Venue: Hybrid, Council Chamber, Civic Offices, Angel Street, Bridgend,/remotely - via Microsoft Teams
Contact: Democratic Services
Note: Time STC
Declarations of Interest
To receive declarations of personal and prejudicial interest from Members/Officers in accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct adopted by Council from 1 September 2008.
Councillor J Pratt declared a personal interest in Agenda item. 5. as a member of the British Red Cross Emergency Support Service.
To receive announcements from:
(i) Mayor (or person presiding)
(ii) Members of the Cabinet
(iii) Chief Executive
Following the suggestion of Officers and with the agreement of the chairperson the meeting of the Development Control Committee scheduled for the 29th of December will be moved to Thursday 5th January 2023, to avoid the Christmas/ New Year period. Members calendars will be updated accordingly to reflect this change of meeting date.
Both the Deputy Mayor and I are continuing to fulfil Civic responsibilities across the whole of the county Borough and beyond.
From visiting schools and colleges attending evening concerts and having the privilege of attending numerous awards ceremonies it certainly is a busy time.
But a time to be reminded that there are people within the County Borough of Bridgend who go well beyond the call of duty to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
Which brings me to a point that I would like to remind you all that the Nomination Process for Mayors Awards is now open. You should all have received an email message introducing the process and of course full details are also included on the BCBC web site. I look forward to the numerous applications.
Last weekend of course was a period of Remembrance where no doubt you all attended various Remembrance Services and Ceremonies across the County Borough.
Last Friday morning on your behalf I presented Great Western Railway with a poppy wreath that along with many others was conveyed to London. I was joined at the Railway Station by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, The Mayor of Bridgend Cllr Tim Woods, Deputy Leader of the Council Cllr Jane Gebbie, the Chief Executive Mark Shepherd and many other local dignitaries.
It was quite a sight to see one carriage full of poppy wreaths.
Of course, the Remembrance Parade at Bridgend Town was a solemn occasion that was well attended especially by current and ex-service personnel. The public attendance and participation were incredible. These large public numbers just illustrate the respect and deep sincerity that our communities have for our Armed Forces. I have no doubt this respect was replicated right across the County Borough of Bridgend.
Last weekend I was invited to a presentation at Wildmill Community Centre to focus on Bridgend's relationship with a war time submarine HMS URGE. The presentation was jointly given by Francis Dickinson the grandson of the submarines captain and Councillor Steve Bletsoe.
There were many families' descendants present including remarkably the daughter of the captain of the ship a lovely, charming lady who introduced herself as Bridget.
HMS URGE was adopted by the people of Bridgend but was sadly lost in April 1942 off the coast of Malta. All 44 crew members perished. The submarine had hit a German sea mine during special operations.
It was not until 2019 and nearly 80 years later was the ship was discovered at the bottom of the seabed.
It was a very moving experience speaking with family descendants some of which were visibly moved during and after the presentation.
They all were very appreciative of the warmth and ... view the full minutes text for item 60.
To receive announcements by the Leader
I am sure that Members will have noted recent news coverage highlighting latest developments in the efforts to establish a £250m adventure resort in the upper Afan Valley.
With outline planning consent already in place from Neath Port Talbot Council, the authority was asked to approve a reserved matters application covering issues such as access, layout, landscaping, scale and appearance.
This is of course all taking place outside of Bridgend County Borough, but as it is close to our border, it will also have a knock-on effect in terms of employment, access, traffic, future investment and more.
In addition to the construction jobs that will be generated, developer Wildfox Resorts has estimated that the resort will employ approximately 1,000 people and will incorporate a 50-bed hotel, spa and restaurant, 570 lodges and facilities for biking and hiking.
We will be seeking to share in and capitalise upon the benefits that this ambitious project may offer, and with expectations high that work could begin on site next year, we will be keeping a very close eye upon its development.
In other news, a local couple have won a prestigious national Fostering Excellence Award for their hard work and dedication towards fostering children and young people across Bridgend County Borough.
Pete and Becky Walsh were presented with the ‘Jon and Kathy Broad Special Recognition Award’ at the Fostering Network’s recent annual ceremony, which was held at Birmingham’s Repertory Theatre.
