Meeting documents

Ordinary Meeting of the Council
Wednesday, 12th December, 2018 10.00 am

Date: Wednesday 12th December 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

PresentAndReport toReport of
COUNCILLOR M. MOORE (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 Coverheet (175K/bytes)
Noted
2. SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

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

Noted
3. APOLOGIES


Apologies for absence were received from:-

Councillors G. L. Davies, L. Elias, J. Hill, M. Holland, J. C. Morgan, G. Paulsen, T. Sharrem.

Noted
4. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS

The following declarations of interest were reported:-

Item No. 10
Delegated Authority - Budget Variation 2018/19

Councillors W. Hodgins & L. Parsons

Councillor Daniels advised that the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance had provided an assurance from a legal perspective that he would be able to remain in the meeting and take part in any discussion relating to Item No. 10.

Noted
5. SUBSIDISED BUS SERVICES: SERVICE REVIEW
Report (398K/bytes)
Appendix (138K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Community Services.

At the invitation of the Chair, the Executive Member - Environment spoke briefly to the report and highlighted the salient points contained therein. He commenced by explaining that the report provided Council with a review of how the current budget for subsidised bus services was utilised and options for the future.

It was noted that Blaenau Gwent was currently served by a comprehensive local bus network, although the frequency of some services was limited and the majority of the network was provided on a commercial basis. In addition, some 14 services received a subsidy from the Council for the lesser commercial elements of the service, mainly the evening or Sunday running.

Industrial Estates - in order to allow local people to access employment opportunities available on industrial estates, a Member said that he trusted that dialogue had taken place with local industrialists to ensure that local bus services operated to and from these sites.

The Corporate Director of Regeneration & Community Services confirmed that this was one of the questions that would be raised via the Blaenau Gwent Enterprise Board and would be included as part of the review of transport.

2019/2020 Revenue Budget - the Leader of the Labour Group commenced by referring to comments he had made previously regarding service reviews not being submitted via the scrutiny process prior to consideration by Council and said that he hoped that this issue would be addressed in the future.

He continued by pointing out that on 28th February, 2019 Council would be considering the 2019/20 revenue budget as a whole and service reviews such as this would have an impact on that budget as there were financial efficiencies aligned to them.

The Leader of the Labour Group concluded by stating that if the Executive Member was minded to propose Option 1 he would endorse this proposal.

Critical Care Unit Llanfrechfa Grange - a Member referred to the Critical Care Unit based at Llanfrechfa Grange and pointed out that it had been highlighted at previous meetings that bus services to this facility were being reduced. This was causing severe difficulties for some patients because they did not have an alternative means of transport. The Member requested that should this service cease communication take place with those stakeholders.

The Executive Member - Environment reported that this matter had been raised with a representative of the Health Authority at a recent meeting and it had been agreed that further discussions would take place on this matter between both parties in the near future.

Re-instatement of Brynithel Bus Service - a Member referred to Paragraph 6.2 which cited that further communication from residents of Brynithel had been very limited following the removal of the bus service. He pointed out, however, that he received frequent complaints from residents and requested the re-instatement of this service from 6.00 - 10.00 p.m. be considered during the next round of discussions.

Another Member stated that the only guaranteed safeguard for transport in Blaenau Gwent was regulation and this was long overdue. He pointed out that the remit of transport was a matter for Welsh Government and suggested that correspondence be forwarded to the new First Minister requesting that public transport be regulated. He requested that the Executive Member - Environment take on board the need for the regulation of public transport in law.

The Executive Member - Environment reported that a new Transport Strategy would need to be developed as soon as possible. It was noted that a Regional Transport Policy had been developed for the whole of Wales but would require further review by the Cardiff Capital Regional Transport Authority following recent consultation.

The Corporate Director of Regeneration & Community Services advised that the issue of the regulation of public transport would form part of the City Region discussions and this issue had already been discussed by the Regional Transport Authority. It was noted that Welsh Government had also commenced a recent consultation relating to Improving Public Transport.

The Corporate Director concluded by advising that a response to the consultation White Paper by the closing date of March 2019 would be formulated and considered by Council prior to its submission to Welsh Government.

The Executive Member - Environment proposed that Option 1, the preferred option be endorsed. This proposal was seconded.

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

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

Maintain the status quo and allow the pilot study on the Welsh Government's Integrated Responsive Transport project to be undertaken in Blaenau Gwent. The Council would retain the current level of provision and no financial saving would be achieved. However, the output of the study and understanding local transport demands would inform how to develop and sustain future networks.

