Agenda and minutes

Ordinary Meeting of the Council
Thursday, 25th November, 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 L. Elias, M. Holland, T. Sharrem, B. Thomas and the Chief Officer Commercial & Customer.

 

3.

Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

To consider any declarations of interest and dispensations received.

Minutes:

The following declarations of interest were reported:

 

Item No. 30: Planning, Administration and Cost of Local

                          Elections – 5th May, 2022

 

-      Michelle Morris – Managing Director (Returning Officer)

-      Rhian Hayden – Chief Officer Resources (Deputy Returning

                                                                   Officer)

-      Andrea Jones – Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance

                               (Deputy Returning Officer)

 

It was noted that following receipt of advice, the officers would remain in the meeting unless a detailed debate/questions were raised relating to specific payments.  In this event, the officers would then leave the meeting.

 

Item No. 31: Annual Report of the Director of Social Services

                     2020/2021

 

-      Councillor Wayne Hodgins

 

Item No. 35: Non-Executive Role

 

-      Michelle Morris – Managing Director

 

The Managing Director confirmed that she would leave the meeting whilst this item of business was considered.

 

4.

Chair's Announcements

To receive.

Minutes:

Condolences

 

Condolences were expressed to:

 

Ø The family of Moira Wilcox (wife of former Councillor Don Wilcox) who had sadly passed away.

Ø The family of Eileen Davies (wife of former Councillor Des Davies) who had sadly passed away.

Members and officers paid their respects with a minute’s silence

 

RESOLVED that appropriate letters be sent to the families.

 

Illness

 

ØIt was reported that Councillor Lyn Elias had recently undergone surgery.

 

RESOLVED that an appropriate letter be sent.

 

Congratulations

 

Congratulations were expressed to:

 

ØCymru Creations who had undertaken fantastic work to bring the Children’s International Film Festival to Blaenau Gwent. 

 

The Children’s International Film Festival of Wales had celebrated the best and brightest in International film programmes for children, students, and professional filmmakers from across the world. This included, short films, feature films, animations, and films that inspired younger generations.

 

The festival had been held over 2 days at Bedwellty House, Tredegar on 14th – 16th October, culminating in a red carpet event to celebrate the winners.

 

RESOLVED that an appropriate letter be sent.

 

5.

Minute Book - July - November 2021

Minutes:

The Minute Book for the period July – November, 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 333 KB

 

To confirm and if thought fit, approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 30th September, 2021.

 

Minutes:

Agreed.

7.

Extraordinary Meeting of the Council pdf icon PDF 219 KB

 

To confirm and if thought fit, approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 4th November, 2021.

 

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

8.

Planning, Regulatory and General Licensing Committee (Planning Matters) pdf icon PDF 274 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 2nd September, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

9.

Planning, Regulatory and General Licensing Committee (Planning Matters) pdf icon PDF 262 KB

To consider the minutes of the meeting held on 14th October, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

10.

Planning, Regulatory and General Licensing Committee (General Licensing Matters) pdf icon PDF 203 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 18th October, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

11.

Statutory Licensing Committee pdf icon PDF 197 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 18th October, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

12.

Special Statutory Licensing Committee pdf icon PDF 194 KB

To consider the Minutes of the Special Statutory Licensing Committee held on 28th October, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

13.

Executive Committee pdf icon PDF 548 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Executive held on 22nd September, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

14.

Executive Committee pdf icon PDF 364 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 10th November, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

15.

Community Services Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 248 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Community Services Scrutiny Committee held on 19th July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

16.

Social Services Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 236 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee held on the 22nd July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

17.

Governance & Audit Committee pdf icon PDF 363 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Governance & Audit Committee held on 27th July, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

18.

Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 372 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee held on 10th September, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

19.

Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 253 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 14th September, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

20.

Regeneration Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 262 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee held on 15th September, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

21.

Democratic Services Committee pdf icon PDF 212 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Democratic Services Committee held on 17th September, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

22.