The couple had been nominated by Bernadette Guy at Foster Wales Bridgend and were described as being ‘exceptional foster carers who always remain focused on what is best for the children in their care’.
The couple, who are currently caring for a child with complex health needs, often have to attend hospital appointments which can be a hundred miles from home and are well known for supporting other carers and maintaining a positive, can-do attitude. I am sure that Members will want to join me in congratulating Pete and Becky, and to thank them for their inspirational dedication and hard work.
Anyone who is interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer can do so by visiting the Foster Wales Bridgend website.
Finally, at the last meeting of Council, you may recall that a member queried the figure used to describe the monthly rough sleeper statistics that are reported to Welsh Government.
Because of the transient nature of rough sleepers, this total can change rapidly, sometimes on a daily basis, as people may have shifting patterns of moving between accommodation and rough sleeping, or even moving in and out of different local authority areas.
For Bridgend County Borough, figures on rough sleepers are collected throughout the month and verified by a multi-agency Homeless Cell which features third sector agencies as well as other partners.
The data they provide is analysed at the end of the month to identify the core group of regular rough sleepers at the end of that period.
This figure is then reported to Welsh Government to provide ... view the full minutes text for item 61.
The Chief Executive presented a report on presentations that the Council receives from time to time from its key partners, which in turn, introduced representatives Huw Jakeway, Chris Barton and Councillor Pamela Drake from the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, in order for them to give an update on the work of the Service to Council.
Mr Jakeway firstly gave a brief introduction of the South Wales Fire Service, that had been born from local government reorganisation in 1996, where 8 County Councils which had their own individual Fire Brigades then went to the 22 local authorities. Arising from this, he advised that the Fire and Rescue Services in Wales then became combined fire authorities. He then passed over to Mr. Barton to give some financial context in terms of their submission.
Mr. Barton advised that the South Wales Fire Service covered the following County Borough’s, that included a varying number of Fire Stations/establishments (47 in total) that also existed in each of these areas:-
• Rhondda Cynon Taf
• Vale of Glamorgan
• Merthyr Tydfil
• Blaenau Gwent
He confirmed that each of the constituent Authorities committed a budget towards the operation of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service that was in proportion of the population of each of the areas (Bridgend being 147,892), and in terms of Bridgend, this equated to in the region of £7.5m (just under 10%) of the overall budget. The Service also was supported financially by a nominal amount of grant funding allocation. A large percentage of this budget he explained, went to employees, but this also included resource for the likes of Transport, Supplies, Training, Premises, Pensions and Capital Finance.
Mr. Barton confirmed that in terms of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service budget history, there had been a cumulative change in its revenue budget contributions over the last number of years. In 2021-22 there had been an underspend in the service of £3.8m due to an over-estimate in pay awards. However, given the recent increase in inflation and interest rate rises, this had now transformed into an estimated overspend of anything between £1m to £3m. He explained that this year’s pay award was still being negotiated but it could well prove that the outcome of that would result in the year’s overspend being assisted by last year’s underspend. The future projection, was that in 2023-24, the budget consideration could account for a two year pay inflation in that year resulting in a further 10% being added onto the Services overall pay bill. He added that all 2022-23 overspends would be absorbed by the Service. The estimated potential £8.4m in financial pressures would equate to a 10.6% increase in the overall budget. The Service’s draft Budget would be considered later this year, he further added.
In terms of the Service Medium Term Financial Strategy and the financial outlook, Mr. Barton shared with Members the following:-
Year Potential increase ... view the full minutes text for item 62.
The Corporate Director – Education and Family Support presented a report, seeking Council approval for a capital budget for the proposed Porthcawl Welsh-medium seedling school scheme’s design and survey costs up to tender stage to be included in the Council’s capital programme. This would be funded from Bridgend County Borough Council resources initially, on the assumption that costs will be recovered once Welsh Government has approved the re-submitted business justification case.
