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Contact: Mr Mark Anthony Galvin Senior Democratic Services Officer - Committees
Declarations of Interest
To receive declarations of personal and prejudicial interest (if any) from Members/Officers in accordance with the provisions of the Members’ Code of Conduct adopted by Council from 1 September 2008.
That the following members declared a personal interest in Agenda Item 8., due to their participation in the Community Action Fund.
To receive for approval the Minutes of 18/12/18
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of a meeting of Cabinet dated 18 December 2018, be approved as a true and accurate record.
The Chairperson of the Budget Research and Evaluation Panel presented a report, the purpose of which, was to share with Cabinet the findings and recommendations of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee in relation to:-
a) the views of the Budget Research and Evaluation Panel (BREP) attached at Appendix A and Appendix A1 of the report;
b) the responses from all the Subject Overview & Scrutiny Committees in relation to Cabinet’s draft budget proposals, attached at Appendix A2.
He confirmed that the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee considered the findings of the BREP and all Subject Overview and Scrutiny Committees on 14 January 2019, to determine whether the recommendations should be forwarded to Cabinet as part of the budget consultation process.
For ease of reference the recommendations had been split into separate appendices. These were as follows:
A1 - BREP recommendations in relation to Medium Term Financial Strategy 2019-20 – 2022-2023
A2 - Subject Overview and Scrutiny comments and recommendations on Medium Term Financial Strategy 2019-20 to 2022-23
He explained that the Committee had accepted the recommendations and comments from both the BREP and all Subject Overview and Scrutiny Committees and agreed to submit them to Cabinet, subject to a series of amendments which have been incorporated in the Appendices to the report.
The Leader advised that the budget process had been long and comprehensive, and the process followed in Bridgend was unique, in that no other Authority in Wales scrutinised its budget proposals to the degree it was in this Authority. This process exemplified a ‘One Council’ approach, with the contribution and involvement from all political groups.
The Deputy Leader echoed this, adding that Cabinet would take away the recommendations made through the Scrutiny process and duly respond to these prior to the Budget being set.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet agreed to consider the recommendations of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee, in response to the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2019-20 to 2022-23 and the Draft Budget Consultation Process.
The Group Manager – Financial Planning and Budget Management presented a report, the purpose of which, was to provide update Cabinet with an update on the financial performance of the Council as at Quarter 3, 31st December 2018.
The report compared the forecasted spend for the Council against the approved revenue and capital budgets for the year. It also reviewed achievement of prior and current year budget reductions and analysed the use of reserves and balances at this point in the year.
Table 1 on page 36 of the report set out the projected revenue outturn position for the Council for the financial year, outlining projected spend against the agreed revenue budget of £266 million and this showed an overall under spend of £5.312 million for the financial year. It was important to note that this under spend has increased significantly due to a couple of late grants incoming from Welsh Government, specifically £620,000 for Social Services and almost £719,000 towards the costs of teachers pay awards. Without these grants the under spend would have been £3.973 million. Overall there was a projected under spend (and not overspend as indicated in this section of the report) on Directorate budgets of £592,000 and an under spend of £6.6 million on council wide budgets. To date, net new earmarked reserves of £1.922 million had been established and there was more detail on these in Table 5 of the report, (paragraph 4.5.4.)
Paragraph 4.1.4 of the report identified two areas where funding had been provided for budget pressures, the Festival of Learning and Uniform Grant, but these were no longer required and the funding here has been pulled back corporately in order to meet other pressures.
Paragraphs 4.1.5 to 4.1.8 of the report, provided further information around the financial position for the Council going forward, with reference to the final settlement and the challenges facing the Council that lie ahead.
Referring to page 38 of the report and linking in with the projected revenue position, Section 4.2 reviews achievement against current and prior year Budget Reduction Proposals. During 2018-19 the Council have monitored performance in meeting those 2016-17 and 2017-18 budget reductions that had not been achieved, alongside new budget reductions for 2018-19.
Appendix 1 (page 53) showed the outturn position for outstanding 2016-17 and 2017-18 proposals, and identified mitigating action to be taken by Directorates to ensure these are met in full. It also outlined the new proposals being implemented by Social Services and Wellbeing under their service delivery plan, to meet their historic over spend. Whilst significant progress will be made in 2018-19 towards closing the gap, there will still be a shortfall to meet in 2019-20.
Appendix 2 of the report (page 54 onward) reflected the position against all of the 2018-19 budget reductions. This indicated a shortfall of £379,000 across Directorates, the majority of which were outlined in more detail in paragraph 4.2.6. of the report. These will continue to be monitored during 2018-19 and 2019-20 with ... view the full minutes text for item 300.
