Agenda and minutes

Ordinary Meeting of the Council
Thursday, 30th September, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Virtually Via Microsoft Teams - if you would like to attend this meeting live via Microsoft Teams please contact committee.services@blaenau-gwent.gov.uk

Contact: Democratic Services  6139

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Simultaneous Translation

You are welcome to use Welsh at the meeting, a minimum notice period of 3 working days is required should you wish to do so.  A simultaneous translation will be provided if requested.

 

Minutes:

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

2.

Apologies

To receive.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors K. Hayden, M. Holland, C. Meredith, G. Paulsen and T. Sharrem.

 

3.

Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

To consider any declarations of interest and dispensations received.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.

 

4.

Chair's Announcements

To receive.

Minutes:

Congratulations were expressed to:

 

Rosie Richards aged 8 of Tredegar who had been selected for to train with the Welsh Gymnastics Development Squad.

 

Lloyd Crump of aged 14 of Waunlwyd who had won the Welsh Mixed Doubles Under 17’s Badminton Tournament and would be representing Wales in an international tournament in Scotland in the coming weeks.

 

Alfie Skinner who had qualified in the 7 to 8-year group at the IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships and had won a place on the British Junior Golf Team that would represent the U.K. in July 2022 in California.

 

RESOLVED that appropriate letters be sent.

 

5.

Minute Book - October 2020 - July 2021

Minutes:

The Minute Book for the period October 2020 – July 2021 was submitted for consideration.

 

It was unanimously,

 

RESOLVED that the minutes be approved and confirmed as a true record of proceedings.

 

6.

Ordinary Meeting of the Council pdf icon PDF 757 KB

To confirm and if thought fit, approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 29th July, 2021.

 

Minutes:

Agreed.

7.

Planning, Regulatory and General Licensing Committee (Planning Matters) pdf icon PDF 260 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 22nd July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

8.

Executive Committee pdf icon PDF 422 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Executive held on 21st July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

9.

Special Executive pdf icon PDF 226 KB

To confirm the minutes of the special meeting held on 26th July, 2021.

 

Minutes:

Agreed.

10.

Special Executive pdf icon PDF 208 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Special Executive held on 1st September, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

11.

Joint Education & Learning and Social Services Scrutiny Committee (Safeguarding) pdf icon PDF 274 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Joint Education & Learning and Social Services Scrutiny Committee (Safeguarding) held on 8th October, 2020.

 

Minutes:

Agreed.

12.

Special Regeneration Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 140 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Special Regeneration Scrutiny Committee held on 9th June, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

13.

Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 292 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 22nd June, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

14.

Regeneration Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 243 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee held on 30th June, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

15.

Joint Education & Learning and Social Services Scrutiny Committee (Safeguarding) pdf icon PDF 261 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Joint Education & Learning and Social Services Scrutiny Committee (Safeguarding) held on 14th July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

16.

Special Regeneration Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 210 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 15th July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

17.

Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 243 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee held on 16th July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

18.

Democratic Services Committee pdf icon PDF 212 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Democratic Services Committee held on 16th July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

19.

Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring) pdf icon PDF 255 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring) held on 26th July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

20.

Members Questions

To receive questions, if any, from Members.

 

Minutes:

There were no questions submitted by Members.

 

21.

Public Questions

To receive questions, if any, from the public.

 

Minutes:

There were no questions submitted by members of the public.

 

22.

Treasury Management Annual Review Report 1st April, 2020 to 31st March, 2021 pdf icon PDF 589 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

At the invitation of the Chair, the Chief Officer Resources spoke to the report which provided Members with an opportunity to consider the Treasury Management activities carried out in 2020/2021 financial year, in accordance with the CIPFA Treasury Management Code of Practice.

 

A summary of the Treasury Management activities undertaken during the year were detailed in paragraph 5.1.6 of the report and these included:

 

-      £166m in short term loans had been raised resulting in an interest payment on these temporary borrowings of £265,000 at an average interest rate of 0.83%.  This interest rate was lower than the benchmark rate (based on market forces) of 1.00%.

 

-      £400,000 of short term investments had been made which had generated £8,000 in investment returns.

 

-      Long term debt outstanding as at 31st March, 2021 amounted to the value of £170m.

 

-      Short term debt outstanding as at 31st March, 2021 amounted to the value of £65.315m.

 

-      The debt included the loan associated with the Ebbw Valley Railway project – a specific interest free loan from the Welsh Government.

 

The Council had complied with the Local Government Act 2003, and in accordance with the CIPFA Treasury Management Code of Practice and Welsh Government guidance in carrying out its Treasury Management activities and in doing so had strived for effective risk management and control, whilst at the same time pursuing best value as far as possible.  In addition, the Authority had effectively managed credit risk throughout the period, thereby ensuring that it had not been subjected to any financial loss as a result of the credit crisis.

 

The Chief Officer Resources concluded by advising that the Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee had considered the report on 21st September, 2021 and had endorsed Option 1.

