|Date: Monday 27th February 2017 Time: 11.15 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale|
|Present||And||Report to||Report of|
|COUNCILLOR M. CROSS (CHAIR)|
Apologies for absence were received from:-
Councillor Garth Collier and the Executive Member - Corporate Services - Councillor David White.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS
There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.
CORPORATE OVERVIEW SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Consideration was given to the Minutes of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee held on 9th January, 2017 whereupon:-
A Member asked if any progress had been made in relation to his previous comments on the quality and content of the minutes. He raised concerns that the current format produced minutes contrary to Council policy. The Chair commented that he would pursue progress on this issue with the relevant officers.
RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.
Councillor John Morgan left the meeting at this juncture.
Action Sheet (51K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (48K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (73K/bytes)
Consideration was given to the Action Sheet of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 9th January, 2017, whereupon:-
Item 5 - Welsh Language Standards
A Member asked if the costs of implementing the Welsh Language Standards were available, and the Corporate Performance Manager commented this would need to be pursued with the Leader.
Councillor John Morgan re-joined the meeting at this juncture.
WELSH LANGUAGE PROMOTION STRATEGY 2017 - 2022
Appendix A (18M/bytes)
Appendix B (593K/bytes)
Appendix C (46K/bytes)
Consideration was given to the report of the Policy Team Leader / Policy, Partnerships and Engagement Manager which presented the first five-year Welsh Language Promotion Strategy for Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council.
The Policy Team Leader spoke to the report and outlined the background and content contained therein. The Team Leader pointed out that Welsh Language Standard 145 sets a direction to increase the number of Welsh speakers by 2050. For Blaenau Gwent the target had been set at 44% as this represented an average annual increase of 70 additional welsh speakers i.e. 3% of the target figure year on year to provide an additional 2,324 speakers in Blaenau Gwent over the next 33 years.
A Member commented that the Council was required to implement 171 Welsh Language Standards, and whilst there were other worthwhile projects that would benefit from the cost associated with implementation of these Standards, the Council had a duty to promote and fulfil its role to encourage the use of the Welsh Language within the community.
Another Member enquired how the definition of a Welsh speaker was determined, and the Policy Team Leader said that Welsh speakers were defined by levels of fluency and through formal and informal training.
In response to a Member's question regarding attendees at the consultation meetings, the Team Leader confirmed that 23 people attended and the majority of feedback provided by stakeholders was positive, in particular with regard to the significant contribution of schools and adult education.
Members agreed that the way forward was through schools, and the Corporate Director of Education commented that 3 year olds were encouraged to use Welsh alongside English to increase awareness of the value of the language and help drive this issue forward for the future.
The Team Leader commented that work was being undertaken to encourage the use of Welsh beyond the school gates and Coleg Gwent and other partners actively promoted opportunities for parents, carers and grandparents to improve their Welsh language skills to support their children and promote the Welsh Language.
The Corporate Director of Education commented that the Welsh in Education Strategy Plan aimed to increase the number of children speaking Welsh. She also mentioned that employers were actively seeking Welsh speakers, thus there was a greater need for an environment where Welsh was spoken regularly.
A Member said that it was important to maintain the momentum in schools, and referred to the cost implications of providing fluent Welsh speaking teachers especially for early years. The Director said teaching Welsh in schools was part of the National Curriculum. Teachers did not have to speak Welsh fluently, but only to a standard appropriate to the age group they taught.
A Member referred to the challenge paper submitted to the Welsh Language Commissioner in relation to learning to swim through the medium of welsh, and the Team Leader said that a response had not yet been received from the Commissioner's office but she would keep the Committee informed of progress.
Members raised concern in relation to translation costs associated with the implementation of 171 Welsh Language Standards. They suggested that as promoting the Welsh Language was linked to the well-being goal of 'a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh Language' that funding should be made available from the Welsh Government.
RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted; and
TASK & FINISH GROUP REPORT - WORKING IN A PAPERLESS ENVIRONMENT
Appendix 2 (82K/bytes)
Appendix 2a (99K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (53K/bytes)
Appendix 4 (55K/bytes)
Appendix 5 (749K/bytes)
Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Finance Officer which presented the outcome of the Task & Finish Group, set up to inform the Council's review of its ICT for Members scheme and the paperless environment for Members.
The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report and outlined the background and content contained therein. He pointed out that Members ICT skills varied and a revised training programme would ensure that Members had adequate training to a minimum standard.
A Member referred to the cost of laptops and mobile phone devices and the training needed to use them efficiently. The Chief Finance Officer commented that the Member was referring to the app "my Council Services" which was part of the Customer Digital Strategy and was recently launched to engage with the wider community via a digital network. The Officer informed the Member that this was a separate issue from the report under discussion and he would be happy to speak with him on this issue at a separate point in time.
Members raised concerns that moving to a paperless environment would impact on jobs in the Business Support Division with regard to Members producing their own correspondence and accessing service requests via the Council's website. It was acknowledged that in the current financial climate that any form of IT equipment should be paid for by Members. The Head of Policy and Performance clarified that the Independent Remuneration Panel states that members "The Panel has determined that such support should be without cost to the individual member. Deductions must not be made from members' salaries by the respective authority as a contribution towards the cost of support which the authority has decided necessary for the effectiveness and/or efficiency of members".