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services submitted a report in order to seek approval from Cabinet to carry out a formal public consultation on the draft Empty Property Strategy 2019-2023.
He outlined some background information and then advised that the Empty Property Strategy had been drafted and was attached to the report at Appendix 1.
One of its key features he explained, is its intention to take a ‘blended’ approach to ensure that the focus for action is based on key facts and information. Properties will be prioritised on key criteria such as nuisance value, detriment, location and housing demand and not only on how long a property has been empty. Once prioritised, the Empty Property Working Group will determine the most appropriate actions to attempt to bring the priority properties back into use.
The focus of the Strategy is empty private sector residential properties. As commercial properties require a more specific approach to bring them back into use as a continued commercial property, they do not form part of this Strategy. However, should opportunities arise to bring an empty commercial property back into use as residential accommodation, this will be considered as part of the Strategy.
He added that the Local Authority and its partners would seek to work co-operatively with owners, in order to bring such empty properties back into use.
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services further added, that an Empty Property Working Group that had been established would support the Strategy, as working with other key stakeholders collaboratively was one of the key drivers for the success of the Strategy.
He further added that the consultation would last for 12 weeks and it is possible that the Strategy would require amendment to respond to comments received through the consultation.
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services concluded his submission, by outlining the reports financial implications.
The Cabinet Member – Future Generations and Wellbeing advised that she was pleased to see the positive proposals within the Strategy that would assist in bringing back into habitation over 1,000 private sector residential properties that were currently vacant.
The Cabinet Member – Social Services and Early Help stated that there were a considerable number of empty properties in valley communities of the County Borough and that he was looking forward to seeing further evidence as part of the Strategy, of the type of properties that were intended to be targeted as being brought back into use.
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services advised that working collaboratively both internally and externally was an extremely important part of the Strategy, including closely working with property owners. He added that a marking matrix would be introduced in order to achieve the Projects long term goals.
The Cabinet Member – Social Services and Early Help asked for confirmation that the intention of the Strategy was to ensure that residential properties are brought into habitable use above commercial properties.
The Head of Performance confirmed that the aims of the Strategy were to ... view the full minutes text for item 301.
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services submitted a report, the purpose of which, was to seek Cabinet approval for public consultation on the draft Homelessness Strategy attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
Part 2 of The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 places a duty on the Authority to carry out a Homelessness Review for its area and then formulate and adopt a Homelessness Strategy.
He explained that the Homelessness Review has provided the necessary information to draft the proposed Strategy for the period 2018-2022 as per Welsh Government Guidance. The key messages arising from the review were shown in paragraph 3.3 of the report.
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services referred Members to the draft Strategy, which he added had been developed to respond to the findings of the review. This had been submitted to Welsh Government on the basis that it is subject to public consultation (and final approval by Cabinet).
He added that the review identified a number of areas to be developed further, though one of the messages was to reinforce that homelessness is a complex, cross cutting issue, that not only requires a corporate approach but also one of a partnership nature. It was intended to develop an Action Plan in order to support the Strategy.
Following the consultation process, it was envisaged that a final Strategy would be presented to Cabinet for approval in April 2019.
The Cabinet Member – Wellbeing and Future Generations advised that a considerable number of key stakeholders had been involved in the development of the draft Strategy which had been co-produced therefore was in line with the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
The Cabinet Member – Social Services and Early Help felt that some of the statistical information in the draft Strategy made for sad reading. He added that he hoped that all partners would work effectively together so as to reduce the problem of homelessness, including Private Landlords and Registered Social Landlords.
The Cabinet Member – Communities felt that the category of vulnerable groups and individuals who may be susceptible to finding themselves homeless should be added to, to include ‘veterans.’
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services confirmed that the Strategy could be adjusted to accommodate this group.
The Leader felt that it was interesting to note that the second biggest reason for people becoming homeless, was due to parents either not being able to or not wishing to accommodate young adults in the age 16 to 18 category. He further added that it was important that there was enough floor space/beds in arranged accommodation for the number of people who were homeless in the County Borough who wished to have a roof over their head, and in turn, then being able to access some key support services they may be in need of.
The Deputy Leader felt that the consultation process should be extended to as wider audience as was possible, as homelessness was a major problem that urgently needed addressing with a ... view the full minutes text for item 302.
The Interim Chief Executive presented a report, the purpose of which, was to provide an update in respect of the use of the Community Action Fund (CAF) approved by Cabinet on 5 September 2017; to update on the recommendations from the Audit Committee and to seek approval for the discontinuation of the Community Action Fund.
The 2017-2021 Medium Term Financial Strategy which was approved by Council on 1st March 2017 included a new budget of £285,000 for the creation of a Community Action Fund. The broad aims of the fund were to create opportunities for localised intervention by Members within their own ward to the benefit of the community. It was hoped to broaden the impact which council funding can have on individual communities and provide a funding source which Elected Members can individually use to directly benefit their local ward.
