Agenda and minutes

Regeneration Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 10th February, 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  7785

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:

Apology for absence was received from Councillor J.C. Morgan.

 

3.

Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

To receive.

Minutes:

The following declaration of interest was reported:

 

Councillor W. Hodgins – Item No. 6 Aspire Shared Apprenticeship Programme

 

4.

Regeneration Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 323 KB

To receive the minutes of the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee held on 6th January, 2021.

 

(Please note the minutes are submitted for points of accuracy only.)

Minutes:

The minutes of the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee held on 6th January, 2021 were submitted.

 

The Committee AGREED that the minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

 

5.

Action Sheet - 6th January 2021 pdf icon PDF 187 KB

To receive the Action Sheet.

Minutes:

The Action Sheet arising from the meeting of the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee held on 6th January, 2021 was submitted, whereupon:

 

Forward Work Programme (Truck Shop, Tredegar)

 

In response to a question raised by a Member, the Head of Regeneration reported that an ‘in principle’ agreement had been received from CADW to demolish parts of the building.

 

TVR

 

In response to a further question the Head of Regeneration & Development confirmed that the Tech Board building would be refurbished in any event.  She understood that TVR was seeking additional private sector finance, and the fact that WG was refurbishing the Tech Board building would provide some level of confidence to private sector financiers.  However, the Officer confirmed that substantial interest had been expressed in the building should TVR not come to fruition.

 

The Committee AGREED, subject to the foregoing, that the Action Sheet be noted.

6.

Aspire Shared Apprenticeship Programme pdf icon PDF 710 KB

To consider the report of the Skills Development Manager.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to report of the Skills Development Manager.

 

The Skills Development Manager presented the report which provided an update on the performance of the Aspire Programme and associated external business engagement; and the performance information on the BGCBC internal apprenticeship programme.

 

The Officer went through the report and highlighted points contained therein.  To date the Aspire Shared Apprenticeship Programme had:

 

·        Recruited and supported 84 apprentices placed in over 20 manufacturing companies across Blaenau Gwent in addition to employment of 10 apprentices within Council departments.

·        51% of apprentices within Cohorts 1 & 2 (2015 & 2016) have progressed onto higher education/HNC.

·        100% of apprentices on cohort 1 have been employed, of which 67% retained within host employer.

·        Framework completed: Cohort 1 –83%, Cohort 2 – 79%

·        100% of apprentices in cohorts 1-5 have had the opportunity to rotate to another company to fulfil skills gaps.

 

In 2020, 17 Apprentices were furloughed due to Covid. This was the largest number at any one time with some apprentices being placed longer than others. The priority during that period was to support the Apprentices and help them to continue their learning through college, usually virtual lessons and continue where possible NVQ work. In addition, the Aspire Team supported them with their health and wellbeing to guide them through uncertain times with encouragement and open communication.

 

The Officer confirmed that no apprentices on the Aspire Programme were made redundant during this period of time and have all since returned to their work place.  It was felt that the support provided to apprentices by the Aspire Programme Team, along with employers facilitated this outcome.

 

A Member commended the report and said it was good to see Aspire being recognised throughout Wales.  He then asked whether Tai Calon had taken on any apprenticeships.

 

In response the Officer confirmed that discussions had taken place with Tai Calon on the Corporate Traineeship Programme.  She pointed out that Aspire was initially set up to facilitate manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships, and many of the skills offered by Tai Calon related to the construction industry.  However, she was aware that 2 or 3 people on the Corporate Traineeship Programme had progressed to an apprenticeship through those routes.  Engagement would also be undertaken with Monmouthshire’s Apprenticeship Trainee Programme as they had the skills with CITB to facilitate that area of learning.  In terms of other apprenticeships from an internal perspective, discussions had also been undertaken with ALT to highlight any opportunities that may arise.

 

A Member referred to the fact that of the 30 apprentices, 91% are male and 9% female, and asked how this compared with the situation across Wales.

 

The Officer explained that it depended on the sector, manufacturing and engineering was a male dominated industry, and BG was on a par with other LA’s.  In terms of apprenticeships across Wales there was a more balanced approach with female apprenticeships, and there had been many initiatives established to encourage more females into the industry. 

