Lighting Provision - 25,000.
- ENV018 - Full Cost Recovery of Premises Related Costs for Occupancy of Town & Community Councils - 10,625.
- ENV033 - Review of Pest Control Contract - 44,250.
- ENV012 - Cease Provision of Disabled Person Parking - 6,000
- FMS001 - Cease Allocation of Local (Special Levy), General and Allotment Grants - 79,000
- CSS010 - Reduce the Number of Scrutiny Committees from 4 to 3 - 6,700
- 5% increase in the level of Council Tax - it was proposed that Council Tax be increased by 3.7% amounting to 393,900

The funding gap would amount to 773,531.60 and would be met by:-

„ Utilising the cost pressure relating to Street Scene amounting to 308,000 (as outlined on Page 127 of the report).

„ Use of the Budget Surplus in the sum of 394,000.

„ Use of the Council Reserves in the sum of 71,531.

The above Labour Group proposals were seconded.

The Labour Group requested a recorded vote and upon a vote being taken it was RESOLVED that:-

The 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 savings proposals summarised in Appendix 1 and 1a (detailed in Appendix 2), except Outline Business Case CC007 (increase in Council Tax) be agreed with the exception of the following which were not supported:

- Reduction in the number of Scrutiny Committees from 4 to 3 - 6,700 saving.
- Closure of the Cash Desk facilities at the Civic Centre - 13,000.
- Cease Provision of Disabled Persons Parking Bays - 6,000.
- Review of Pest Control Contract - 44,250 .
- 5% increase in the level of Council Tax - a 4.2% increase was proposed.

It was proposed that the following proposals also be supported:

- Retain but reduce the General Grants to a level of 20,000.
- Retain but reduce the Allotment Grants to a level of 2,700.
- Increase in Fees and Charges 5% above inflation - it was proposed that Cemetery Fees and Charges would only receive a 2.2% uplift.

It was further proposed that the following be retained:

- ENV243 - General Entertainments Budget in the sum of 4,000

In Favour - Councillors M. Cook, N. Daniels, D. Davies, G. A. Davies, G. L. Davies, M. Day, P. Edwards, D. Hancock, S. Healy, R. Hill, W. Hodgins, M. Holland, J. Holt, J. Mason, C. Meredith, J. Millard, A. Moore, J. P. Morgan, L. Parsons G. Paulsen, K. Pritchard, K. Rowson, B. Summers B. Thomas, G. Thomas

Against - Councillors D. Bevan, M. Cross, K. Hayden, H. McCarthy, J. C. Morgan, T. Smith, S. Thomas, H. Trollope, D. Wilkshire, B. Willis, L. Winnett

Recommendation 3: The Council Tax increase for 2018/19 be set at 4.2%.

The Leader of the Labour Group proposed that the Council Tax increase for 2018/19 be set at 3.7%.

Upon a recorded vote being taken it was

RESOLVED that the Council Tax increase for 2018/19 be set at 4.2%.

In Favour - Councillors M. Cook, N. Daniels, D. Davies, G. A. Davies, G. L. Davies, M. Day, P. Edwards, D. Hancock, S. Healy, R. Hill, W. Hodgins, M. Holland, J. Holt, J. Mason, C. Meredith, J. Millard, A. Moore, J. P. Morgan, L. Parsons G. Paulsen, K. Pritchard, K. Rowson, B. Summers B. Thomas, G. Thomas

Against - Councillors D. Bevan, M. Cross, K. Hayden, H. McCarthy, J. C. Morgan, T. Smith, S. Thomas, H. Trollope, D. Wilkshire, B. Willis, L. Winnett

Recommendation 4:

The in-year cost pressures detailed in Appendix 3 with a view to agree proposals up to the level of 2.41m for 2018/2019 and 0.45m for 2019/2020 be agreed. This recommendation also included a decision to fund the Foundation Living Wage.

The Leader of the Labour Group proposed that this recommendation be not supported.

Upon a recorded vote being taken it was

RESOLVED that the in-year cost pressures detailed in Appendix 3 with a view to agree proposals up to the level of 2.41m for 2018/2019 and 0.45m for 2019/2020 be agreed. This recommendation also included a decision to fund the Foundation Living Wage.

In Favour - Councillors M. Cook, N. Daniels, D. Davies, G. A. Davies, G. L. Davies, M. Day, P. Edwards, D. Hancock, S. Healy, R. Hill, W. Hodgins, M. Holland, J. Holt, J. Mason, C. Meredith, J. Millard, A. Moore, J. P. Morgan, L. Parsons G. Paulsen, K. Pritchard, K. Rowson, B. Summers B. Thomas, G. Thomas

Against - Councillors D. Bevan, M. Cross, K. Hayden, H. McCarthy, J. C. Morgan, T. Smith, S. Thomas, H. Trollope, D. Wilkshire, B. Willis, L. Winnett

Recommendation 5: The growth items proposals as outlined in Appendix 4 up to the level of 0.04m for 2018/19 and 0.511m for 2019/2020 be agreed.

Upon a vote being taken the above recommendation was unanimously RESOLVED accordingly.

Recommendation 6: A consultation on the restriction of Home to School Transport to statutory limits and the termination of the Home to College subsidy and to conduct reviews/consultations on a range of other proposals be agreed (as outlined in paragraph 6.5 of the report).

Upon a vote being taken the above recommendation was unanimously RESOLVED accordingly.

Recommendation 7: The former specific grant be passported and the new responsibility funding transferred into the settlement in order to continue to fund the activities formerly funded by the specific grant.

Upon a vote being taken the above recommendation was unanimously RESOLVED accordingly.

Recommendation 8: The detailed analysis of the Blaenau Gwent Budget Challenge engagement programme and the Clean Borough survey be noted.

Upon a vote being taken the above recommendation was unanimously RESOLVED accordingly.


Recommendation 9: The assumptions in the MTFS 2018/2019 to 2021/2022 be endorsed and it was noted that a further review would take place in the spring of 2018.

The Leader of the Labour Group advised that because the Group had proposed alternative suggestions for 2018/2019 the recommendation was unable to be supported.

Upon a recorded vote being taken it was

RESOLVED that the assumptions in the MTFS 2018/2019 to 2021/2022 be endorsed and it be noted that a further review would take place in the spring of 2018.

In Favour - Councillors M. Cook, N. Daniels, D. Davies, G. A. Davies, G. L. Davies, M. Day, P. Edwards, D. Hancock, S. Healy, R. Hill, W. Hodgins, M. Holland, J. Holt, J. Mason, C. Meredith, J. Millard, A. Moore, J. P. Morgan, L. Parsons G. Paulsen, K. Pritchard, K. Rowson, B. Summers B. Thomas, G. Thomas

Against - Councillors D. Bevan, M. Cross, K. Hayden, H. McCarthy, J. C. Morgan, T. Smith, S. Thomas, H. Trollope, D. Wilkshire, B. Willis, L. Winnett

FURTHER RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted.

Appreciation

The Leader of the Council wished to place on record his appreciation to the Chief Finance Officer and his team and officers from across all directorates for the work undertaken in respect of the proposals. The Council was in the position where it had achieved a balance budget without the use of Council reserves. In addition, every department had been alleviated of cost pressures and in addition it was pleasing that a 1% increase had also been passported to schools and including catering for a 1% pay uplift whilst still retaining a balanced budget.

The Leader of the Labour Group concurred with the comments and said that next year the potential cuts would be horrendous and it would be intensely difficult to balance the budget. He, therefore, extended an invitation to work with the Leader of the Council to look at the longer term solutions for the authority during the budget setting process.

Agreed