Special Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 200 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Special Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee held on 21st September, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

23.

Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring) pdf icon PDF 219 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring) held on 27th September, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

24.

Community Services Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 332 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Community Services Scrutiny Committee held on 4th October, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

25.

Social Services Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 221 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee held on the 7th October, 2021.

Minutes:

Agreed.

 

26.

Members Questions

To receive questions, if any, from Members.

 

Minutes:

There were no questions submitted by Members.

 

27.

Public Questions

To receive questions, if any, from the public.

 

Minutes:

There were no questions submitted by members of the public.

 

28.

Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Policy Revision pdf icon PDF 828 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Chief Officer Resources was submitted for consideration.

 

At the invitation of the Chair, the Chief Officer Resources spoke to the report which proposed a change to the Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) policy and explained the impact this would have on the MRP going forward.

 

The Chief Officer, thereupon, highlighted the following salient points contained therein:

 

-      During February/March 2021, the Council had engaged Treasury Advisors, to conduct a review of the current MRP policy. The review had identified the opportunity to change two elements of the current policy, which would provide positive benefits to the Council by reducing the annual MRP charge until 2031/32 for unsupported borrowing and 2057/58 for supported borrowing. 

 

The proposed changes were detailed in Section 6 of the report and comprised of:

 

·        a change in the supported borrowing element of the MRP from 2% straight line to a 50-year annuity basis; and

 

·        a change in the unsupported borrowing element of the MRP from an annuity basis to a weighted average annuity basis.

 

-      It was noted that the annuity method provided a fairer charge than equal instalments because it took account of the time value for money for example, paying £100 in 10 years’ time was less of a burden than paying £100 now.

 

-      It was also proposed an alternative simplified method which would use an average asset life methodology on an annuity basis for all unsupported borrowing capital projects each year rather than on individual projects.

 

-      The Council was required to determine a level of MRP it considered to be prudent,whilst having regard to MRP guidance issued by Welsh Government.  It was noted that the proposed changes were in line with examples provided within the Welsh Government Guidelines on the MRP and these were detailed in Appendix 1 of the report.

 

-      The table at paragraph 5.1.1 of the report illustrated the impact on the MRP charge the methodology would have and if agreed, the revised policy would expect to reduce the MRP charge from 2022/23 onwards.

 

-      It was highlighted that under the current policy the 2022/23 MRP charge which was £4.47m would reduce to £1.74m under the revised policy and would increase incrementally in future years.  Therefore, based on the current MTFS assumptions, the proposed change in policy would have a positive impact of in excess of £750,000.  However, Members were advised that since the report had been considered at the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee in July, further detailed analysis had subsequently been undertaken and the positive impact was now estimated to be £1.3m.

 

-      Whilst the MRP charge was estimated to increase in subsequent years this charge would be lower than current estimates and would mitigate some of the cost pressure previously identified and reduce the currently assessed budget gaps.  It was important to note that these changes were prospective and it was not proposed to amend any previous year’s calculation and whilst the MRP was a requirement of the CIPFA Code of Practice,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.

29.

Medium Term Financial Strategy 2022/23 to 2026/27 pdf icon PDF 531 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

The Chief Officer Resources spoke briefly to the report which provided an update on the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) and the latest assessment of the Council’s financial position over the next 5 years.

 

The MTFS brought together all known factors affecting the Council’s financial position and formed the basis for decision making and included a forward look over the next five years to assess the spending requirements the Council was likely to face to deliver the priorities set out in the Corporate Plan and highlighted the level of cuts (reducing or stopping services) that would need to be made to ensure the Council could set a balanced budget each year.

 

The proposed MTFS was an iterative process and approach, one that would develop and be refined as the funding position from Welsh Government became clearer and strategic business reviews were further developed and implemented. 