A Member also pointed out that Local Government elections were due to take place in May 2017 and the new administration should be allowed to decide their own priorities over the next 4 years. The Chair commented that this issue had been around for 2-3 years and Members of the Committee had previously requested an update on this issue.
Another Member agreed with the principles of a paperless environment with savings of 70,000 over 5 years without affecting public services. However, he agreed that there was a timing issue with the report being presented to this Committee and felt that it should be deferred until after the local elections.
Another Member pointed out that Blaenau Gwent was a long way behind other local authorities with regard to digital inclusion, and more training was needed for Members.
Councillor John Morgan left the meeting at this juncture.
RESOLVED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be submitted to Executive Committee with the recommendation from Scrutiny that any decisions be deferred until after the Local Government elections in May 2017 and for an option to be included that the use of IT is optional for members.
TREASURY MANAGEMENT - TREASURY STRATEGY STATEMENT, INVESTMENT STRATEGY & MRP POLICY STATEMENT 2017/8 (INCLUDING PRUDENTIAL INDICATORS)
Appendix A (342K/bytes)
Appendix B (34K/bytes)
Consideration was given to the report of the Chief Accountant - Capital Services which was presented to give Members the opportunity to scrutinise the Treasury Strategy, Investment Strategy and Minimum Revenue Provision Policy (including prudential indicators) for adoption in the 2017/18 financial year.
The Chief Finance Officer spoke to the report and outlined the background and content contained therein and highlighted that effective Treasury Management allowed the Authority to deliver services in pursuance of its obligations under the national well-being goals.
RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted and the Annual Treasury Strategy Statement & Annual Investment Strategy & MRP Policy Statement for 2017/18 and the Treasury Management Prudential Indicators contained therein be submitted to Council for formal approval.
TOWN CENTRE CCTV - ASSESSMENT OF CURRENT POSITION
Consideration was given to the report of the Communications, Marketing and Customer Access Manager which was presented to provide Members with an update on the delivery of town centre CCTV.
The Communications, Marketing and Customer Access Manager spoke to the report and outlined the background and content contained therein, and referred to the point that the Council had entered into a 5 year service level agreement with an end date of 31 March 2019.
Councillor R. Jones left the meeting at this juncture.
In response to a question raised by a Member regarding the 13 faulty cameras in the Borough, the Officer confirmed that these were due to be replaced and a further 3 cameras would be held in stock to be used if needed.
A Member raised concerns with regard to value for money for the current service.
The Head of Policy & Performance commented that if Members were aware of any issues with regard to the placement of cameras she would be happy to raise them with the police.
A Member expressed concerns that the cameras in Brynmawr had not been in operation since December 2016 and serious traffic incidents and vandalism had gone unrecorded. The Officer commented that there had been issues with the BT network and the power supply had been disabled due to a prohibition order for the Market Hall Cinema. The Head of Policy and Performance said that officers were working hard to resolve the issues but problems still existed due to a specific set of circumstances at the moment.
Concerns were expressed that there seems to be a breakdown in communication when a camera is faulty during an Officer's absence.
The Officer informed Members that this would be followed up with Newport.
Members also expressed concern with regard to the number of faulty cameras, and that some cameras were pointed in the wrong direction, and questioned whether Blaenau Gwent had received a value for money service from Newport.
In answer to a Member's question regarding funding contributions by Gwent Police, the Officer said that the Police had not provided any funding for town centre CCTV as it was a Council function. It was also pointed out that the camera network was aging and ran on analogue technology.
A member enquired if the Department received any feedback of outcomes in relation to the number of evidence bags collected. The Communications, Marketing & Customer Access Manager informed Members that the figures shown in the report were collected by Newport for the Police and Crime Prosecution Service and we did not receive any feedback, but would raise members concerns at the meetings held with the LA and police.
A Member commented that with regard to the concerns expressed that arrangements should be made for the Chair, Vice-Chair, Executive Member and relevant Officers to visit the facility at Newport to gain a level of understanding of the issues.
Councillor Dennis Owens left the meeting at this juncture.
FURTHER RESOLVED to recommend, that the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee:-
The Chair thanked Members for their contribution to the scrutiny meetings during this Council cycle and expressed a special thank you to those Members who would not be seeking re-election.
QUARTER 3 JOINT FINANCE AND PERFORMANCE REPORT
Appendix 2 (691K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (557K/bytes)
Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Performance Team which presented the Joint Finance and Performance Report for Quarter 3, covering the period October to December 2016.
The Head of Policy & Performance spoke to the report and outlined the background and content contained therein. The Officer informed Members that a review of the Welsh Government's proposals for improvement was being undertaken and a summary of the proposals would be contained in the WAO Annual Improvement Report.
RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted; and the Joint Finance and Performance Report for Quarter 3 be acknowledged.