Venue: Hybrid in the Council Chamber Civic Offices, Angel Street, Bridgend, CF31 4WB /remotely via Microsoft Teams
Contact: Democratic Services
Apologies for absence
To receive apologies for absence from Members.
Apologies for absence were received from the following Members/Officer:-
Councillors S Griffiths, T Wood, RM James, G Walter and the Corporate Director – Communities.
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.
The following declarations of interest were made:-
Councillor H Bennett - Agenda item 6, personal interest as her employer was mentioned in the report as a partner provider.
Councillor JC Spanswick – Agenda item 6, prejudicial interest as a close family member is involved in Children’s Services.
Councillors N Clarke, Alex Williams and H Williams – Agenda item 8, prejudicial interests as close family members have second homes.
Councillors Chris Davies and D Harrison – Agenda item 8, prejudicial interests (no reasons given)
Councillor T Thomas – Agenda item 8, prejudicial interest as he works for organisation that represents the interests of property agents.
Councillor S Bletsoe – Agenda item 8, prejudicial interest as Operations Manager, Wales, for the National Residential Landlords Association who represent the interest of Private Rental Landlords who are second home owners within the County Borough.
All those Members who declared prejudicial interests in the items so stated, left the meeting whilst the reports relating to these were being considered.
To receive for approval the minutes of 19/07/23.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of a meeting of Council dated 19 July 2023, be approved as a true and accurate record.
To receive announcements from:
(i) Mayor (or person presiding)
(ii) Members of the Cabinet
(iii) Chief Executive
Please note that there has been a slight change to the membership of the Development Control Committee in that Councillor Johanna-Llewellyn-Hopkins will be replacing Councillor Heidi Bennett. This will not affect the political balance of the Committee.
With the agreement of Group Leaders there have been some changes to today’s agenda. There will be limited announcements; Item 9 will be deferred to October Council to allow for additional information to be incorporated and there will also be no Council questions at Item 12.
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Social Services and Health
A Joint Inspectorate Review has been published on the effectiveness of child protection arrangements across Bridgend County Borough.
The report was based on visits carried out between 12–16 June by representatives of Care Inspectorate Wales, His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary Fire and Rescue Services, the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Estyn.
While the Council is the lead on safeguarding, the review also considered the actions and processes that are in place for our other statutory safeguarding partners, namely Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and South Wales Police and included the partnership working arrangements between each organisation in tackling the abuse and neglect of children.
As a result, the extensive report has highlighted numerous examples of where the partnership arrangements and processes for each individual agency have performed well, while also identifying areas of variability and where further improvements need to be made – both as a group, and as separate organisations.
All partners involved in the review have welcomed the findings of this report, as it offers an independent insight into the work of each organisation as well as the effectiveness of our multi-agency efforts.
While it is particularly pleasing to note the high level of positive comments within the report, we have also paid close attention to those areas which must be strengthened or where improvements can be made.
This includes the unprecedented increase in demand which has impacted all partners and has forced an over-reliance on using agencies and operating above the funded establishment in children’s services.
Each partner remains fully committed towards providing the best safeguarding services possible, and to delivering improvements across all fronts.
Anyone who wishes to take a look at the review, then copies are available from the Justice Inspectorate’s website along with further details on the work of the Joint Inspectorate Review.
To receive announcements by the Leader
The Leader made the following announcements:
The closure of the Zimmer Biomet factory is likely to take up to two years to complete, and redundancies will take place throughout this period.
69 per cent of the redundancies were employees within the County Borough.
Together with partners we have met with senior managers at the factory to discuss how we can jointly support affected staff.
There was a meeting in the summer at Bridgend Job Centre where our Employability and Economic Development team were present to discuss the support that each organisation can provide Zimmer Biomet and their staff.
The official consultation period is due to end in October. The company has stated that they do not want any involvement from Welsh Government at the moment, other than to help look for a new company who may be interested in taking the factory unit on.
A further joint agency meeting will take place with the company during November to arrange suitable support for staff being who will be made redundant next year.
Rescue attempts for Wilko have not been successful. The Maesteg store closed its doors for the last time yesterday, while the Bridgend store will close tomorrow.
It was originally hoped that the two local stores would be included among those premises that have been purchased by B&M and Pepco. Unfortunately, this has not proven to be the case.
As a result, meetings have taken place with the Employability Bridgend team at both stores to offer support to employees being made redundant.
We are continuing to provide affected staff with direct help and advice, and all partners will work closely together over coming weeks and months to offer further support.
We continue to advertise and promote Bridgend County Borough as an excellent place for businesses to invest in. Further updates will be made available as the situation develops.
UK Government is to invest five hundred million pounds into helping the Tata Steelworks at Port Talbot make the transition towards cleaner, greener ways of producing steel.
Given the high number of residents of Bridgend County Borough Council who are employed at the plant, there are concerns over reports that trade unions were not included in the talks around the deal, and that there have been early warnings that the investment into new technology could also result in as many as 3,000 jobs being lost.
While this is a positive move towards decarbonisation, it is hoped that urgent discussions can take place which will seek to ensure the future of sustainable steelmaking in South Wales while also protecting jobs.