 

It was noted that based upon the assumptions in the MTFS and the cost pressures identified in Appendix 2 of the report, a budget gap of £21m over the next 5 years was forecast and based on the current estimated achievement from the Strategic Business Reviews compared to the budget gap identified in the MTFS, there was a residual funding gap of £4m in 2022/23 and this ranged between £2.3m and £2.7m in subsequent years.

 

The Council’s current MTFS contained a number of assumptions which impact on the level of its income and expenditure. Changes in these assumptions could have a fundamental effect on the budget gap over the next 5 years. The impact of a 1% change on the main assumptions had been calculated and were detailed in paragraph 5.2.2 of the report.

 

The Chief Officer concluded by stating that the MTFS was used by the Council for planning purposes to provide an indication of the financial assessments for the next 5 years and formed part of the Council’s financial management framework.  This would be followed by the development and agreement of the annual budget which would commence following confirmation of the provisional Local Government Settlement which was expected from Welsh Government settlement on 22nd December, 2021.

 

A Member referred to the spending requirements over the next 5 years and asked whether financial provisions had been made within the MTFS regarding CCTV and for the health, safety and equality works that had been identified at Cwmcelyn Nature Reserve.  These were both areas that would require financial investment in the next 5 years.

 

The Chief Officer Resources advised that the draft budget had included provision for CCTV based on the current funding provision which had been increased incrementally by a 2% inflationary uplift.  It was noted that a report would be submitted via the democratic process in the next few months regarding CCTV provision and if there were further requirements that needed to be considered, this would be built into the cost pressures and budget once the announcement from Welsh Government had been  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.

30.

Draft Report of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 794 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Organisational Development.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Organisational Development.

 

At the invitation of the Chair, the Organisational Development Manager – Payroll, Health & Safety spoke to the report which contained the main proposals included within the 2022/23 draft report of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (the Panel) as they related to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council.  The officer continued by highlighting the following points:

 

-      The Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 required the Panel’s Annual Report to take effect from 1st April and in most years this was in line with financial and administrative arrangements of all authorities. However, when new councils were elected some of the Panel’s determinations were to become effective for the new municipal term.

 

On 9th May, 2022, new municipal arrangements would come into effect following local government elections. This Annual Report, therefore, had two different effective dates as set out below:

 

For the period 1st April, 2022 to 8th May, 2022, all of the determinations contained in the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales’ Annual Report 2021/2022 would continue to apply in respect of principal councils and community and town councils.

 

With effect from 9th May, 2022, (the new municipal year) the determinations set out in Sections 3 and 13 of the report would apply to principal councils and community and town councils.

 

-      It was noted that the basic salary of councillors of principal councils elected in the May 2022 local elections would be reset to align with the 2020 Annual Survey of Hourly Earnings (ASHE) and this sum would be £16,800.

 

-      Table 2.3.3 detailed the payment of basic & senior salaries for 2022/23.  The proposed increases varied from 10.5% to 19%.

 

The Organisational Development Manager – Payroll, Health & Safety concluded by outlining the options contained in paragraph 3 of the report.

 

The Chair of the Democratic Services Committee advised that the Committee had considered the draft report and had debated it at length on 8th November, 2021. The Committee felt strongly that it could not support the proposed excessive increases in the levels of remuneration as set out in the draft IRPW report for 2022/23 (apart from the recommendation relating to the contributions towards the cost of care and personal assistance) in this current climate of austerity as a result of Covid-19, the Government’s low pay offer to Council staff of 1.75% and to NHS workers who had put themselves at risk throughout the pandemic and due to the situation that some key workers were still earning the minimum wage. 

 

In reply to a question, the Organisational Development Manager advised that the take up was very low in terms of claims for the cost of care and personal assistance.

 

The Leader of the Labour Group echoed the comments made by the Chair of the Democratic Services Committee and advised that the view of the Labour Group and Minority Independent Group was that this was not the right time to propose any increases to remuneration  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.

31.

