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Contact: Democratic Services 6139
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.
It was noted that no requests had been received for the simultaneous translation service.
Condolences were expressed to:
ØThe family of former Blaenau Gwent County Borough Councillor and Mayor, Paul Hopkins who had sadly passed away.
Members and officers paid their respects with a minute’s silence
The Leader of the Labour Group said that this was extremely sad news regarding the sad loss of his colleague, Paul. He advised that Paul had been a committed socialist and one of the finest advocates for Tredegar and the valleys and would be sorely missed.
An apology for absence was received from Councillor T. Sharrem.
Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
To consider any declarations of interest and dispensations made.
The following declarations of interest were reported:
Item No. 7: Interim Arrangements – Vacant Post
- Michelle Morris – Managing Director
- Damien McCann – Corporate Director of Social Services
- Richard Crook – Corporate Director of Regeneration &
- Lynn Phillips – Corporate Director of Education
- Rhian Hayden – Chief Officer Resources
- Bernadette Elias – Chief Officer Commercial & Customer
- Andrea Jones – Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance
It was noted that following receipt of advice, the above-named officers would leave the meeting whilst this item of business was conducted.
To consider the attached Motion.
Consideration was given to the above-named Motion.
The Leader of the Labour Group commenced by explaining that the Motion had been submitted to request that Council correct an equality injustice suffered by employees who had missed out on the Welsh Government’s Financial Recognition Scheme and to recognise and recompense the hard work and dedication of employees from Workforce Development, Early Years Childcare and Play, Families First and Flying Start who were all part of the Social Services Directorate.
These diligent and dedicated employees who were some of the lowest paid, had been working at the outset and throughout the course of the pandemic. It was noted that when the Welsh Government’s Financial Recognition Scheme had first been announced this cohort of employees had been included to receive this payment but the policy had subsequently been amended to include only health and social care sectors. The Leader of the Labour Group concluded by expressing his concern that this was an injustice, these employees very often worked side by side with their counterparts in health and social care and requested the Council to consider the Motion and recompense these employees of the authority.
The Executive Member for Education said that she had a great deal of sympathy for these staff who had been caught up in this situation and felt that it had been unfortunate that Welsh Government had changed the parameters of eligibility in the way that it did. She expressed her concern that the Motion that had been put forward had the potential to create inconsistencies for the workforce across the Council and was likely to be quite divisive. Within her own portfolio for example, education colleagues had worked tirelessly to either directly provide or support essential frontline services throughout the course of the pandemic and they continue to do so. She also recognised that this hard work and dedication had been replicated across many other service areas of the organisation and was concerned that if the Motion was carried it could have a detrimental impact on staff in those areas.
The Executive Member continued by stating that it was an unfortunate situation of Welsh Government’s making and was not sure if it was appropriate for Council to intervene and whilst she was genuinely sympathetic to the staff involved, unfortunately for the reasons outlined above she would be unable to support the Motion.
The Executive Member for Environment advised that her comments were in a similar vein to the Executive Member for Education. Whilst she hugely sympathised with the position these staff that had been put in from her point of view it was the impact and message this potentially would send to other frontline staff that had also been working throughout the pandemic from day one i.e. in her portfolio refuse collectors had continued to provide a service with no interruption, environmental health had been on the front line and housing solutions, just to name a few. For the same reasons she also found it difficult to support the ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.
Members considered the report of the Chief Officer Resources.
The Chair commenced by suggesting that because this report had been discussed at both Joint Scrutiny Committee and Executive Committee previously and Members were familiar with its contents, that attention focus on the options for recommendation, in particular paragraphs 3.1.7 and 3.1.8 and in doing so the Chief Officer Resources would, therefore, not need to provide a summary of the report. As was tradition, the Leader of the Council would be invited to speak followed by the Leaders of the Labour Group and Minority Independent Group.
The Leader of the Labour Group strongly suggested that because this was the budget report it should be debated.
