Meeting documents

Ordinary Meeting of the Council
Thursday, 29th November, 2018 2.00 pm

Date: Thursday 29th November 2018 Time: 2.00 p.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre

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

PresentAndWithReport toReport of
Item/Resolution Status Action
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Version of Agenda Coversheet (172K/bytes)

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


Apologies for absence were received from:-

Councillors G. L. Davies, M. Day, P. Edwards, J. Hill, W. Hodgins, J. Holt, J. P. Morgan, L. Parsons, J. Wilkins, Corporate Director of Education, Corporate Director of Social Services.


The following declaration of interest was reported:-

Item No. 7
Service Review - Phase Two
Councillor N. Daniels

Councillor Daniels reported that the Managing Director would be making a brief statement before the above item was considered by Council and upon advice received he would be permitted to remain in the meeting for this duration. Once this information had been relayed he would withdraw from the meeting.

Report (404K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (564K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (285K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Children's Services.

A warm welcome was extended to Mr. Michael Holding, Lead Inspector with the Care Inspectorate Wales.

At the invitation of the Chair, Mr. Holding proceeded to provide the following presentation with the aid of slides.


„ Mr. Holding commenced by stating an inspection of Blaenau Gwent's Children's Services had been undertaken by CIW during February and March 2018.

„ As part of this process, the effectiveness of local authority services and arrangements to help and protect children and their families were inspected.

„ Whilst the main focus of the inspection was on the progress and experience of children and young people looked after and care leaver's transition into adulthood, the inspection also included a focus on children, young people and their family's engagement with:

- Information, advice or assistance (IAA) preventative services.
- Assessment/reassessment of needs for care and support and care and support planning.
- Child protection enquiries, procedures, urgent protective action, care and support protection plans.

„ The methodology that had been used as part of the inspection process was used consistently across all local authorities throughout Wales.

Key Findings: Workforce and Demand

„ CIW had found that the authority had a committed workforce responding to an increasing workload.

„ There was an increasing demand around looked after children and child protection and the authority's own self-assessment described the current rate of increase in numbers of looked after children as 'unsustainable'.

„ It was noted that all local authorities throughout Wales were experiencing a sharp increase in the population of looked after children.

Key Findings - Safety & Wellbeing of Looked After Children, Management Arrangements and Foster Placements

„ CIW had found that the authority had promoted the stability, safety and wellbeing of looked after children and care leavers.

„ There was a stable management group that staff regarded as approachable and supportive - it was noted that there was a need for a modern management style where managers were available for staff and could share decision making in terms of children.

„ Whilst in the last 10 years the number of 'mainstream' foster placements had been stable, there had been an increasing demand to assess connected persons (or kinship placements).

„ The authority had responded to these issues on a number of levels including plans to appoint four additional professional carers who would accommodate children and young people with complex needs and provide parent and baby placements.

Key Findings - Interventions and Assessment

„ CIW had found timely interventions through access to appropriate information, advice and assessment.

„ The link between multi-agency early intervention and preventative services and statutory services was inconsistent.

„ Assessments were not always underpinned by a clear and recorded professional analysis of a child's needs and outcomes, i.e. it had been identified that where there was a risk of harm this was not always informed by historical context i.e. the links were not always made.

Key Findings - Strategy Discussions and the Safeguarding Board Arrangements

„ Children and young people were protected through effective application of multi-agency safeguarding and child protection thresholds. However, CIW were concerned about delays in holding a strategy discussion due to the availability of the police, which could result in a delay in decision making. It was, therefore, suggested that this issue be investigated together with the Safeguarding Board arrangements to ensure that children's safety was not being compromised.


„ Mr. Holding concluded by expressing his appreciation on behalf of the CIW to the following people who gave their time and contributed to this inspection; children and young people, parents and carers, staff, managers and members and partner organisations.

The Head of Children's Services commenced by stating that this inspection had been welcomed - it was not often an authority had be provided with the opportunity to have a whole service area reviewed. This had been a very beneficial exercise which could not have been undertaken within existing resources and the recommendations were also welcomed.

This inspection took place at the beginning of the year when the landscape in children's service looked different. If the numbers of looked after children had continued to increase then it would have been impossible to sustain service delivery.

However, the Head of Children's Services said that she was pleased to report that the number of looked after children had plateaued for the majority of the year and had now started to decrease, which could be attributed to the implementation of the 3 Year Looked After Children Reduction Strategy. It was noted that at the beginning of the year the number of looked after children stood at 235 but today this number was 221. In addition, the number on the children registered on the Child Protection Register was also decreasing.

The Head of Children's Services advised that nine areas for improvement had been recommended by CIW and an action plan had been developed to progress and address these areas. A copy of this updated action plan (latest update November 2018) was attached to the agenda. However, since the preparation of the report further progress on the areas for improvement had been made:-

„ A complete evaluation and remodelling of Families First preventative service had been undertaken in conjunction with Worcester University.

