Agenda item

To receive announcements from:

(i) Mayor (or person presiding)

(ii) Members of the Cabinet

(iii) Chief Executive



The Mayor:


“It certainly is a busy period as we enter the festive season. The mayor's office continues to receive many enquires and applications for Mayoral visits. I am grateful to the Deputy Mayor and his consort for stepping in on those occasions we have multiple requests. On a personal note, on your behalf, I have attended many events that range from Christmas Community Events Shop window judging competition Carol Services Hospital visit Annual General Meetings of various organisations.

Civic events outside of the County Borough It was a pleasure to accompany the respective Town Mayors at both Maesteg and Bridgend to witness the illumination of the Christmas lights. There was incredible public attendance at both events which just demonstrates the importance and enthusiasm the public have for the festive season.


Could I thank both Town Councils for organising these events.


I would also like to thank Mr Lee Jukes and his team from Bridgend FM. His enthusiasm energy and skill in entertaining the large crowds at these two events was incredible. To date I have been called many things in my life but to be introduced by Lee Jukes to the large crowd at Maesteg as the "Cool Mayor of Bridgend" is something I shall not forget. It was also an honour and privilege to attend the Emergency Services of South Wales Christmas Carol Service at Llandaff Cathedral. The Carol Service was attended by representatives and families of South Wales Police, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust.


The South Wales Police Band was accompanied by the Kenfig Hill and District Male Voice Choir. It was a proud moment for me at the Cathedral to receive compliments from many Civic dignitaries from across South Wales who went out of their way to praise the incredible "Spine-Tingling" performance from the choir. Once again thank you to all at the Kenfig Hill and District Male Voice Choir you done us proud.


Could I please encourage you all members and officers to donate to the Mayors Charity Appeal? Could I suggest that instead of sending a Christmas Card to each other you donate to the charity fund. Details of how the donation can be made will shortly be circulated on the BCBC website.


And finally, please do not forget about the Mayors Award application process. I expect to see an avalanche of applications. There is so much good work being carried out in our communities, work and commitment that deserves recognition, so please you're your applications in by 13th January 2023


Details of the application process can be found on the council website.


Last but not least one of our members today is celebrating their birthday. Can I please say happy birthday to Councillor Elaine Winstanley I hope you have a lovely day and a better evening.


Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Social Services:


As this is the first time that we have met as a full Council since the publication of the Child Practice Review following the murder of five year old Logan Mwangi, I would like to provide members with a brief update on the progress that has been made on implementing the report’s recommendations.


You will have seen that as an authority, we have offered a full and unreserved apology to Logan’s father, Ben Mwangi, and all who knew and loved Logan.


As we stated at the time, all relevant agencies, including the council, have accepted the findings of the Independent Child Practice Review panel which has highlighted a number of opportunities for strengthening our practice.


With an Improvement Board in place to oversee progress in the improvements required within children’s social care, we are actively working alongside partners in the Cwm Taf Regional Safeguarding Board to improve our practice and the effectiveness of multi-agency safeguarding as highlighted by the review.


Children’s services must improve the quality of practice, how our practice is quality assured, and the management oversight.


As we know that Mr Mwangi was not contacted as he should have been, we have acted to provide clear guidance to staff on the importance of contacting parents with parental responsibility if their children are on the child protection register.


We are implementing changes, such as a new model of social work practice, to improve the ways in which we work with children and families, and how agencies work together to share and act on information to safeguard and protect.


We are also taking steps to ensure people throughout Bridgend County Borough are better informed and have confidence in how to report any safeguarding concerns that they may have.


Throughout this difficult process, we have been entirely transparent, and have fully co-operated with the review panel to ensure that all opportunities for learning have been identified.


Alongside our partners in health, we have expressed deep sorrow that our safeguarding and child protection endeavours were not enough to prevent Logan’s murder and have made a public commitment towards our absolute priority to make them as effective and as thorough as possible.


Logan’s tragic death, the media coverage of the trial of his murderers, and the subsequent revelations about the role of each agency generated a great deal of comment and debate.


While fully embracing and taking full responsibility for the areas where we need to improve and do better, I must also admit to feeling disappointed at how this tragic incident was nevertheless used to try and score political points on a national level.


Some of those comments not only appeared to wilfully ignore the findings of the child practice review, they attempted to unfairly link individuals directly to the tragedy, and I found this to be particularly distasteful.


Throughout this entire process, our thoughts have remained with Logan, and all who knew, loved or cared for him. The impact of his passing will always remain with us as an authority, and in his memory, we are determined to do all that we can to improve our practice for the benefit of vulnerable children and adults alike.


