To consider the report of the Corporate
Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director of Education and the Service Manager for Education Transformation and Business Change which was presented to provide the Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee with an overview of Education Planning Obligations and associated processes.
The Service Manager for Education Transformation and Business Change spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein.
A Member commented on the houses potentially being constructed in the County Borough over the next 4-5 years and enquired how the Council could increase the capacity of schools to facilitate the projected increase in the number of children. The Officer said even though standard projections were produced twice annually, there was also effective monitoring and management processes in place, which informs the capacity assessments undertaken in the autumn term each year. The Officer then gave an overview of the work that was undertaken to inform the capacity assessments. The information was also used to plan school reorganisation and 21st Century school priorities and planned maintenance of the school estate management processes. Modelling is undertaken within each school in line with projections, birth data and trend data etc. Secondary schools were under pressure and were programmed for investment under Band B and potentially Band C of the 21st Century schools programme.
A Member commented that the Education Directorate needed to be included in discussions regarding planning matters. He commented on two schools within Blaenau Gwent that had the Section 106 agreements withdrawn and had concerns how this would impact on education within that area. He felt this was an excellent report as it gave Members the chance to see how planning matters affected capacity within schools.
In response to a Member’s question regarding applying for Section 106 agreements, the Officer outlined the procedure. There was an established format with a dedicated form and a set formula, she advised that the methodology for calculating payments was set out in paragraph 2.7 of the report. She explained that when a potential planning obligation was identified a set form was completed and potential implications discussed with the Planning Department who then discussed with the developer. She referred to the two schools within Blaenau Gwent who had Section 106 agreements withdrawn and explained that there had been concerns about the viability of those residential developments should the contribution to Education and others be realised. They had scrutinised the data to determine whether or not they could potentially be able to manage the school estate without the developer contribution.
A Member raised concerns that as the Council had not implemented the Section 106 agreements on the residential development for over 200 houses due to the viability of the scheme, had a precedent now been set on Section 106 funding. The Officer felt that a precedence had not been set and that it was manageable as a large scale piece of work had been undertaken around that development and as the predominantly affected school was subject to a 21st Century schools funding proposal, they determined that they could forgo the developer contribution as it could be managed within their own financial resources aligned to the capital investment from both the Local Authority and Welsh Government.
A Member commented that Section 106 agreements were important as the funding was used to benefit the pupils within the area.
The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely that the report be accepted as provided.