He explained that following desktop appraisal of options for developing a Welsh-medium seedling school in the Porthcawl area, a report was submitted to Cabinet in September 2021, who approved the submission of an expression of interest to Welsh Government in respect of the second tranche of the Welsh-medium capital grant. Welsh Government approved this in principle following a business justification case being submitted to them in May 2022. BCBC had recently been advised however, that this needed to be re-submitted, once tenders relating to the scheme have been returned.
The Welsh-medium capital grant commits Welsh Government to 100% of the scheme funding, but only upon their approval of the business justification case.
Council approval is now required, therefore, to include a capital budget for this scheme’s design and survey costs (up to tender stage) in the Council’s capital programme.
The Corporate Director – Education and Family Support, advised that up front design/survey costs (required in order to develop the scheme to tender stage and thereby meet Welsh Government business justification re-submission requirements) were currently estimated to be circa £370k.
These costs would need to be funded from uncommitted capital in the interim.
The Welsh-medium capital grant commits Welsh Government to 100% of the funding upon approval of the business case and permission for a budget for this scheme’s design and survey costs (up to tender stage) to be included in the Council’s capital programme is now sought from Council, on the assumption that costs will be fully recovered once Welsh Government has approved the re-submitted business justification case. Council approval will be sought to accept the risk in the interim, this being that should Welsh Government ultimately fail to approve the business case, the incurred design and survey costs (up to tender stage) would need to be funded by the Council as abortive revenue costs.
A Member whilst welcoming the report, asked why the proposal was for a Welsh Seedling School in this area rather than a Welsh Primary School.
The Cabinet Member – Education advised that the new school would cater for Nursery and Reception age children and there would be a proposal moving forward for the provision of welsh medium education for primary aged pupils in time and in conjunction with the further progression of the regeneration work ongoing in the Porthcawl location.
A Member asked why consideration hadn’t been given to make provision for Welsh Medium education in other areas of the County Borough, for example in Pencoed.
The Cabinet Member – Education advised that due to the excessive areas of flood plain within the town ... view the full minutes text for item 63.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change presented a report, the purpose of which, was to update Council on the mid-year review and half year position for Treasury Management activities and Treasury Management indicators for the current year, and to highlight compliance with the Council’s policies and practices.
In terms of the present situation, she reminded Members that Treasury Management is the management of the council's cash flows, borrowing and investment, and the associated risks that run parallel with this.
She explained that the Council is exposed to financial risks including the loss of invested funds and the revenue effect of changing interest rates.
The successful identification, monitoring and control of financial risk are therefore central to the Council’s prudent financial management.
The Treasury Management Strategy for 2022/2023 was approved by Council on the 23 February, the Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change added.
She was able to confirm, that the Council had complied with its legislative and regulatory requirements during the first 6 months of this year, with detail regarding its activity shown in Appendix A of the report.
The key points to note were:-
· Context in this period:
o Ongoing conflict in Ukraine;
o Period of increasing inflation and impact on the cost of living;
o Increased interest rates. Increased from 0.75% to 2.25% at end of September and for some time, more than previously;
· Long-term borrowing at the end of September was £99.94m. Little change over the period of the report.
· BCBC was unlikely to need to borrow this year but this will be kept under review.
· The Council does invest its monies and in doing so ensures the security of the funding, the liquidity and then the yield from that investment. Investments consist of monies received in advance of expenditure and use of balances and reserves.
· At the end of September 2022, the sum invested was £98m – with other Local Authorities, Government and money market funds
· BCBC do take advice from its advisers regularly with regards to where our monies are placed.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, finally referred Council to Appendix A, which gave more details on the Treasury Management activity for this period.
A Member asked how long the Council’s current Treasury Management advisors had been in place and should they mis-advise the Authority are they then in any way liable for this.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change confirmed that the Council commissioned in this service, though the work was re-tendered on a regular basis. She added however, that there were very few such expert advisors for this field of work in the open market supporting local authorities, as it was such a specialist area. She further added, that the company would be covered if they gave un-sound or bad advice to a local authority such as BCBC.