Agreed
6. SERVICE REVIEW - EBBW VALE CABLEWAY
Report (666K/bytes)

The report of the Head of Community Services was submitted for consideration.

The Executive Member - Environment spoke in detail to the report which provided findings of the service review of Ebbw Vale Cableway. It was noted that the Cableway was the first of its kind to be opened in the U.K. and was an integral part of The Works Masterplan, the aim of which was to provide a safe and expedient pedestrian link between The Works and Ebbw Vale Town Centre.

It was noted that details of the maintenance requirements, operational hours and customer demand were included within the report. The Executive Member concluded by advising that Option 1 was the preferred option.

In reply to a request, the Corporate Director of Regeneration & Community Services provided the following update in respect of the future development of the Works Site (it was noted that all Ebbw Vale Members had already received a briefing in respect of this progress):-

„ Lime Avenue Employment and Business Parks - it was anticipated that works on the area adjacent to the Regain Building would commence on site in March 2019.

„ The National Digital Exploitation Centre (NDEC) - work was being undertaken with Thales and final approval from Welsh Government was awaited.

„ Industrial Container Box Unit Development (Box City) - a decision in terms of Welsh Government funding was awaited. If funding was approved the project would commence following the Christmas period.

„ Northgate Residential Development - was being marketed at present and upon the conclusion of this process, a report would be submitted for Members consideration.

Members commented as follows:-

„ A large percentage of cableway users were students who attended Ebbw Fawr Learning Community and Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone. He referred to a recent report regarding Home to School Transport Links and Safe Routes to School for Children and it was confirmed that if endorsed Option 1 this would retain this current provision.

„ Reference was made to the details of the consultation exercise that had been undertaken outlined in Paragraph 7 of the report and expressed his concern that both Ebbw Vale South Ward Members, the school and college should have been consulted as part of the review process.

„ The cableway was a unique facility and requested that when future funding sources were investigated that all angles be explored including private sector funding.

„ It was suggested that a Cross Party Working Group be established to explore ways to finance the cableway provision and opening times (including weekend provision) to ensure that the facility could be retained.

The Executive Member - Environment noted the comments and proposed that Option 1 be endorsed.

This proposal was seconded.

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

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

The current provision be retained and other potential funding sources be identified, to include opportunities for sponsorship, particularly with the future development proposals at the Works Site. In addition, this option would give consideration to align bus subsidy funding to the revenue budget for the cableway provision.

Agreed
7. REVIEW OF PLAY AREAS
Report (531K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (14K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (15K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (30K/bytes)

Members considered the report of the Head of Community Services.

The Executive Member - Environment spoke to the report which contained the findings of the Play Area Review. It was noted that the provision of playgrounds and play areas with physical equipment was not a statutory requirement. Although, where equipment had been erected the Council had a duty to inspect and maintain it. It was noted that the main findings of the site inspections were contained within Paragraph 2.21 of the report. Option 2 was the preferred option.

A Member referred to Option 3 i.e. the removal of all play areas and expressed his concern that this proposal had even been included as an option. He referred to the risks contained within Paragraph 5.19 of the report and pointed out that Welsh Government would not support the complete removal of equipped playgrounds if alternative provision had not been identified or planned as part of a wider programme of work.

The Executive Member - Environment proposed that Option 2 be endorsed. This proposal was seconded.

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and Option 2 be endorsed, namely:-

Develop a strategy for the future provision of play spaces across the borough that considered rationalisation of equipped play areas.

- This option would allow the Council to reduce equipped play areas based on an agreed methodology and criteria.

- A prioritisation plan would be required to reduce and repair remaining sites.

- Investment would be required to remove equipment and repair play areas.

- Engagement and discussions with key stakeholders would be required.

- Discussions with Community Groups, Tai Calon and other organisations would be required where there was an opportunity to transfer or change use of a site.

- An agreed vision was required for the Strategy on the type of play provision offered in the future and potential projects for development, should funding became available i.e. traditional or naturalistic, increased destination/neighbourhood play spaces.

- Discussion was required whether the Council would continue with the methodology of the Play Strategy 2004 - 2009 of 1 playground to 250 children 0-14 age or whether the ratio should be increased in keeping with an alternative vision for larger play spaces.

- A more strategic approach was required to secure play and play spaces in the future which should link to the Local Development Plan, highways infrastructure, cycle and footpaths and open spaces etc. This approach would allow children to "play out" safely in the vicinity of their own home.

- The Council would uphold its duty to assess and secure sufficient play opportunities for children in the area.

- There would be no savings achieved.

Agreed
8. COMMUNITY MEALS SERVICE REVIEW
Report (322K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report prepared by the Strategic Transformation Team.