 

In terms of apprenticeships within  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Progress Update: Town Centre Task and Finish Group pdf icon PDF 598 KB

To consider the report of the Team Manager Regeneration Opportunities.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to report of the Team Manager Regeneration Opportunities.

 

The Team Manager Regeneration Opportunities presented the report which provided an update on the work of the Town Centre Task & Finish Group.

 

The Officer went through the report and highlighted points contained therein.  She confirmed that a second meeting of the Task and Finish Group took place on 20th, January 2021, where the Group received a presentation on the Tredegar Advisory Group which included details of how the Advisory Group was established, how it operated and how it had supported Officers and Members to collectively work on the regeneration of Tredegar.

 

Members felt it would be beneficial to explore the possibility of replicating the approach taken in Tredegar across all other towns within the Borough, and Officers agreed to support Members to consider these options and the establishment of the groups.

 

A Member thanked the Officer for her work on the Task & Finish Group and said he felt that the Group was making progress.  In relation to the recommendation for updates to be reported back on a quarterly basis, he suggested that these be brought to Scrutiny when necessary.

 

A brief discussion ensued regarding the timing of updates being reported to Scrutiny.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and progress of the Task & Finish Group be noted, and further updates be received as appropriate.

 

8.

Use of Consultants pdf icon PDF 666 KB

To consider the report of the Corporate Director Regeneration and Community Services and the Head of Regeneration and Development.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to report of the Corporate Director Regeneration & Community Services/Head of Regeneration & Development.

 

The Corporate Director Regeneration & Community Services presented the report which provided information requested by Members in relation to expenditure incurred during 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 on the use of consultants to support, supplement and complement the work of Officers across the Council.

 

He said consultants were widely used across the whole public sector including Welsh Government for a number of different purposes, and with Blaenau Gwent, consultants were used in a number of way, i.e.

 

·        To provide assistance in specialist areas where there was no or limited expertise or experience within the Council

·        To provide independent advice and a different perspective (challenge)

·        To supplement resources where there was insufficient capacity to undertake a specific, identified task e.g. because the work has come into the Council unexpectedly, or where the work needed to be progressed within a specific / limited time period.

·        To provide training to BG staff to enhance their own expertise e.g. changes to legislation

·        A substantial amount of the consultant costs was associated with project delivery and funded through external grants

 

He said the advantage of engaging Consultants was also that they were only required for a short period of time enabling an organisation to pay for that skill on demand only when needed. This was often an effective use of the Council’s resource and avoided / replaced the need to employ additional staff, with specialist knowledge & skills, on a permanent basis.

 

During 2018/19 and 2019/20 the Council spent a total of £0.7m and £1.1m on Consultants across all services, and the attached Appendix identified those Consultants, the costs and the reason for engagement relating to the Economy portfolio.

 

A Member endorsed the explanation provided by the Corporate Director for the use of consultants.

 

Another Member stressed the importance of using consultants wisely and only when absolutely necessary, as he was aware of a number of occasions where consultants had been used and the resulting reports had been shelved.  He also referred to the consultancy costs incurred as a result of the test track and Revive & Thrive initiative.

 

In response the Corporate Director said in terms of the prospective test track facility and the potential opportunity for Blaenau Gwent, further external expertise would be required to support the project which was a large project with a number of aspects that would require specialist and industry knowledge.  Hopefully the further use of consultants on this project would be done in partnership with our partner LA’s, who were also supportive of taking the project forward and the additional work to explore opportunities.  However, he stressed that consultants were only used for specialist expertise or for additional capacity.

 

In terms of the Revive & Thrive initiative, the Head of Regeneration & Development confirmed that the company was used to help set up the bid for both the Rassau and Tafarnaubach and this work was now complete.

 

A Member said looking at the figures over the 2 years he felt  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Forward Work Programme: 24th March 2021 pdf icon PDF 562 KB

To consider the report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Forward Work Programme for the meeting scheduled to be held on the 24th March, 2021 was submitted.

 

The Scrutiny Officer reported that the Community Benefits report would be removed and replaced with the Skills Academy report.

 

The Committee AGREED, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted.