Agenda and minutes

Special Meeting of the Council
Thursday, 4th March, 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 G. Collier, M. Holland and H. Trollope.

 

3.

Illness

Minutes:

It was reported was Councillor Haydn Trollope had recently undergone surgery.

 

RESOLVED that a letter be sent wishing Councillor Trollope a speedy recovery.

 

4.

Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

To consider any declarations of interest and dispensations made.

 

Minutes:

The following declaration of interest was reported:

 

Item No. 5 –  Corporate Fees and Charges Register 2021/2022

                      Outdoor Street Markets – Fees and Charges

                     

                       Councillor P. Edwards

 

It was noted that should Silent Valley Waste Services Board be discussed at any point during the meeting, Councillors M. Cook and B. Summers as the Council’s appointed representatives on the Board would declare an interest at that juncture.

 

 

5.

Revenue Budget 2021/2022 pdf icon PDF 817 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 to the report which had been presented to Members to:

 

·        Provide an update on the positive provisional local government settlement for 2021/2022 and the impact upon the Council’s budget.

 

·        Consider and agree the detailed budget for 2021/2022.

 

·        Agree the level of Council Tax increase for the 2021/2022 financial year.

 

The following salient points were, thereupon, highlighted in further detail:

 

 

Scope and Background:

 

·        Section 2 of the report provided an overview of the structure of the report and highlighted the various elements of funding received from Welsh Government.

 

·        Subject to the recommendation within the report being agreed, the positive provisional settlement combined with the opportunities identified in the Bridging the Gap Programme meant that the Council was able to invest in key priorities, avoid cuts to services and enhance its financial resilience.

 

National Position (All Wales)

 

·        The Chief Officer Resources advised that following the Welsh Government Budget Announcement on 2nd March, 2021 there had been no change to local government settlements and therefore, the information contained in the report would not change.  Welsh Government had also announced continuation of the COVID related funding and £680m had been set aside, the majority of which had been earmarked for the NHS and local government. The information provided indicated that £200m had been set aside for COVID related costs for local government for the period April – September 2021.  Therefore, the assumptions that had been made around COVID related funding still stood.

 

·        The overall headline increase in the Aggregate External Finance (AEF) quoted by Welsh Government was 3.8%, after taking into account transfers into the settlement.  Compared to the Welsh average, the 3.7% increase for Blaenau Gwent placed the authority in the bottom third of the all-Wales table.

 

·        There had been two transfers into the settlement as follows:

 

·        £3.98m for the teachers’ pay grant.

·        £1.1m for the Coastal Risk Management Programme (no impact for this Council).

 

·        Certain Specific Revenue Grants data had only been published on an all-Wales basis, totalling £968m, therefore, the full impact of this was not yet known for Blaenau Gwent.

 

·        With the exception of the NHS and for those on the lowest pay, the UK Government’s decision to pause public sector pay increases had meant that Welsh Government had not received additional funding to provide for the wider public sector pay awards.  As a consequence, any financial impact arising from pay increases/awards would, therefore, need to be accommodated within the overall funding settlement.

 

Councillor T. Sharrem joined the meeting at this juncture.

 

Blaenau Gwent Position

 

·        The headline increase for BGCBC after allowing for transfers was 3.6% (£4.2m),compared to the all Wales increase of 3.8%.  This would place Blaenau Gwent in the bottom third of the league table of the all-Wales table. 

 

·        Details of the Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) – the formula on which Welsh Government based the distribution of funding was provided in paragraphs 2.22 – 2.24 of the report. 

 

·        The Authority  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Corporate Fees & Charges 2021/2022 pdf icon PDF 529 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor T. Smith left the meeting at this juncture.

 

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

 

Councillor P. Edwards declared an interest in this item but remained in the meeting whilst it was discussed.

 

At the invitation of the Chair, the Service Manager Accountancy spoke in detail to the report which proposed the fees & charges to be applied for the 2021/2022 financial year, including the core fees & charges to be operated by the Aneurin Leisure Trust.

 

It was noted that the Bridging the Gap Programme includes a Strategic Business Review on Fees & Charges to ensure that the Council is maximising its income by ensuring fees and charges were set at a level that covered the costs of delivering the goods and services it provided where appropriate.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic had had a significant impact on the fees & charges collected during the current financial year due to e.g. the closure of services.  Welsh Government had provided funding to mitigate the loss of income for 2020/2021 and it was anticipated that funding would continue into 2021/2022 as the Council continued to respond to the pandemic.

 

The Service Manager continued by outlining the fees and charges that would be subject to a 2% increase as outlined in paragraph 5.1.2 together with the list of services that had no fee increase proposed.

 

Aneurin Leisure Trust had submitted a list of proposed fees and charges for 2021/2022 for Core Services, to be approved by Council in line with the Funding and Management agreement. The proposed increases ranged from no fee uplift to 3.2%.

 

It was noted that fees and charges generated approximately £14.8m per annum in income, and contributed towards funding the cost of delivering Council services. 

 

The Leader of the Labour Group said in light of the vote taken to increase Council Tax by 3.3% for 2021/22 and in order to provide some recourse for residents, he asked whether it would be a possibility to reduce some of the 2% uplifts in fees and charges.

 

The Leader of the Council commenced by advising that a number of proposed 2% uplifts had already been removed (these included cemeteries, meals on wheels, markets and trade waste) and careful consideration would have to be given regarding the impact that the removal of any further uplifts would have on certain departmental budgets, such as Social Services.  Whilst he was of the view that the removal of uplifts had been reduced as far as possible, further discussions would be held with respective budget holders and if as a result of these discussions there was a necessity to review any of fees and charges, a further report would be submitted to a future meeting of the Council for consideration.

 

On behalf of the traders of the borough, a Member expressed his appreciation that no increase had been proposed for markets and trade waste services and said that this was a sensible approach.

 

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Motion - £20 Uplift pdf icon PDF 242 KB

 

To consider the attached motion from Unite Wales.

 

 

Minutes:

Council considered to the Motion from Unite Wales to maintain the income of low and middle income families.

 

The Leader of the Labour Group expressed his appreciation to Council for considering this Motion on behalf of Unite Wales.  He continued by pointing out that whilst it had been agreed as part of the U.K. Budget Announcement on 3rd March, 2021 to extend the basic rate of increase in Universal Credit by 6 months, Unite Wales had requested that Council still consider the Motion.

 

Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously RESOLVED that the Council noted that:

 

• Following the Budget announcement on 3rd March, 2021 that in September the UK Government plannedto cut the benefit level for millions of claimants by ending of the time limited increase to the basic rate of Universal Credit (and the tax credit equivalent).

 

• The £20 a week boost reflected the reality that the level of benefits was not adequate to protect the swiftly increasing number of households relying on them as the pandemic crisis hit. The increase was a very significant and welcome move to bolster low and middle-income families living standards, and its removal would be a huge loss.

 

• Pressing ahead would see the level of unemployment support fall to its lowest real-terms level since 1990-91, and it’s lowest ever relative to average earnings.

 

• The increase in benefits have had a positive effect on the lives of thousands of local claimants who were better able to pay for life’s essentials such as food, clothing and utilities.

 

• The local economy had also benefited from the increase in benefit levels as claimants spend their money locally thereby supporting local businesses and jobs.

 

• There had been no such increase in carers allowance with many unpaid carers facing extreme financial hardship.

 

FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council:

 

• Write to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak and to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson demanding that the £20 increase to Universal Credit be made permanent and extended to claimants on legacy benefits.

 

• Work with other local government organisations to form a coalition to pressure the government to make the £20 increase to Universal Credit permanent.

 

• Write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, urging them to raise Carer’s Allowance by £20 a week immediately, in line with the increase in Universal Credit, and copy in the local MP, asking for his support.

 

• Promote Young Carers Action Day on 16th March, 2021 as widely as possible on an annual basis, particularly to young carers and their families.