The Executive Member - Environment spoke in detail to the report and highlighted the salient points contained therein. Details of the existing service provision, existing fleet arrangements, staffing structure and current financial position were contained within the report.

It was proposed that the recommendations contained within Paragraph 3.1 be endorsed namely, an increase in the price of meals from 4.10 to 4.75 to take effect from January 2019 and a two phased approach to commence changes to staffing with immediate effect with the second phase to transfer the service to Adult Services.

The Leader of the Labour Group commenced by pointing out that this service was provided to the most vulnerable in the community. Whilst he acknowledged the cost pressure associated with the service, he could see no reason to rush the decision on this matter and requested that the report be deferred and considered alongside all the budget papers at Council's meeting in February 2019. He added that once this service was removed or reduced there was little possibility it would be reinstated.

The Leader of the Labour Group continued by referring to a recent Assisted Transport Report that had not been supported by the Executive even though it could have been argued that 53% of users had the use of mobility vehicles. The Community Meals Service was not a huge cost pressure and Welsh Government had announced further funding for Councils and Social Services specifically. In addition, the Council had also received a decent settlement in previous years and had benefitted from 3m MRP last year.

The Leader of the Labour Group added that it would have been beneficial for this review to have been considered by the Scrutiny Committee in the first instance. He concluded by proposing that in order that Members had the opportunity to make a balanced decision alongside all the budget proposal information, the report be deferred and considered at the Council meeting in February 2019.

A Member welcomed the comments made and said that these may be the only visitors some of the service users received on a daily basis. However, he did not agree with deferment of the report and said that the transfer of the service to Adult Services was appropriate and as part of the transition of the service there would be further engagement with community groups.

The Executive Member - Social Services gave an assurance that service users would not be put in a situation where they were not protected. He welcomed the report including Phase 2 which provided the opportunity to transfer the service to Social Services - a department which had an track excellent record of improving services in the County Borough.

He continued by referring to Phase 2 i.e. the 6 month transition period from the Community Services Division to Adult Services and felt that this timescale was too long. He was anxious for the service to be transferred to Social Services in order to increase the opportunities for residents who needed the service and to ensure that those service users that were engaged with were totally protected. The Executive Member - Social Services concluded by supporting the report.

The Leader of the Labour Group said that he could not agree with the Executive Member to transfer the service to Adult Services due to existing financial pressures that this particular area was already experiencing.

A number of Members commented as follows:-

„ A Member supported the option and it was pointed out that whilst there was currently a cost pressure attributed to this service it needed to be looked at as a future income opportunity. There were currently only 135 service users and he hoped that there would be greater engagement with the public to promote the service in the hope that the service did not need to be re-considered as a financial efficiency project in next 12 months.

„ Concern was expressed that this review should have been considered by the Scrutiny Committee in the first instance and also risk assessment information relating to lone working had not been provided.

Service users were the most vulnerable people in society and whilst there were a low number of service users at present the service had not been advertised to the general public in order to increase income levels.

Community meals may be the only visitors some of the service users received on a daily basis and if this service was not provided this would put further pressure on Adult Services.

Concern was expressed that the risks faced by staff and the public as part of the Phase 1 proposals were unknown and said that he was unable to support the report without proper scrutiny taking place.

„ Another Member commended the report and said that a census of customers and residential homes that used the service should be undertaken.

The Leader of the Council said that he supported the comments made by the Executive Members and said that it was appropriate for the service to be positioned in Social Services. He added that the location of certain Council functions was being considered as part of the service review process. It was noted that with regard to the implementation of the phases, Phase 1 had to be implemented initially prior to the implementation of Phase 2.

Members were advised that there had been cost pressures associated with Adult Services since 2014 and increasing targets by 35% had attributed to these cost pressures. This proposal could help to eradicate the cost pressure.

The Leader of the Council said that he could consider the way service reviews were conducted during the next financial year. However, there were unpalatable truths to be faced this year and in the next few years. This was a comprehensive and thorough service review and there would be service improvements once the service had transferred to Social Services. He concluded by seconding the proposal to endorse the recommendations.

The Leader of the Labour Group pointed out that all services had been under review at all times and this had been the case since 2014. However, in his view there seemed to be some 'cherry picking' in terms of reviews because there were a whole raft of cost pressures in excess of 37,000 that could have been considered. He concluded by again proposing deferment of the report as part of the budget setting process. This report was crying out to be considered by a Working Group of Members. This proposal was seconded.

The Executive Member - Environment proposed that the recommendations within the report be endorsed. This proposal was seconded.

A vote was taken on the following amendment:-

The report be deferred and considered as part of the whole budget setting process in the New Year.

A Member requested that a recorded vote be taken.

In Favour of the amendment - Councillors P. Baldwin, D. Bevan, M. Cross, K. Hayden, H. McCarthy,T. Smith, S. Thomas, H. Trollope, D. Wilkshire, B. Willis, L. Winnett

There were insufficient votes in favour of the proposed amendment, therefore, it was not agreed.

A vote on the recommendations contained within the report was thereupon taken i.e.

- An increase in meal prices from 4.10 to 4.75 effective from January 2019.

- Phase 1 changes to staffing commence with immediate effect.

- A project team commence the development of the Phase 2 plan with immediate effect.

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

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and

- An increase in meal prices be agreed to take effect from January 2019 i.e. a two course meal be increased from 4.10 to 4.75.

- Phase 1 changes to staffing commence with immediate effect.

- A project team commence the development of the Phase 2 plan with immediate effect.

Agreed
9. SERVICE REVIEW - CITIZEN ADVICE BUREAU (VOLUNTARY SECTOR SCHEME FUNDING ELEMENT)
Report (402K/bytes)
Appendix (212K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Governance and Partnerships.

The Leader of the Council/Executive Member - Corporate Service spoke in detail to the report and highlighted the following salient points contained therein. He explained that as part of the 2018/19 budget setting process an outline business case in respect of the entirety of the Voluntary Sector Scheme (VSS) funding 85,000 had been submitted to Council. It was noted that a way forward in respect of the Care and Repair element of the funding ( 25,000) had been agreed at a previous Council meeting.

This report presented options relating to the Citizen Advice Bureau service relating to the review of the VSS funding. As part of the review process a number of meetings had taken place with the Chief Executive Officer and senior officer of CABCBG - this service was jointly funded with Caerphilly County Borough Council. It was noted that Blaenau Gwent had been providing funding to the CAB for a number of years but this had not been formalised with a service level agreement.

The Head of Governance and Partnerships had entered into dialogue with the CAB to obtain a full understanding of services provided and any additional elements of work that could be undertaken to validate the 60,000 funding and these core services were documented in the report.

The Leader of the Council continued by advising that the Department of Works and Pension (DWP) had announced on 1st October, 2018 that they would be entering a new partnership with CAB nationally with immediate effect to provide Universal Support, a role that was currently a local authority role. CAB would run their developing service alongside local authorities until 31st March, 2019 and would then deliver the full service from April 2019.

A successful bid of 60,000 had been made to the Legacy Fund. Therefore, it was proposed that the resulting underspend against the CAB budget be allocated to a specific reserve and utilised to offset the contribution to CAB in 2019/20. Therefore, the financial saving for 2019/20 set out in the original business case was able to be met. This funding would be utilised by the CAB to continue core work for Blaenau Gwent and the 60,000 from the VSS would be saved.

It was noted that if the Legacy Fund continued for a second year, the intention would be to submit a bid to cover the service level agreement specification for 2019/20, however if it did not continue for a second year or the bid was unsuccessful, support to the CAB would still be provided.

Members were then provided with the opportunity to raise questions/comment on the report.

Universal Credit Support - a Member expressed his concern regarding the decision of Central Government to transfer the support for Universal Credit from local authorities to the CAB - the support currently provided by Council to residents was second to none.

The Member continued by referring to the funding that the CAB would receive from Central Government and pointed out that this would be for digital and e-mail support and not face to face support. This service was provided to the most vulnerable in the community but if this group was unable to use digital means they would not be able to receive this support.

Vulnerable Groups - another Member advised that the first language of people who were profoundly deaf was British Sign Language. These individuals struggled to use computers. The Member requested that the Council contact the CAB to advise that some vulnerable groups would not be able to receive this support via telephone or digital means because face to face interaction was required.

CAB Board Membership - a Member enquired whether the CAB had a Board structure and if Blaenau Gwent representative had been appointed to sit on the Board of the CAB.

The Leader of the Council advised that this information had not previously been available due to a lack of a service level agreement between both parties but this should be clearer once an agreement had been established.

It was noted that the Head of Governance and Partnerships would now hold quarterly meetings with representatives of the CAB which would provide a better understanding of the progression of the service level agreement and the impact of the decision of Central Government to transfer Universal Support to the CAB would have on citizens.

A discussion ensued in respect of the impact of the transfer of Universal Credit from local authorities to the CAB would have on staff and that local authority staff in Blaenau Gwent had been exemplar in assisting and supporting people through a complicated process.