„ Two new projects were on the horizon to provide further support to officers in respect of managing the work of looked after children in residential care, namely:-

- The development of the MYST project (formerly known as Project 5) which would provide intensive support to repatriate young people with complex needs placed in residential care back into foster care with appropriate support. This project was due to commence in March 2019.

- The Iceberg Model - resources from Health would sit alongside Families First to address children with emotional and mental health issues at an early opportunity. This project was also due to commence in March 2019.

- Foster placements - the service had been successful in recruiting a parent and baby placement which would be available within the County Borough.

- Staff training - a mandatory training programme for all staff had been implemented with a focus on improving outcomes for children and families and with a focus on ensuring that staff had a clear analysis of risks contained within their assessments.

- Delays in strategy meetings - it was noted that this delay was not due to the authority but due to the capacity of the police and this issue had been raised at the Regional Safeguarding Board. An audit in Blaenau Gwent had been undertaken in late summer to ascertain whether strategy meetings were taking place within the required 24 hours of the decision to hold it (this was the legal requirement) whereby it was confirmed that this target was being achieved.

The Leader of the Labour Group expressed his appreciation to Mr. Holding for his presentation and the Head of Children's Services for her update. He said that the Group was pleased to see 'green shoots' and he hoped that this would continue. He pointed out that given the volatile nature of the service there only needed to be one or two new cases received to affect the budget. The advent of funding from Welsh Government was also to be welcomed.

The Leader of the Labour Group continued by expressing his concern regarding the lateness of the report being presented to Council - it was noted that the report had initially been published on the CIW website on 29th June, 2018 and had been reported by the local media that the service was 'unsustainable'. He hoped that this matter would be addressed and that Members were advised at the earliest opportunity in the future.

Another Member referred to the Executive Committee that had been held on 28th November, 2018 and said he was pleased that this Committee had supported the recommendation of the Joint Scrutiny Committee (Safeguarding) i.e. that the Directorate provide a report on the capacity within the Safeguarding Teams across Children's and Adult Services. This action indicated that staff were highly valued and it would also ensure that targets were achieved. He concluded by expressing his appreciation to the Executive Committee for their support.

The Executive Member - Social Services also expressed his appreciation to Mr. Holding for his presentation and the inspection team who had identified 10 areas of positive practice within the authority and had acknowledged the commitment of the workforce and this was to be welcomed. In addition, the inspection had also highlighted 9 areas for improvement and these areas would be monitored via an action plan which would be updated every 2 weeks. This work and importance of looked after children were taken seriously and progress was being made within Children's Services.

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

The Executive Member - Social Services concluded by proposing that Option 1 be endorsed. This proposal was seconded.

Upon a vote being undertaken it was unanimously,

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and Option 1 be endorsed, namely that:-

„ the CIW report and areas for improvement made be endorsed; and

„ the action plan that had been developed be supported.

Report (427K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (81K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (11M/bytes)
Appendix 3 (695K/bytes)
Appendix 4 (71K/bytes)

Members considered the report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Community Services.

At the invitation of the Chair, the Team Manager Licensing spoke in detail to the report and highlighted points contained therein. The officer explained that the Statement of Licensing Policy was required to be renewed every 3 years.

As part of the process, extensive consultation had taken place with all stakeholders and any relevant feedback had been included as part of the new policy. In addition, in order to capture a wide response as possible, work had also been undertaken with other Gwent authorities.

The Team Manager Licensing stressed that this was a policy document and did not address issues at particular premises. The policy included a code of practice, operational procedures and measures to protect and care for vulnerable persons.

In addition, as part of the Gambling Policy the Council may make a resolution not to issue casino licences. Blaenau Gwent had previously not made such a resolution and, at present, any casino licence would, therefore be considered on its merits taking into account both the positive and negative impacts that a casino may bring.

It was noted that Option 1 (the preferred option) included in the statement of policy wording to reflect the fact that the authority had not adopted a resolution to preclude casino licences.

A Member expressed his concern that a considerable amount of gambling was currently undertaken on-line and pointed out that young children were also getting into difficulty with gambling and asked whether this this issue be addressed at a higher level.

The Team Manager Licensing advised that it was recognised that up to 33% of gambling in Blaenau Gwent was internet based. This was highlighted in paragraph 6.12 and was a matter and the responsibility of the Gambling Commission to control.

In reply to a question, the Team Manager Licensing confirmed that the recent imposition of a maximum 2 bet limit in respect of certain specified gaming machines was a U.K. wide matter.

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and Option 1 be endorsed, namely that the Gambling Policy as amended be approved following statutory consultation.

Report (232K/bytes)

Consideration was given to:-

Advisory Panel for the Appointment of Local Authority Governors

The following recommendations were made by the Panel on 19th November, 2018 to appoint:-

Mary Jenkins - Ebbw Fawr Learning Community
Nicola Probert - Pen-y-Cwm Special School
Jennifer Morgan, J.P. - Pen-y-Cwm Special School
Gill Clark - Soffryd Primary School
Keri Jones - St. Illtyd's Primary School
Tracey Dyson - Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Helyg

Upon a vote being undertaken it was unanimously,

RESOLVED that the appointments be endorsed.