The Member followed-up, by asking if the Council benchmarked the advisors performance in any way.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change replied that when the ... view the full minutes text for item 64.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change presented a report, in order to seek Council approval for the estimated Council Tax base and Collection rate for 2023-24
She advised that the Council Tax base determined the amount of Council tax which can be raised to fund the Council’s budget.
The Council tax base must be set by 31 December for the following financial year and it is used by Welsh Government to allocate the Revenue Support Grant for the coming financial year, as well as for the Council to calculate the Council Tax required to fund the budget for the year 2023/23.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, confirmed that the base represented the number of chargeable dwellings in the area expressed as Band D properties. This also took account of properties that BCBC think will come onto the rating list in the coming year.
In the report BCBC also proposed a collection rate of 97.5% for next year. This was the same rate as the current year and it is not the intention to increase this in any way, due to the current challenging economic circumstances globally, the cost of living crisis and the current collection rates.
A Member asked how the Council Tax Base differed this year from the previous year.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change confirmed that the difference was based upon anticipated new properties that would come onto the register in the coming year.
Regarding this the Council had to make assumptions on not only what was coming onto the register, but when they would come on the rating list. Also, what had to be taken into account, was the number of residents in these properties that would have some sort of reduction and/or some level of financial support. This was to a level of degree therefore all estimated.
A Member noted that the collection rate last year had been based at 98.5%. This year the level of collection rate had been set at 97.5%. He asked if this rate was achievable given the current economic climate with increased mortgage rates and an increase to utility bills etc.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change advised that collection rates had increased since the inception of Covid-19 and this trend was continuing. Therefore, a rate of 97.5% was considered both reasonable and achievable.
The Cabinet Member – Resources reminded Members that people who were struggling with paying their Council Tax could be eligible to receive a reduction under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
RESOLVED: That Council:
• Approved the Council Tax base and collection rate for 2023-24 as shown in paragraph 4.1 of the report.
• Further approved the tax bases for the town and community areas set out in Appendix A of the report.
The Chief Officer Legal and Regulatory Services, HR and Corporate Policy, reported on the Information Report which had been published since the last meeting of Council.
RESOLVED: That Council acknowledged the publication of the document listed in the report.
Notice of Motion Proposed by Councillor Steven Bletsoe
In light of years of austerity from central government, which has seen BCBC budgets slashed year on year and departments in this authority referred to as "barely fit for purpose", and in light of the current Cost of Living crisis which is placing pressures on all Councils to produce a lawful, balanced budget for 2023/24
‘This Council requests that the Cabinet reviews the CCRD agreement and if permissible considers seeking the agreement of ALL CCRD member Councils to negotiate the postponement or significant reduction of the scheduled CCRD payments for 2023/4, thus allowing authorities to set balanced budgets that maximise the resources available to protect services within their areas.’
This motion would be proposed by myself, Councillor Steven Bletsoe and seconded by Councillor David Harrison.
Councillor S Bletsoe gave an introductory speech on why he considered the Council should support the following Notice of Motion as proposed by him and seconded by Councillor D Harrison. He stated that in light of years of austerity from central government, which has seen BCBC budgets slashed year on year and departments in this authority referred to as "barely fit for purpose" and in light of the current Cost of Living crisis which is placing pressures on all Councils to produce a lawful, balanced budget for 2023/24:-
“This Council requests that the Cabinet reviews the CCRD agreement and if permissible considers seeking the agreement of ALL CCRD member Councils to negotiate the postponement or significant reduction of the scheduled CCRD payments for 2023/4, thus allowing authorities to set balanced budgets that maximise the resources available to protect services within their areas.”
The Leader responded by confirming that in view of current financial restraints that included the recent increase of interest rates, cost of living demands (including increased utility bills) and high inflation etc, Cabinet would look to review all the Authorities joint working arrangements with key partner organisations amongst others, due to the fact that similar to other neighbouring authorities, it was essential that the Council made efficiency savings in all areas where there was scope to do so.
Council unanimously supported the Notice of Motion.
To consider any item(s) of business in respect of which notice has been given in accordance with Part 4 (paragraph 4) of the Council Procedure Rules and which the person presiding at the meeting is of the opinion should by reason of special circumstances be transacted at the meeting as a matter of urgency.