In addition to electric arc furnace technology, this could, for example, consider the use of further green steelmaking alternatives.
As members have been advised earlier, the Bridgend Indoor Market at the Rhiw Shopping Centre in Bridgend town centre has closed with immediate effect this afternoon.
The closure has been deemed necessary in the interests of public safety after a specialist inspection carried out this morning confirmed that there may be a potential ... view the full minutes text for item 167.
The Corporate Director – Social Services and Wellbeing submitted a report, outlining the Director of Social Services Annual report 2022/23, which is a statutory requirement.
She advised that the report reflected on 2022/23, highlighting key achievements and challenges whilst also outlining the Directorate’s key priorities for 2023/24.
In line with the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, performance is reported against six quality standards highlighting key actions completed in the year (paragraph 3.4 of the report referred); how Social Services have performed against these standards during this period and the key actions for 2023/24 to enable us to achieve our priorities.
The analysis that was derived from the Annual Report, drew upon on progress against the Social Services and Wellbeing Business Plan, performance data for each service area in Adult Social Care and Children’s Social Care, the views of Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) as the regulatory and inspection body for social services and social care in Wales and feedback from people who have experienced social services and well-being and their carers.
Whilst the report highlighted the key priorities for 2023/24 the Director’s introduction of the annual report noted the key thematic areas for improvement for 2023/24, for example:
• Hearing and acting on the voice of children and families, adults and carers;
• Securing a stable, well-supported, motivated and permanent workforce;
• Improving practice;
• Maximising the impact of our services and interventions;
• Ensuring a more effective response to children and families, adult and carers, with complex needs;
• Seamlessly working with partners; and
• Implementing better intelligence and information systems
The Corporate Director – Social Services and Wellbeing confirmed that engagement and consultation were a key aspect of the report and how we undertake these activities, as well as an overview of feedback being included therein.
The report also highlighted how feedback linked to some of the key actions.
A summary of key regulatory activity undertaken in the year was also included in the report and this focussed on inspections of regulated services; the Performance Evaluation Inspection of Children’s Social Care in May 2022 (further shared with Overview and Scrutiny) and the November 2023 Improvement Check of Children’s Social Care. The summary further included key findings and how we will respond, to given situations that arise throughout the year.
The Directorate is also in the process of refreshing the strategic plan for children and families in Bridgend. The refreshed plan will focus on developing a sustainability plan outlining a service, workforce and financial strategy on how the Council works with children and families at risk in Bridgend. The plan will be considered by Cabinet in Autumn 2023, confirmed the Corporate Director – Social Services and Wellbeing.
The report also outlined how the service effectively continues to work with partner agencies and third sector organisations, that were key in terms of assisting the service as supporting bodies.
Finally, the report highlighted our financial resources noting the key challenges and pressures that the Directorate and Council face in order ... view the full minutes text for item 168.
The Corporate Director – Social Services and Wellbeing presented a report, the purpose of which, was for Council to approve a 3-year plan (Appendix 1 to the report referred) to improve outcomes for children and families in Bridgend, with the financial implications arising from the actions in that plan supporting the safeguarding and protection of children in Bridgend.
The report outlined some background information, where it confirmed that in order to more robustly support the above, extra resource would be required in order to successfully achieve this when facing the number of anticipated challenges that lie ahead.
She explained that while during and post-Covid all services have been challenged, the social care services appear to have experienced the brunt of an imbalance between demand and capacity, particularly in the last two years. The level of demand for children’s statutory social care services over the last 18 months, particularly in Information, Advice and Assistance (IAA) and hub-based locality services has increased substantially. The headlines are that:
• 8,334 contacts to children’s social care in 2022/23 compared to 5,667 (47.1% increase compared to 2021/22)
• 3,114 assessments in 2022/23 (89.4% increase compared to 2021/22)
• 1,202 children with care and support plans as at 31.03.23 (9.3% increase compared to 31.03.22)
• 2,154 initial strategy meetings in 2022/23 (98.3% increase compared to 2021/22)
• 1,557 completed S47 safeguarding investigations in 2022/23 (80% increase compared to 2021/22)
• 270 children on the child protection register as at 31.03.23 (54% increase compared to 31.03.22)
The Corporate Director – Social Services and Wellbeing explained, that independent analysis reflected that the Council has worked hard and in general successfully over the last year to deal with the unprecedented demand rises. It has involved significant short-term funding to deal with a real capacity crisis. This response is evident in the current workforce position summarised below:
• Permanent establishment in children’s social care: 122.91 full time equivalents;
• The service is currently operating at 29% above establishment to meet all statutory duties in a timely way. This additional establishment is funded through a combination of earmarked reserves and specific grants but is also contributing to a significantly overspent position;
• There are 20% vacancies in the permanent workforce. There are usually around 5% absentees from work at any time;
• All vacant posts (and more) are covered to ensure the safety of safeguarding and child protection arrangements;
• 38% of the current children’s social care workforce is therefore filled by agency staff.