The Executive Member - Education reported that there were currently 11 local authority governor vacancies. A complete list of local authority governor appointments and vacancies had been provided to Members for information purposes.

Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council

To appoint a representative to replace Councillor Malcolm Day on the Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council.

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

RESOLVED that Councillor Julie Holt be appointed to replace Councillor Malcolm Day on the Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council.

Report (658K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (725K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (2M/bytes)

Having regard to the views expressed by the Proper Officer regarding the public interest test, that on balance, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information and that the report should be exempt.

RESOLVED that the public be excluded whilst this item of business is transacted as it is likely there would be a disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 14, Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act, 1972 (as amended).

Councillor N. Daniels declared an interest in this item but remained in the meeting whilst the Managing Director made the following statement:-

Since the preparation of the report correspondence had been received from the Chair of the Leisure Trust requesting support from the Council to address financial pressures being experienced during the current year.

An initial meeting had been held with relevant parties to discuss the issues raised in the letter and to discuss how the Council could work with the organisation on proposals to reduce costs. It was confirmed that it seemed likely that the Council would need to provide some additional financial support in the current year and a further report would be brought to Council if this was the case.

Advice had been received regarding the implications of the letter and it had been confirmed that this would not impact on the decision before the Council today. In fact the information supplied by the organisation reinforced and highlighted the need for a decision to be made to progress the matter.

It was noted that the Executive Committee on 28th November, 2018 had made a decision on this matter

following receipt of this information. In addition, both Group Leaders had been briefed on this matter.

Councillor N. Daniels, thereupon, left the meeting at this juncture.

Members considered the report of the Head of Education Transformation.

The Head of Education Transformation spoke in detail to the report which provided details of Phase Two of the service review and was being presented to Council to determine future delivery models.

Section 2.12 provided details of the second phase of the review with a focus on assessment of the management options using the evaluation matrix which had been developed as part of the Phase One report. However, it was widely acknowledged further phases of work would be required to ensure successful implementation of any of the options.

The Head of Education Transformation gave details of the options for recommendation detailed in Paragraph 3 of the report and highlighted the weighting of the evaluation matrix that had been used to assess these options i.e. 60% financial and 40% non-financial.

Based upon the scoring of the management options, the preferred option would be to proceed with Option 3 and the main considerations for this was detailed in Paragraph 3.24.

The Head of Education Transformation advised that the report had been presented to a Joint Scrutiny Committee on 20th November, 2018 and Members of the Environment, Regeneration and Economic Development Scrutiny Committee were able to vote upon the proposals and the preferred option had received unanimous support. In addition, the Scrutiny Committee had recommended the continuation of the Leisure Services Review Member Working Group to take forward the implementation of the report proposals. The Executive Committee held on 28th November, 2018 had also endorsed Option 3.

The Leader of the Labour said that he supported the preferred option but had not supported the process that had been adopted to reach the outcome. He continued by referring to Paragraph 2.9 of the report and asked for clarification regarding the total cost incurred for the work undertaken by Bevan Brittan (Legal) and FMG Consulting.

The Head of Education Transformation advised that when the review was established a revenue budget in the sum of 60,000 had been set aside (from the budget contingency fund) to support the work of the consultants and Bevan Brittan but following a tendering exercise the FMG Consulting element was capped at 23,000. The current cost associated with the work undertaken by FMG Consulting was less than 23,000.

The Head of Education Transformation concluded by stating that it was highly unlikely that all of the 60,000 would be utilised to support this piece of work.

The Leader of the Labour Group sought an assurance that that Members Working Group would continue to progress the implementation of the project. The Executive Member - Environment confirmed that the Working Group would continue. He proposed that Option 3 be endorsed. This proposal was seconded.

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the report which related to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority) be accepted and Option 3 - Alternative Service Delivery Models be endorsed, namely:-

i. The Council was one of the early adopters of the operating model but since then the picture across Wales has changed significantly. As Appendix One showed, of the 22 Local Authorities, half of them were operated via in-house provision, whilst the remaining half was delivered either by a Trust (9 LAs) operating model or were fully outsourced (2 LA's);

ii. There were also a number of Local Authorities who were currently evaluating the management options for their services and some were considering alternative operating models, including neighbouring LAs who were about to adopt the Trust operating model;

iii. In the current financial climate, affordability and sustainability were key to the future direction and shape of services it was highly likely that more LAs would be considering reviewing their offer, particularly on the backdrop of continuing financial austerity; and

iv. That the Leisure Services Review Member Working Group be continued to take forward the implementation of the report proposals.

The Executive Member - Environment expressed his appreciation to the Head of Education Transformation and his team for the tremendous amount of work undertaken in respect of this review. The Leader of the Labour Group echoed this comments.