Agenda and minutes

Special, Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring)
Tuesday, 23rd February, 2021 9.30 am

Venue: Virtually via Microsoft Team - if you would like to attend this meeting live via Microsoft Teams please contact committee.services@blaenau-gwent.gov.uk

Contact: Democratic Services  7788

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 Councillor D. Wilkshire, Corporate Director Regeneration & Community Services; and Mr. T. Baxter.

 

It was also pointed out that a number of Members were unable to join the meeting due to technical issues.

 

3.

Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

To receive.

Minutes:

The following declarations of interest were reported:

 

Councillor B. Summers – Item No. 6 Revenue Budget 2021/2022 (Silent Valley)

 

Councillor J. Hill - Item No. 6 Revenue Budget 2021/2022 (Silent Valley)

 

Councillor M. Cook - Item No. 6 Revenue Budget 2021/2022 (Silent Valley)

 

4.

Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring) pdf icon PDF 331 KB

To receive the minutes of the Joint Scrutiny Committee (Budget Monitoring) held on 23rd November, 2020.

 

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

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Joint Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 23rd November, 2020 were submitted.

 

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

 

5.

Action Sheet - 23rd November 2020 pdf icon PDF 204 KB

To receive the Action Sheet.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The action sheet arising from the Joint Scrutiny (Budget Monitoring) Committee held on 23rd November, 2020 was submitted, whereupon:-

 

Item 8 Capital Budget Monitoring 2020/21

Quarter 1 –  Splash Pad Funding Allocation / Play Equipment

 

In response to a question raised, a Member explained that following discussions at the previous meeting it was reported that the decision to reallocate the splash pad funding was taken under delegated powers by CLT in consultation with the Leader of the Council.

 

A Member said he had requested the information on the spend on children’s play grounds following issues raised in relation to the splash pad funding, and the fact that some Members felt there was a lack of transparency in the course of actions taken since the splash pad was initially earmarked for Parc Bryn Bach. 

 

The Member then referred to the funding breakdown provided (attached to the Action Sheet) and expressed concern regarding the equity of funding across the Borough as the majority of the projects were in the eastern valley.

 

In response the Chief Officer Resources explained that the £185k spend at Parc Bryn Bach was funded through the Welsh Government Valleys Regional Parks initiative, and was included within the briefing note to provide Members with the total spend and investment in play areas across the Borough.

 

A Member sought assurance that the funding for play equipment had been spread equitably across the Borough.

 

In response the Head of Community Services said all the information had been provided in the briefing note attached to the Action Sheet, and confirmed that the funding had been allocated in line with the priorities identified in the Council’s agreed play area strategy.

 

Another Member referred to the list of projects and pointed out that the works were undertaken at Duffryn Park and not Central Park as reported.  She also expressed concern that local Members were not updated on the works and had not been asked for their input.

 

In terms of the actions taken in relation to the splash pad, a Member said it was his recollection that the Leisure Trust had stated that they were not in a position to deliver the project due to the ongoing running costs required.  He said this was reported to Members along with an explanation as to why it was intended to move the project to the Garden Festival site, i.e. in order to spend the funding rather than return it to WG.

 

In response a Member said he could not accept the fact that the Council submitted a bid for funding for a splash park without the knowledge that additional works would be required.  He said this was a major disappointment for the residents of Tredegar and felt that the whole situation could have been dealt with more democratically.

 

Revenue Budget Monitoring 2020/21 Quarter 2 (Leisure Trust)

 

A Member referred to the spend on books in 2019/20 in the sum of £51,681 and said whilst it was a substantial amount of money,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Revenue Budget 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 817 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

 

The Chief Officer Resources presented the report which provided Members with an update on the positive provisional Local Government Settlement for 2021/22, and its impact upon the Council’s budget.  The report also proposed the detailed revenue budget for 2021/22; and proposed the level of Council Tax increase for the 2021/2022 financial year in line with the Medium Term Financial Strategy assumptions.

 

The Provisional Settlement contained details of the revenue funding that Welsh Authorities could expect to receive in 2021/22 in order to allow them to set their budgets and determine levels of Council Tax for that year. It also provided details of the Capital funding that Authorities could expect to receive to fund their Capital Programmes. Indicative figures for the 2022/23 financial year and beyond have not been provided at this stage. The written statement from the Minister for Housing and Local Government is attached as Appendix 1.

 

The Chief Officer Resources said the positive Provisional Settlement, combined with the opportunities identified in the Bridging the Gap programme meant the Council was able to invest in key priorities, avoid cuts to services and enhance its financial resilience.

 

The Officer pointed out that with the exception of the NHS and for those on the lowest pay, the UK Government’s decision to pause public sector pay increases meant that Welsh Government did not receive additional funding to provide for the wider public sector pay awards. As a consequence, any financial impact arising from pay increases would therefore need to be accommodated within the overall funding settlement.

 

The Chief Officer then went through the report and highlighted points contained therein.  The headline increase for BGCBC after allowing for transfers was 3.6% (£4.2m), compared to the all Wales increase of 3.8%. The positive settlement combined with the opportunities identified in the Bridging the Gap programme meant that, subject to the recommendations in the report being agreed, the Council was able to agree a budget for 2021/2022.

 

A Member said he could not support the proposed 4% Council Tax increase, and pointed out that during the period of austerity when the Council was facing £12m cuts and £32m cost pressures, the previous administration managed a 2.6%, 3.6% and 3.4% Council Tax increase.  He said the covid pandemic had had a devastating impact on the community with many residents furloughed, job losses, and the fact that many businesses would never be able to recover.  He said on the basis of such a positive settlement he could not support a 4% increase in Council Tax.

 

Another Member agreed that a 4% Council Tax increase was unacceptable.  She also stated that during the covid pandemic there had been a significant increase in the demand for animal welfare services, and asked how much it would cost the Council to bring the service back in-house, as the current arrangement was insufficient.

 

A brief discussion ensued when a Member said this was the only opportunity Members had had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.