The Leader of the Council commenced by stating that there was some merit in the Chair’s suggestion and it was not in any way to negate any discussion or debate around the budget because the key issues were encapsulated in the 8 recommendations.
He expressed his appreciation to all officers for their efforts in providing positive budgetary management throughout the year but in particular, special appreciation to Rhian Hayden, Gina Taylor and their teams for their much appreciated efforts in ensuring maintenance of the high levels of financial management that the Council had come to expect.
The Leader continued by advising that the key issues revolved around the 7 options for recommendation contained in paragraph 3 of the report and said that as a combination of the positive aggregate external funding received from Welsh Government for which the Council was extremely grateful, and the results of the Bridging the Gap strategy meant that the Council did not have to consider or debate any cuts to services. Therefore, at the appropriate time he would be endorsing options 3.1.1. – 3.1.6 as presented. It was pleasing to note in paragraph 3.1.6, the Council was in a position to provide schools with a £3.91m budget uplift, that equated to 8.4% increase and this was he was sure would be welcomed by head teachers, staff and governing bodies across schools in Blaenau Gwent.
The Leader continued by referring to paragraph 3.1.7 and advised that taking into account the Bridging the Gap achievements table 5 – paragraph 5.1.30, highlighted that there was a budget surplus of £2.44m. A proportion of this funding, he would propose to be utilised to support pay increases over and above the 2% budgeted for in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) with £950,000 being transferred into a contingency budget to help support increases for 2022/23 over and above the 2% assumption. This was prudent financial management and should there be any residue this could be transferred back into reserves.
Whilst paragraph 3.1.7 recommended that the remainder of the £2.44m following the £950,000 budget contingency i.e. £1.5m be transferred into the financial resilience reserves, Members were aware over the past few years the administration had worked hard address the acknowledged poor level of Council reserves and this was something he felt had been done with some success ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
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).
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 reason for the decisions for the exemption was available on a schedule maintained by the proper officer).
Interim Arrangements - Vacant Post
To consider the report of the Head of Organisational Development.
Michelle Morris, Managing Director; Lynn Phillips, Corporate Director of Education, Richard Crook, Corporate Director of Regeneration & Community Services, Damien McCann, Corporate Director of Social Services; Rhian Hayden, Chief Officer Resources; Bernadette Elias, Chief Officer Commercial & Customer and Andrea Jones, Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance declared an interest left the meeting whilst this item of business was considered.
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 14 & 15, 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 when the Head of Organisational Development clarified points raised it was unanimously,
RESOLVED that the report which related to the financial and business affairs of any particular person (including the authority) and information relating to any consultations or negotiations, or contemplated consultations or negotiations, in connection with any labour relations matters arising between the Authority and employees of or office-holders under the Authority be accepted and the following options be agreed:
Option 1 - Re-designation of Managing Director Role
The role of Managing Director be re-designated to Chief Executive to comply with the requirements of the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021.
Option 1 – Managing Director Role Interim Arrangement - Internal Arrangement
· Expressions of interest be sought from the Corporate Directors; Education, Social Services and Regeneration and Community Services and the Chief Officers Resources and Commercial that form part of the Council’s Senior Leadership Team. These officers were experienced at a senior leadership level in Blaenau Gwent and have had the experience of deputising/covering areas of work/representation for the current Managing Director.
· Formal interview with the Council’s Appointments Committee (March 2022) to appoint on an interim basis
· Appointment on the current salary for the Managing Director post.
This option would support a short transition/hand over period working with the current post holder and the potential candidate would already have established relationships within the organisation.
Option 1 – Returning Officer/Electoral Registration Officer Local Government Elections May 2022
· The Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance who had previous experience to act as the Returning Officer/Electoral Registration Officer for the Local Government Election in May.
The Chief Officer Resources to continue in the role of Deputy Returning Officer/Electoral Registration Officer.