Agenda and minutes

Special Meeting of the Council
Thursday, 17th December, 2020 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 T. Sharrem.

 

3.

Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

To consider any declarations of interest and dispensations made.

 

Minutes:

The following declaration of interest was reported:

 

Item No. 6 – The Appointment of Lay Members to the Audit Committee

Councillor P. Edwards

 

4.

Medium Term Financial Strategy 2021/2022 to 2025/2026 pdf icon PDF 532 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

At the invitation of the Chair, the Chief Officer Resources highlighted the following salient points contained within the report:

 

-      The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), was a key element within the Council’s strategic planning framework and provided the latest assessment of the Council’s financial position over the next 5 years and guidance on potential short, medium and long term challenges.

 

-      The document included a forward look over the next 5 years to assess the spending requirements the Council was likely to face to deliver the priorities set out in the Corporate Plan and highlighted the level of cuts (reducing or stopping services) that would need to be made to ensure the Council could set a balanced budget each year.

 

-      The MTFS proposed the approach that the Council would take to respond to the financial challenges faced over the next 5- year period. This would be an iterative process and one that would be developed and refined as the funding position from Wales Government became clearer and strategic business reviews were further developed and implemented.

 

-      Details of the key financial planning assumptions used for financial modelling were detailed at section 4 of the appendix and this also provided an assessment of the potential budget gaps over the period of the MTFS, building on the current assessed cost pressures and achievement of the bridging the gap proposals.

 

-      The cost pressures that had been identified could be categorised as existing service pressures, growth items and Covid-19 pandemic pressures.  It had been assumed that the Covid-19 pressures would continue to be funded by Welsh Government.   It was noted that a residual funding gap of between £8.6m and £11.5m had been assessed over the next 5 years.

 

-      Usually by this time in the year, UK Government would have already announced the provisional and final local government settlement, however, due to the focus on the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK spending review had been delayed.  This had subsequently delayed the Welsh Government announcement on the provisional settlement and this was now expected on 22nd December, 2020 with the final settlement due on 2nd March, 2021.  This delay would have implications for the budget setting process for 2021/2022 and planning arrangements for setting a balanced budget.

 

-      The Council’s current MTFS contained a number of assumptions which impacted on the level of its income and expenditure. Changes in these assumptions could potentially have a fundamental effect on the budget gap over the next 5 years.  As an example, the impact of a 1% change on the main assumptions had been calculated and was detailed in paragraph 5.2.2. of the report.

 

Members were then invited to comment/raise questions on the report.

 

The Leader of the Labour Group commenced by stating that due to the delay in the announcement of the provisional local government settlement, work would need to be undertaken in January, prior to the annual budget  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill: Corporate Joint Committees (CJCs); and Performance and Governance of Principal Councils pdf icon PDF 589 KB

To consider the joint report of the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance and the Head of Governance and Partnerships.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the joint report of the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance and the Head of Governance and Partnerships.

 

Following on from the Member briefing sessions that had been held, the Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance advised that this report sought to inform Members of the two current consultations being undertaken (listed below) on the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill and presented a suggested draft consultation response for the CJC consultation element which, if approved would be forwarded to Welsh Government prior to 4th January.

 

·        Corporate Joint Committees (CJCs) – consultation response deadline – 4th January, 2021.

·        Part 6, Chapter 1 - Performance and Governance of Principal Councils – consultation response deadline – 3rd February, 2021.

 

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill [the Bill] was introduced in 2019 and passed by the Senedd on 18th November, 2020.  It was anticipated the Bill would receive Royal Assent early in 2021. The Bill was a substantial piece of legislative reform covering many elements including electoral reform, public participation, governance and performance and regional working and would replace the current improvement duty for principal councils as set out in the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.

 

It was noted that there would be a staggered introduction of the various elements contained with the Bill.

 

The Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance continued by highlighting the following salient points in relation to the CJC consultation element:

 

Corporate Joint Committees(CJCs) - had been the subject of much debate with the Minister during the past 12 months and although called ‘Committees’, these were corporate bodies, described by the Minister as ‘part of the local government family’ and were separate legal entities in their own right.

 

The membership of the CJCs would be Leaders of the respective local authorities and voting initially would be on a ‘one member one vote’ basis.  CJCs could co-opt other members if they choose, either cabinet members or other partners and these could be in a voting or non-voting capacity.  CJCs would be accountable to their ‘constituent’ councils via their leaders.

 

There were 4 CJC regions in Wales and Blaenau Gwent would form part of the South East region.CJCs would have functions relating to economic well-being, strategic planning (Local Development Plans would remain with Local Authorities) and transport. The economic wellbeing power was potentially wide-ranging and significant, but how far it was to be used would be determined by a CJC.

 

Where there was regional working in place, then these regional arrangements may transition into a CJC format.  It was noted that the current city and growth deal strategic functions would be transferred to CJCs.  It was noted that in  future, Welsh Government could however, add other functions to a CJC via future legislation.

 

Although the current draft regulations allowed a degree of regional flexibility, the Welsh Government could constrain or prescribe CJCs through funding or policy instruments. They could provide funding in support of a function via CJCs but specify  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Audit Committee Lay Member Appointment pdf icon PDF 391 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Resources.

Minutes:

 

Councillor P. Edwards declared an interest but remained in the meeting while this item was considered.

 

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

 

The Chief Officer Resources spoke briefly to the report and advised that as Members were aware, the previous lay member Mr. Peter Williams had resigned from this position earlier in the year.  The Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 required at least once member of its Audit Committee to be a lay Member (that was not a member of the local authority).

 

Therefore, a recruitment process had taken place and interviews for the position held on 8th December, 2020. The selection panel, had considered that both applicants met the criteria for selection, having complementary experience and skill sets. Given this the selection the panel recommend that both candidates be appointed as Lay Members to the Audit Committee.

 

It was noted that a letter of appreciation had been forwarded to Mr. Peter Williams for all the work he had undertaken in this role over the years.

 

Upon a vote being taken it was,

 

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the appointments of Mr. T. Edwards and Mr. M. Veale as Lay Members to the Audit Committee be approved.

 

Councillor P. Edwards did not participate in the vote.

 

SEASONS GREETINGS

 

The Chair concluded by expressing her best wishes to Members and officers for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.