He continued by stating that Elected Members have significant discretion over how the money has been used, with the overarching caveat that expenditure must be lawful and it must not contravene Council policy. Similarly, funding should not be awarded to profit making organisations or for political purposes. It should not be used for expenditure that is recurring and would necessitate future funds.
Elected Members were required to attend mandatory training before they submitted applications for payment to ensure that the scheme operated smoothly, that administration costs and enquiries were kept to a minimum, and Members were able to comply with the conditions of the scheme and self-regulate.
The Interim Chief Executive explained that during the period the scheme operated, a total of £231,667.24 of the available £270,000.00 (85.8%) was provided from the Community Action fund to fund some 156 projects across the County Borough.
Paragraph 4.1.4 of the report gave examples of variety of projects the funding had been used for, with a full list of the projects being included in Appendix 1 to the report.
The next section of the report detailed some of the administrative support that was required for the scheme, which was more complex than was initially anticipated. The support of the Fund was borne largely by Legal, Finance and Democratic Services staff and was fairly time consuming.
Paragraph 4.3 confirmed that Internal Audit undertook a review of the Community Action Fund, and the findings arising from this were detailed in this section of the report.
He concluded his submission by confirming that given some of the feedback on the scheme, particularly from Members which was mixed, it may be more beneficial in the future for Cabinet to consider the cessation of the CAF and the transfer of the £285,000.00 funding back into the MTFS.
Though Cabinet felt that a considerable number of projects the Fund supported were worthwhile and beneficial to various communities, they also acknowledged that the Council were facing continued financial difficulties going forward into the future and that due to this, it may be worthwhile for the above funding to be allocated to the Council’s Corporate fund.
The Cabinet Member ... view the full minutes text for item 303.
The Head of Legal and Regulatory Services and Monitoring Officer presented a report, that provided details of the above Policy currently in place under the Regulation and Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
She advised that RIPA provides a framework for certain public bodies, including local authorities, to use covert surveillance to gather information about individuals without their knowledge, for the purposes of undertaking statutory functions in connection with the prevention and detection of crime.
The Head of Legal and Regulatory Services and Monitoring Officer added that Members are required to review the use of RIPA and set the Policy at least once a year. Whilst Elected Members cannot be involved in decisions on specific authorisations, they are permitted to have an oversight of the process.
She confirmed that the Council has traditionally been very sparing in its use of RIPA, with it only being used in cases where it is important to obtain information to support potential criminal proceedings and only where that information cannot be obtained by any other means. She added that there had been no authorisations for RIPA since April 2014.
The Head of Legal and Regulatory Services and Monitoring Officer referred Members to paragraph 4.3 of the report, which gave other reasons that were likely to account for the reduction in the number of authorisations being sought.
Finally, she referred to the list of designated posts nominated as Authorising Officers to authorise surveillance activity within the Council (Appendix 1 of the Policy attached to the report at Appendix A) which had been reviewed and updated.
The Leader asked by what methods RIPA activity was monitored in the Shared Regulatory Services.
The Head of Legal and Regulatory Services and Monitoring Officer confirmed that this was monitored by the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Council, and independently overseen by the Courts (Magistrates).
RESOLVED: That Cabinet noted the report and approved the revised Policy attached as Appendix A, together with the amended list
of Authorised Officers.
The Head of Legal and Regulatory Services submitted a report which presented to Members the Unreasonable Behaviour or Vexatious Complainant Policy for approval (attached at Appendix 1 to the report).
By way of background, the report highlighted that the Authority did not currently have a Policy that dealt with unreasonable customer behaviour and complaints including those of a vexatious nature.
The Head of Legal and Regulatory Services confirmed that having such a Policy will help Officers to understand clearly what is expected of them; what options for action are available and who can authorise these actions. It can also be shared with customers and help manage their expectations and explain that certain behaviours should not be tolerated.
The Cabinet Member Wellbeing & Future Generations endorsed the policy emphasising that whilst the public have the right to complain and complaints will be dealt with seriously, the authority will not tolerate aggressive or violent behaviour towards staff.
Paragraph 4.2 outlined in summary the key provisions of the Policy.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet approved the above Policy attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
The Head of Legal and Regulatory Services presented a report, the purpose of which, was to inform Cabinet of the Information Report for noting outlined in paragraph 4.1 of the report, published since its last scheduled meeting.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet acknowledged the publication of the document listed in the report.
To consider any items of business that by reason of special circumstances the chairperson is of the opinion should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency in accordance with paragraph 2.4 (e) of the Cabinet Procedure Rules within the Constitution.