Planning, Administration and Cost of Local Elections - 5th May, 2022 pdf icon PDF 490 KB

To consider the report of the Managing Director (in the role of Returning Officer for Local Government Elections).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Michelle Morris, Managing Director (Returning Officer); Rhian Hayden, Chief Officer Resources (Deputy Returning Officer) and Andrea Jones, Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance (Deputy Returning Officer) declared an interest but remained in the meeting whilst this item of business was considered, on the understanding that they would leave if Members wished to discuss the issue of fees.

 

Councillor T. Smith left the meeting at this juncture.

 

Consideration was given to the report of the Managing Director (in the role of Returning Officer for Local Government Elections).

 

The Managing Director (in the role of Returning Officer for Local Government Elections) spoke to the report which sought approval for the resourcing and funding requirements in respect of the forthcoming local elections in May 2022.  The report also sought approval for staff payments and gave an explanation of the main accountabilities in the administration of efficient local elections.

 

Reference was made to Section 2 of the report and Members were advised that that in terms of the Count and Declaration of results for both the County Borough and Town/Community Council elections, that in common with most other Welsh Councils, this would take place on the day after the Poll i.e. on Friday, 6th May, 2022.

 

In addition, once the Notice of Election was published on 18th March, 2022 it was proposed that thereafter, formal Council business would cease during the pre-election period i.e. no council or committee meetings would be held, unless there was urgent business that needed to be attended to. 

 

The Managing Director continued by advising that since the preparation of the report confirmation via a Ministerial Statement had been received that Blaenau Gwent would be one of four authorities along with Torfaen, Caerphilly and Bridgend that would participate an Early Voting Pilot for the local government elections in the Spring. 

 

Work was currently being undertaken with Coleg Gwent targeting 16-17 first time voters and to establish an early polling station on the Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the normal day of voting on the Thursday, 5th May. It was noted that early voting would be extended to all residents who was eligible to vote in the County Borough and a communication to that effect would be released at the appropriate time.  Whilst the cost of the pilot was additional to the £140,000 budget, this additional expenditure would be met by Welsh Government so, therefore, this would not have any financial impact on the Council’s budget.

 

In reply to a question regarding Councillor engagement, the Managing Director referred to the report which set out the main areas of action and advised that one of these elements included candidates and agents’ briefings. Briefings would be held early in the new year with prospective candidates in addition, following close of nominations a further candidates briefing would be undertaken.  Therefore, there would be a number of opportunities for candidates to receive briefings on the pilot and how early voting would operate in practice.

 

In reply to a question, it was confirmed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

32.

Annual Report of the Director of Social Services 2020/2021 pdf icon PDF 495 KB

To consider the report of the Corporate Director of Social Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor W. Hodgins declared an interest in this item but remained in the meeting whilst it was considered.

 

Members considered the report of the Corporate Director of Social Services.

 

The Corporate Director advised that the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 placed a statutory duty on all local authorities to produce an annual report on the discharge of its social services functions.  The usual practice was for quarterly performance reports to be considered by the Social Services Scrutiny Committee but this reporting mechanism had been disrupted due to the pandemic.  In addition, the 2019/20 information had only been reported in early autumn as this had also been delayed due to the pandemic.

 

The Corporate Director continued by advising that the report covered the period April 2020 – March 2021 and detailed how social services continued to perform its functions during the pandemic and the progress made in a number of areas.  It was noted that the detail contained within the report had previously been provided to Members as part of the Directorate’s response to the pandemic.

 

The Corporate Director added that the work of the directorate had been validated positively by the Care Inspectorate Wales Backward Looking Assurance Check that had taken place on 17th – 21st May and in their letter of 11th June, 2021.  This visit had considered how well the local authority had discharged its statutory functions to keep people needing care and support and carers who needed support safe and promoting of wellbeing during the pandemic.  The Social Services Scrutiny Committee had considered the report on 7th October, 2021 and endorsed Option 1.

 

A Member welcomed the report and expressed his appreciation to the staff and officers of the Social Services Directorate who had worked tirelessly throughout this 2-year period supporting the less abled in the County Borough. 