As a large part of our effort to deliver improvements involves addressing our ongoing recruitment issues, we are currently running a campaign which is encouraging people to ‘give the gift of care’ this Christmas.


As a council, we strongly value the role of all our social care and social work workforce. We want to celebrate and promote what they do, and the many opportunities that are available for making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable members of the local community.


Designed to coincide with the 12 Days of Christmas, the campaign highlights the variety of job opportunities that are available within the council’s social care teams. It emphasises the need for social care staff to provide physical, emotional and social support for local people, and features existing employees who talk honestly and realistically about their work, the impact it has and the support they receive from the council.


The campaign seeks to make people aware that a wide range of opportunities are available – from care home staff, reablement workers who care for people in their own homes and advanced mental health practitioners to social workers, occupational therapists and even social work apprentices and funded degree courses.


Anyone who is interested in finding out more can do so by visiting the job pages at the council website, so I hope that members will help us  to make as many people aware as possible.


Cabinet Member - Resources


I am sure that members will have noted the announcement from Welsh Government on the draft budget settlement for next year, and that Bridgend County Borough Council is set to receive an increase of 7.7 per cent for 2023-24.


I would like to express our gratitude towards Welsh Government, in particular the First Minister, finance minister and local government minister, for once again listening to the concerns of local councils and the Welsh Local Government Association about the huge pressures that we continue to face.


Any increase to our core grant funding is always welcome, and we will of course ensure that the money can be used as effectively and as efficiently as possible.


At the same time, the increase must be considered against a wider context of increased costs, additional demands and an underlying rate of national inflation which remains significantly high.


This is not spare or extra money. Following the impact of national austerity measures, Brexit, the global coronavirus pandemic and the current cost of living crisis, the last few years have been among the most challenging that local authorities have ever had to face.


Nevertheless, this is still good news, and deserves to be celebrated as such.


Work will now take place to examine the draft settlement in closer detail in order to determine how far the increase is likely to help us meet the additional costs that we face, and whether it can be used to ease some of the reductions in services that we may potentially need to make.


Cabinet Member - Education:


There have been a number of changes in senior school personnel recently that I would like to share with members.


I’m delighted to confirm that following the retirement of Andrew Slade, Mike Stephens, the current Deputy Headteacher of Cynffig Comprehensive, will take up the position of Headteacher of Porthcawl Comprehensive in January 2023.


At Cwmfelin Primary, head teacher Julie Morgan has accepted a secondment as an improvement partner for the Central South Consortium. Her deputy, Joanne Edwards will serve as acting headteacher in Julie’s place.


Josh Slade at Litchard and Claire Merfield at Maes Yr Haul primary schools have both been appointed acting deputy headteachers.


At Croesty Primary, Alan Poole has reverted to his substantive position as deputy headteacher at the school, and Claire Nicholas has taken up the position of head teacher. 


Meanwhile, Chris Jones has become interim executive headteacher for both Llangynwyd Primary and Tynyrheol Primary schools.


The former deputy headteacher of Llangynwyd Primary, Kelly Kehoe, has become the acting head for the school.


Finally, Richard Edwards, the former head teacher of Tynyrheol Primary, has taken up a position with the National Academy of Educational Leadership.


Rachel Warner, who was substantive deputy head teacher, has become the new head of school.


I am sure that members will join me in wishing them all every success.


Cabinet Member - Regeneration:


I’d like to ask members to help spread word about the recent launch of free Wi-Fi access across all town centres in Bridgend County Borough.


Introduced in order to increase connectivity between residents, businesses and visitors, the service is free to use and is available within Bridgend, Porthcawl, Maesteg and Pencoed.


All people need to do in order to take advantage of the new service is to search their Wi-Fi network settings for ‘BCBC Free Wi-Fi” and then enter their email address.


The free Wi-Fi means that people can now browse the internet, work remotely from town centre premises, check their emails while waiting for a bus or train, and more.


This represents the latest positive investment into the county borough, and I am sure that it will be of great benefit to businesses, residents and visitors alike.


I would also like to highlight how taxi marshals are helping revellers to enjoy a safe journey home from Bridgend town centre during the festive season.


Working in pairs on Friday and Saturday evenings between 10pm and 4am, the taxi marshals are supporting people in using the taxi ranks on both Market Street and Derwen Road.


Liaising closely with South Wales Police, they are also helping to prevent potential disruption, and are ensuring that everyone can leave the town centre safely and without any trouble.