Following analysis being undertaken that was outlined in the report, it was considered that the current systems that were in place were too complex, and colleagues across the system work hard on a day-to-day basis to ensure that they are managed effectively, and that decision-making is consistent. However, IPC’s review of specific case files, and interviews with managers, indicated they are well aware of the difficulties the system creates particularly in terms of the work streams highlighted in paragraph 3.9 of the report.
The Corporate Director – ... view the full minutes text for item 169.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change presented a report, the purpose of which, was to provide further information to Council on the planning and regeneration implications of applying a council tax premium to second homes, as requested at the meeting of Council on 8 February 2024, and to seek Council’s approval to go ahead with the application of the premium from 1 April 2024.
The report gave some background information following which, it advised that previously Council had received a report seeking approval to apply a council tax premium on empty homes and second homes in line with Welsh Government Guidance and following a public consultation.
The proposal was to apply 100% council tax premiums to empty homes from 1 April 2023 and to second homes from 1 April 2024, with both increasing to 200% after 2 years.
She reminded that Members had however asked that a further report be brought back to Council during the year on the wider implications of council tax premiums on second homes, prior to deciding whether or not to continue to proceed with applying this premium (see Paragraphs 3.5 to 3.11 of the report for further details).
The Council currently has 81 chargeable second homes, which could generate additional council tax income of £188,000, but this was subject to discounts and exceptions being applied and successful collection.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change explained that this latest report outlined some of the planning and regeneration implications of implementing the proposal and sought a decision from Council, on whether to continue with the decision made at Council in February 2023 to apply the premium from April 2024.
The Cabinet Member for Housing, Planning and Regeneration reiterated, that there had been an initial report submitted to Council on this topic and empty homes last year. He wished to point out that there was still a significant housing crisis within the County Borough at the current time.
A Member asked that if a member of the public buys a second home which has been empty for many years and is unhabitable, then they would have to pay double Council Tax on this, ie as well as their primary property, for the length of time it took to make the second property habitable. She asked if there was any financial protection or support in place for these people.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, advised that there were an increasing number of grant opportunities available through which to upgrade properties such as the above, to bring them back up to habitable use. She confirmed that she would share these with Members, so that they could in turn share with any interested constituents.
A Member noted the opportunity to gain extra revenue in the form of Council Tax payments from private property second homeowners. He asked though, if the Council could similarly collect extra revenue from the owners of empty business properties.
The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change advised that this ... view the full minutes text for item 170.
RESOLVED: Council agreed to defer this item in order to receive further information at the next scheduled meeting of Council.
The Group Manager – Legal and Democratic Services submitted a report, the purpose of which, was to seek Council’s approval of the appointment of the following individuals as Registered Representatives for Education items considered by the Subject Overview and Scrutiny Committees, for a maximum term of four years:
a) Ms Angela Clarke as the Church in Wales Registered Representative;
b) Ms Samantha Rachel Lambert-Worgan as the Special School Parent Governor Representative
She advised that the term of office of the previous Church in Wales Registered Representative has come to an end and a new nomination has been sought. Ms Angela Clarke has been nominated to serve as the Church in Wales Registered Representative for Education items considered by the Subject Overview and Scrutiny Committees, for a maximum term of four years.
Following an election held in accordance with the Parent Governor Representatives and Church Representatives (Wales) Regulations 2001, Ms Samantha Rachel Lambert-Worgan has been nominated to serve as the Special School Parent Governor Representative for Education items considered by the Subject Overview and Scrutiny Committees, for the same term as above.
Following consideration of the report by Council, it was
RESOLVED: That Council noted the report and approved the appointment of the following individuals as Registered Representatives for Education items considered by the Subject Overview and Scrutiny Committees, for a maximum term of four years:
(i) Ms Angela Clark as the Church in Wales Registered Representative;
(ii) Ms Samantha Rachel Lambert-Worgan as the Special School Parent Governor Representative.
The Group Manager, Legal and Democratic Services informed Council of an information report for noting, that had been published since the last scheduled meeting.
RESOLVED: That Council acknowledged the publication of the report referred to in paragraph 3.1 of the report.
Questions from Members to the Executive:
Cllr Melanie Evans to the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Social Services and Health
Please can the Cabinet Member for Social Services and Health tell me what impact we are expecting to see for our children and young people when our new assessment and residential centre opens in Brynmenyn, considering the MTFS for the Council does she consider this to be money well spent?
Cllr Steven Bletsoe to the Cabinet Member – Education
Could the Cabinet Member for Education please tell me how many schools in Bridgend County Borough have submitted a deficit budget for the 2023-24 financial year to the Local Authority and to also provide relevant information to me as to how the Authority is working with them to ensure that no staff redundancies or removal of education provision have resulted from these budgets.
Cllr Ian Williams to the Cabinet Member - Education
Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). How many of the schools within the borough have been constructed using the above material. Please list them stating the age of buildings and what measures are being taken to ensure that they are safe?
Cllr Tim Thomas to the Cabinet Member - Climate Change and the Environment
What impact will the 20mph default speed limit have on the county borough?
The responses by the Executive to questions posed to them by certain Members of Council had been circulated to all Members in advance of the meeting.
As the Mayor had briefly announced earlier, there would be no further consideration of this agenda item at today’s meeting.
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.