 

The Executive Member for Social Services said that the report highlighted and demonstrated the willingness, flexibility and resolve of staff working in partnership across the department which, had safeguarded the majority of services during the pandemic and safeguarded the vulnerable in the community.  This work had continued under continuing pressures and challenges which changed daily and he expressed his personal appreciation to everyone involved.  He, thereupon, proposed that Option 1 be endorsed.  This proposal was seconded.

 

It was unanimously,

 

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and Option 1 be endorsed, namely the Annual Report of the Director of Social Services 2020/21 be approved and submitted to the Care Inspectorate Wales

33.

Gambling Act 2005 - Review of Statement of Gambling Policy pdf icon PDF 507 KB

To consider the report of the Service Manager Public Protection.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Service Manager Public Protection.

 

The Corporate Director of Regeneration and Community Services spoke briefly to the report and advised that at review of the Gambling Policy was undertaken every three years. It was noted that the Statutory Licensing Committee on 28th October, 2021 had considered and endorsed the revised policy.  If approved, the policy would be implemented on 31st January, 2022.

 

In reply to a question, it was confirmed that only one comment relating to a minor administrative amendment was requested.  It was noted that amendments were usually highlighted within the policy document but on this occasion no amendments had been received.

 

It was unanimously,

 

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and Option 1 be endorsed, namely that the reviewed Gambling Policy be approved.

 

34.

Membership Report pdf icon PDF 451 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to:

 

Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council

-      appointing two representatives to the above.

 

No nominations for these positions had been received.

 

Advisory Panel for Local Authority Governors

 

The following recommendations were made by the Panel on 12th October, 2021 to appoint:

 

Beaufort Hill Primary School – Mr Rhion Hollister

 

Sofrydd Primary School – Mr Paul Maddy

 

The following recommendations were made by the Panel on 15th November, 2021 to appoint:

 

The River Centre – Mr. Richard Barrett; Ms. Lesley Bush;

                                Ms. Jenna Underey; Ms. Hannah Moncreiff

 

Coed-y-Garn Primary School – Mr. Raffi Abbas

 

Ebbw Fawr Learning Community – Councillor D. Davies

 

Bryn Bach Primary School – Ms. Diane Rowberry

 

A discussion ensued relating to the terms of reference of the Advisory Panel for Local Authority Governors and the voting process that had been adopted at the Panel meeting on 15th November, 2021 for appointing additional governors to a particular school that had been issued with a statutory warning notice.

 

It was confirmed that these applications did not necessarily need to be presented to the Panel but had been shared for information, for Members to understand the approach that was being taken. The Corporate Director of Education noted the comments made and would clarify the position of these appointments for future arrangements i.e. whether these needed to be formally shared for information or a vote taken.  However, his understanding from advice received from the Governor Support Section at the Education Achievement Service was that the authority was within its right to appoint additional governors without a vote being taken. 

 

It was, thereupon unanimously,

 

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the above appointments be endorsed.

 

35.

Exempt Items

To receive and consider the following reports which in the opinion of the proper officer are exempt items 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 decision for the exemptions are available on a schedule maintained by the proper officer).

 

Minutes:

To receive and consider the following reports which in the opinion of the proper officer were exempt items 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).

 

36.

Non-Executive Role

To consider the report of the Head of Organisational Development.

Minutes:

The Managing Director declared an interest in this item and left the meeting at this juncture.

 

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 Head of Organisational Development.

 

Following a discussion, it was unanimously,

 

RESOLVED that the report which related to staffing matters be accepted and Option 1 be endorsed, namely that the Managing Director’s application to take the non-executive role of an Independent Member on the Joint Audit Committee for Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, be supported.

 

37.

Appointments Committee - JNC Officers

To consider the report of the meeting held on 28th 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 28th September, 2021.

 

It was unanimously,

 

RESOLVED that the report which related to staffing matters be accepted and the post be offered to Sarah King on a salary in accordance with JNC 3 (£63,742 - £70,115).