 

Members were then given to the opportunity to raise questions/comment on the report.  These comments were summarised as follows:

 

-      The Leader of the Labour Group referred to the ‘Operational Boundary for External Debt’ contained in Appendix 1 of the report and alluded to comments and concerns he had made previously relating to the timing of the Ebbw Valley Rail loan.  He pointed out that budgets were becoming increasingly stretched as a result of the pandemic and the effect and the impact that this would have on local government, who had a duty to provide social care, was currently unknown going forward.  In addition, he expressed his concern regarding the Council’s ability to borrow in the future (it was noted that in previous years prudential borrowing had to be used to maintain some of the core services) and asked the Chief Officer whether she was confident that the Operational Boundary limit was appropriate for the authority.

 

The Chief Officer Resources advised that she was confident that the operational boundary was correct for the authority.  The officer explained that the operational boundary was set by the Council and was regularly assessed and monitored to ensure that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Assessment of Performance 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 488 KB

To consider the report of the Service Manager Performance and Democratic.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Service Manager Performance & Democratic.

 

The Managing Director commenced by stating that this report had been considered and endorsed by both the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee and Executive Committee.  This statutory report was required to be produced and published by 31st October annually.  However, the new Local Government & Elections (Wales) Act 2021 had changed the reporting arrangements going forward and in future, the Council would be required to develop reports on the progress made against the Corporate Plan priorities and the Well-being of the Future Generations (Wales) Act. Therefore, this would be final report that would be produced in its current format.

 

The report recognised that 2020/2021 had been an incredibly difficult year for Council’s and communities and it was acknowledged that some priorities had been delayed as resources were directed into critical services and as the Council’s response focussed on the pandemic and subsequently, the recovery phase.

 

At this juncture, the Managing Director paid tribute and expressed her appreciation to staff who had worked so tirelessly during this period. The report detailed the progress made within areas of Council activity and this tremendous achievement during such a difficult time was a credit to the workforce, Members, communities and partners.

 

Members were then given to the opportunity to raise questions/comment on the report.  These comments were summarised as follows:

 

-      The Leader of the Labour Group commenced by highlighting that this was the Council’s own assessment of its own performance and said he felt that report read too positively and did not highlight sufficiently, the improvements that were required.  An example of this was the recent Estyn Thematic Review which, had highlighted positive areas but had focussed less on the required improvements.

 

The report was overly optimistic and a far more balanced report should have been provided for the public because it portrayed the opposite view to what members of the public perceived i.e. litter and in particular, animal trespass was increasing in all parts of the County Borough – it was pointed out that requests had been made for a new service to be established to address this issue.  In addition, as part of the previous year’s budget, a proposal to enhance the CCTV service had been presented – again, it was pointed out that Blaenau Gwent was the only authority in Gwent that did not have a manned CCTV service.

 

The Leader of the Labour Group continued by referring to consultation and said that the Council had failed on this aspect and cited recent topics whereby he felt that there had been a lack of engagement i.e. Festival Park, General Offices and Rail Car Parks and the Ebbw Valley Rail Investment. 

 

However, with regard to the Covid-19 emergency response, the Council had been magnificent and the Social Services Department and staff had been fantastic - this had been qualified in a recent Care Inspectorate Wales Report. 

 

The Leader of the Labour Group concluded by stating that whilst there were areas  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Diverse Council Action Plan pdf icon PDF 444 KB

To consider the report of the Service Manager Performance and Democratic.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Service Manager Performance and Democratic.

 

At the invitation of the Chair, the Chief Officer Commercial and Customer advised that the Council had already signed up to becoming a diverse Council at its July Meeting and at that time it was agreed that an action plan be developed to support diversity in the democratic process and that the action plan be considered by the Democratic Services Committee, prior to Council approval.

 

The action plan, attached as an appendix to the report, followed the WLGA format and had incorporated the findings from the work undertaken with 16 – 25 year olds with regard to interaction around democracy.  Discussions had also taken place with key officers and equality leads to ensure that the correct connections were made in order that some of the proposed actions could be progressed.  It was noted that the action plan set out the intended activity ahead of the 2022 local elections and post elections - there was a longevity to the document and it could be built on and added to as it moved forward.

 

The Chair of the Democratic Services Committee advised that the report had been welcomed by the Committee but a few points had been raised regarding some of the wording that had been used in terms of the political make up of groups and parachute payments for Members who lost their seats at an election.

 

The Leader of the Labour Group referred to Item No. 30 contained within the action plan and more specifically the final bullet point, namely “support the Welsh Government’s and IRPW’s commitment to explore Resettlement grants or ‘parachute payments’ for Members who lose their seats at election” and advised that both the Labour Group and Minority Independent Group could not support this proposal.

 

In reply to a question raised, the Chief Officer confirmed that the action plan was a ‘live’ document and would be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that the document included any salient and pertinent points over time.  The action plan would be monitored through the Democratic Services Committee as part of the forward work programme.

 

A further discussion ensued regarding the use of the terminology ‘political parties’ within the document and it was requested that this be amended to read ‘political groups’.