Another Member concurred with the comments made previously regarding the use of digital means and expressed his concern that the same level of standards were maintained when the transfer of Universal Support took place. He concluded by requesting that Members be kept advised of progress.

It was therefore, proposed and seconded that Option 1 be endorsed.

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

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

A phased approach be taken:

- Review the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in 2019/20 to take account of the DWP Universal Support grant funding being allocated nationally to Citizens Advice from April 2019.

- Remove and/or reduce the Voluntary Sector Scheme (VSS) funding element to Citizen Advice Bureau Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent (CABCBG) from 1st April, 2020 following the review of the SLA.

Agreed
10. MOTION - LUCY'S LAW
Motion (66K/bytes)

Council considered to the Motion relating to Lucy's Law.

A Member in presenting the motion explained that the introduction of Lucy's Law in Wales would prevent pet shops and puppy dealers from selling puppies that they had not bred themselves and the horrors of mass puppy farming by banning the sale of puppies by pet shops and other third party dealers and on-line traders.

The Member concluded by requesting that Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council pledge its support in introducing Lucy's Law and write to Welsh Government in support of introducing this piece of legislation which was duly required.

In reply to a question, a Member confirmed that a breeder was allowed to breed 5 litters per year before they needed to be licensed. Also there were 'back yard breeders' operating who were not registered.

A discussion ensued when

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

RESOLVED that Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council pledge support for the introduction of Lucy's Law in Wales.

Agreed
11. CONDOLENCES

Condolences were expressed to the family of former Blaenau Gwent Councillor William David Reginald Herbert (Rex) on his sad death.

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

A Member paid tribute to Rex who at one time was the longest serving Labour Member in Britain and had served as a Blaenau Gwent Councillor for over 50 years. Rex had also been elected Mayor of the County Borough of Blaenau Gwent on three occasions and had been bestowed the honour of Freedom of the Borough in 2002.

Rex was a well-respect Member who had been very decisive and determined and had worked tirelessly for the community and would be sorely missed.

Noted
12. SEASONS GREETINGS

The Chair concluded by expressing her best wishes to Members and officers for a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Noted
TO RECEIVE AND CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING REPORT(S) WHICH IN THE OPINION OF THE PROPER OFFICER IS/ARE AN EXEMPT ITEM(S) TAKING INTO ACCOUNT CONSIDERATION OF THE PUBLIC INTEREST TEST AND THAT THE PRESS AND PUBLIC SHOULD BE EXCLUDED FROM THE MEETING (THE REASON FOR THE DECISION FOR THE EXEMPTION IS AVAILABLE ON A SCHEDULE MAINTAINED BY THE PROPER OFFICER)
13. DELEGATED AUTHORITY - BUDGET VARIATION 2018/19
Report (316K/bytes)

Councillors W. Hodgins and L. Parsons as they were Trustee representatives sitting on the Board of the Leisure Trust declared an interest in this item and left the meeting whilst it was considered.

Prior to consideration of the item, three Members advised that they had not received this particular report. Members were advised that this paperwork had been despatched to all Members on Friday, 7th December, 2018 but the Democratic Services officers undertook to investigate the matter.

Due to the need to consider the following item as a matter of urgency, the Chair of the Council confirmed that the following matter could be considered under the Provisions of Paragraph 4(b), Section 100(b) of the Local Government Act, 1972.

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).

Consideration was given to the report of the Managing Director.

At the invitation of the Chair, the Managing Director spoke in detail to the report which had been presented to seek delegated authority from Council to enable the Managing Director to agree an in-year budget variation. It was noted that this would require action prior to the Christmas break.

It was noted that the in-year budget variation would be agreed in consultation with the Executive Member - Environment, Leader of the Council and Leader of the Labour Group. The matter would then be brought to Council at the next available Council meeting in the new year for ratification. The Managing Director added that any funding proposed to be provided had not been budgeted for within the current financial year.

It was noted that the Trust operated important front line services across the County Borough. The Managing Director referred to the Service Review approved by Council on 29th November, 2018 and said that officers now needed to implement the proposals contained within the review and work with the Trust over the next 12/18 months.

It was proposed and seconded that Option One be endorsed.

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

RESOLVED that the report which related to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority) be accepted and Option 1 be endorsed, namely:-

Delegated authority be approved to enable the Managing Director to agree an in-year budget variation with the Trustees of the Aneurin Leisure Trust, in consultation with the Executive Member - Environment, Leader of the Council and Leader of the Labour Group. The matter would then be brought to the next available Council in 2019 for ratification.

Agreed
DECISIONS UNDER DELEGATED POWERS