They are proving to be highly popular with revellers, and are also supporting taxi drivers by defusing and deterring potential incidents before they can occur and escalate.


The service is being provided as part of the Safer Streets initiative, and I am sure members will want to congratulate the taxi marshals for their good work.


Cabinet Member - Communities:


I want to give members an update on the exhibitions that have been taking place as part of the pre-application consultation over a new green energy Hybont plant planned for the Brynmenyn area.


A great deal of debate has been taking place on social media recently this proposal, and because a huge amount of misinformation has already circulated, we have been encouraging people to come and find out more about the plans, and to get their facts directly from the experts.


The exhibitions, which have been held at Ynysawdre Swimming Pool, have been attended by hundreds of residents. They were able to speak directly to Japanese specialists Marubeni as well as the council’s energy team, and had an opportunity to discover how the technology is already is use across the UK and Europe.


I think it is fair to say that the event generated robust and lively debate, and that the attendees were able to express their concerns regarding the safety, size and location of the proposed plant.


Unfortunately, it would appear that much of these concerns were also based upon misinformation and rumour.


The exhibition team made efforts to address this, and explained that the Hybont plant forms part of a new move towards tackling climate change by increasing the use of clean renewable energy and decarbonising vehicles.


This has already seen the safe, effective introduction of 22 new hydrogen buses in London – the equivalent of removing 836 petrol cars and saving 1,848 tonnes of CO2 – while in Aberdeen, 15 hydrogen buses have already jointly travelled more than a million miles while saving 1,700 tonnes of emissions.


With hydrogen-powered waste and recycling trucks being successfully used in areas such as the Wirral, the Bridgend project represents a £31m investment that could ensure we are at the forefront of the increasing use of sustainable energy in everyday life.


The proposed new plant would be based alongside existing industries within Brynmenyn Industrial Estate where it would occupy a small, extensively landscaped site, and the only by-product it would produce is oxygen. When used, the fuel itself produces water.


The exhibition team also reassured people that the proposed plant is only at the pre-application stage, and encouraged everyone to submit their concerns so that they could receive an official response based on actual information and hard facts.


It is clear that a great deal of this misinformation remains, and that further work will be required to ensure that people are properly informed about the plant and what its impact will actually be.


I hope that members will support these efforts. We are organising additional briefings for local councillors, MPs and MSs to ensure that they are fully informed, and I will bring you further updates as this situation develops.


Cabinet Member – Future Generations:


I am sure that members are, like me, being regularly contacted by worried or distressed residents who are concerned about how they are going to manage during the cost of living crisis.


In recent weeks, I have become aware of several cases where people have reported having to cancel wi-fi broadband access due to costs or because they have hit the limit for their mobile data capacity.


This is having an adverse impact against their efforts to stay online, complete job applications, access school learning or online training, and much more.


The good news is that help is at hand.


Members may wish to let their constituents know that as well as being able to access free internet and computer services through local libraries, the National Databank is available to offer support.


Working alongside a network of community partners and telecommunication companies such as Virgin Media, Three and Vodafone, the National Databank currently provides free internet connectivity data for more than 500,000 people across the UK.


This ensures that people can stay in touch with family and friends, apply for and attend job interviews, use the internet to search for essential information on health or other important issues, and make full use of the increasing move towards digitised public services.


Furthermore, cheaper broadband packages are also available for people who receive specific benefits including Universal Credit and Pension Credit. With tariffs starting from just £15 a month, this offers another way for people to maintain access to fast, efficient internet services.


Anyone who wants to find out more about how the National Databank can help should visit, while the Ofcom website features full details on cheaper social tariffs.


Chief Executive:


With regard to the remedial work to correct legacy issues resulting from failing wall installation in Caerau in 2012 to 13, I previously advised members on how we'd received informal endorsement from the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, that the business case we'd submitted to Welsh Government for funding to address all installation working had been successful.


We are of course extremely grateful to Welsh Government for their support and for working closely with us to resolve this matter. The business case was submitted because, regrettably and through no fault of their own, a significant number of householders have been living in conditions over the past decade that are unacceptable, and have not received the benefits of enhanced insulation and increased energy efficiency that the original retrofit schemes had intended to bring about.


While we have now received a formal letter from the Minister verifying her approval, for clarity, we are still waiting for the grants terms and conditions confirmation letter - and to be absolutely clear, we have certainly not yet received the funding that has been allocated to us.