 

The Chief Officer advised that the points raised at Democratic Services Committee regarding terminology had been captured in the covering report.  With regard to parachute payments, this was being considered by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales on a national basis and was currently under discussion across Wales.  As there would be further iterations of this proposal, Council could consider this in the future as part of the live review of the action plan.

 

A Member referred to paragraph 6.1 of the report and in particular, the point that Blaenau Gwent continued to have significantly above average levels of disability with a total of 31.6% of working age people being defined as disabled (EA core or  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.

25.

Amendments to the Constitution pdf icon PDF 380 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance/Monitoring Officer.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance was submitted for consideration.

 

At the invitation of the Chair, the Head of the Legal and Corporate Compliance advised that the purpose of the report was for Council to approve and adopt proposed changes to the Constitution.  It was noted that the document had not been updated since 2019 and no updates had been undertaken the previous year as focus was responding to the pandemic.  Therefore, this document incorporated 2 years of amendments, both procedural and updated changes.

 

The Constitution Working Group had considered and approved the proposed amendments at a meeting held on 2nd September, 2021.  Correspondence had also been forwarded to absent Members asking for their views and key officers for further amendments.  However, no further proposals or comments had been received.

 

A Member referred to the proposed schedule of amendments to the Council Constitution, in particular the following two proposals:

 

-      Part 4 – The Register of Members Interests – proposal to increase the material benefit of value from £10 to £20.

 

-      Section 20 – Officer’s Code of Conduct – proposal to increase the value of gifts from under to £10 to under £20

 

The Member continued by stating that in the interests of openness and transparency the above proposals should not be increased but either reduced to zero or the status quo remain. 

 

The Head of Corporate and Legal Compliance confirmed that a recent benchmarking exercise had been undertaken at the All Wales Monitoring Officer’s Group regarding the threshold level of material gifts, at which Members and officers would be obliged to legally record any gifts received.  It was pointed out that the setting of the threshold was currently at the discretion of Council and it was evident was from the benchmarking exercise that Blaenau Gwent had set the lowest level in Wales. 

 

The Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance continued by advising that the level of £10 had been in place for over 30 years and most other authorities in Wales had increased their levels to £25-30 because it was quite common for Members and officers to receive gifts at Christmas. Therefore, an increase to £20 in the threshold level would make the process less onerous for Members and a more realistic amount, bearing in mind this had not been revalued for a considerable number of years. 

 

It was noted that some Members disclosed all gifts received irrespective of their value but were not legally obliged to do so unless it fell over the threshold level, which was currently £10. Therefore, this proposal would bring the Council in line with other councils across Wales and the Constitution Working Group had considered £20 to be a reasonable level.

 

A Member said that he had received gifts previously and had been advised by the then Legal Officer to accept these but make a donation the face value of the gift to the Mayor’s Appeal.

 

Another Member said that he appreciated that inflation had increased and the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.

26.

Memberships Report pdf icon PDF 454 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to:

 

Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council

-      appointing two representatives to the above.

 

The Leader advised that he had received no nominations for these positions at this point in time.

 

Ebbw Valley Railway Liaison Committee

-      appointing a representative to the above.

 

RESOLVED that the Executive Member Regeneration & Economic Development be appointed to the above Liaison Committee.

 

Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee & Safeguarding Scrutiny Committee – Co-opted Member

 

To confirm the appointment of Mr. Tim Pritchard, St. Mary’s RC Primary as a co-opted Member on the above Scrutiny Committees.

 

RESOLVED accordingly.

 

27.

Exempt Items

To receive and consider the following report which in the opinion of the proper officer is an exempt item 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).

 

Minutes:

 

To receive and consider the following report which in the opinion of the proper officer was an exempt item taking into account consideration of the public interest test and that the press and public should be excluded from the meeting (the reasons for the decisions for the exemptions was available on a schedule maintained by the proper officer).

 

28.

Shortlisting - JNC Officers

To consider the report of the meeting held on 15th September, 2021.

Minutes:

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 Paragraphs 12 & 13, Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act, 1972 (as amended).

 

Consideration was given to the report of the meeting held on 15th September, 2021.

 

The Managing Director advised that the Appointments Committee had met and interviewed candidates for the role of Head of Governance and Partnerships on 28th September, 2021 and confirmed that Miss Sarah King had been the successful candidate and had been formally offered the post.  It was noted that this role also carried the statutory responsibility of the Head of Democratic Services and it had been confirmed that at a recent meeting of the Democratic Services Committee that this statutory designation should remain with the post of Head of Governance and Partnerships.

 

The Chief Officer Commercial & Customer in her capacity as the out-going Head of Democratic Services, expressed her appreciation to Members for the opportunity given to her to undertake this role since 2013.  She continued by stating that it had been a privilege to work alongside Members in this role and looked forward to continuing working with Members in her new role, as part of the senior leadership team. 

 

The Chair expressed her best wishes to the Chief Officer Commercial & Customer in her new role.

 

It was unanimously,

 

RESOLVED that the report which related to staffing matters be accepted and the decisions contained therein be noted.