I understand there has been some considerable interest and perhaps consternation from some Members as a result of something the Minister said on television on Sunday. To be frank, I wouldn't read too much into this,. Though I understand Members’ concern, I genuinely believe it is simply a misunderstanding over the different use of language, and too much can be made of this.


To reassure you therefore, Welsh Government and ourselves are very much clear on the situation and on the same page, and I have spoken to the Minister's office today at some length. So from the minister's point of view, I think it's fair to say she has given ministerial approval - so as far as she is concerned, the money is allocated to Bridgend, and she is expecting us to get on with it.


I think from our point of view, yes, the funding has been awarded and it will be forthcoming. We're clear on that. But the way these grants work, unfortunately, you don't simply walk out of Cardiff Bay with £2.65 million. What actually happens is that we await the terms and conditions grant letter. Ordinarily, the funding is claimed based on actual expenditure retrospectively, and we know that it is profiled over three financial years.


To be clear, therefore, the funding is now confirmed, and I want to reassure you that there will therefore be no further delays because we are all very clear that it is forthcoming, and we are progressing the initial steps and the initial work in line with the approved business case. There is no delay from anything that has happened, or anything that has been said.


Just as an additional point, Welsh Government officials have helpfully confirmed that spend in advance of the grant letter can be incurred if necessary, and that may well be the case.


I will confirm some of the detail of the first steps later in my statement. However, we do know that because approval has taken longer than anticipated that we will have to go back to Welsh Government to talk to them again about some of the current profiling of the expenditure, recognising that approval has probably come six months later than we originally anticipated, and those original time scales have changed.


I'll just give you an example of that. We need to be very clear that this is where we need to take expert advice that we can still deliver in the way that was originally intended. In the original business case, it was intended that the external wall insulation work and internal wall insulation work removal would begin in November 2022. Obviously, that is not now going to happen. Therefore, we can assume that that will move back six months and it may be about May 23. I don't think that will be a problem. However,  what we do need to be clear on is where it was originally envisaged that the reinstatement of external wall installation and internal wall installation would have been in June 23, If you take that six months on, that would now be November or December 23. Now I simply don't know the answer to that. I would need expert advice whether that is feasible or whether that is sensible to do that in the winter period. And that's the kind of thing that we need to check with Welsh Government, to make sure that we get the profiling of that expenditure correct.


In total, Welsh Government have confirmed that we will have a grant of £2.65 million from them, and the council of course has matched the sum of £855,000 against this in its capital program.


Members will recall that wall installation work was originally carried out on 104 homes under the national Community Energy Savings Program and ARBED initiatives in 2012/13. Unfortunately, there continues to be a great deal of inaccurate misreporting and social media comment regarding this matter, despite various clarifications being issued over recent years So for absolute clarity, the council's involvement was limited to 25 properties where we administered ARBED funding for carrying out the original work. Welsh Government allowed local authorities to bid for ARBED funding to supplement existing CESP schemes being run in their areas. The council had no involvement in the work of those other 79 properties where work was carried out under the Community Energy Savings Program in Caerau, and importantly, that is a fact confirmed by Ofgem, the relevant national energy companies and government departments themselves.


However, it is important to note that our intention is to address the failed installation at all 104 homes, and to ensure that the properties where work was funded by the separate schemes are all included in the remedial work.


Clearly, we have a great deal of sympathy for all of the householders impacted by this matter, and a desire to improve their homes as quickly as possible. In doing this, we will provide householders with a permanent, positive, long term solution which will be delivered over a period of approximately two years during 23/24 and 24/25.


The intention is that those eligible householders who choose to participate in this revised scheme will benefit from homes that will become better insulated and more energy efficient, which of course is particularly important during the current cost of living crisis and at this time of hugely increased energy costs.


Again, just for absolute clarity, unfortunately, as you know, this is not just a case of just putting scaffolding up and going straight to work to repair the properties. The first step of the agreement with Welsh Government is to commission a program manager and a technical expert, and to engage the relevant householders so essential technical surveys can take place before we then procure a relevant contractor to carry out the work.


Importantly, to support this, we also intend to appoint a community liaison officer who can work closely alongside residents and act as a single point of contact for them. The actual physical work, therefore, is currently planned and phased, as I say, to take place during the financial years 23/24 and 24/25, subject to confirmations around the feasibility of carrying out the work in those particular seasons.


This, of course, will need to be very carefully managed, so it is absolutely vital to ensure that qualified experts are in place who can deliver on this and monitor quality standards. I would make the point, of course, that we need to learn very carefully not just from previous schemes in Bridgend, but indeed elsewhere in the UK, to make sure that this is done properly with the appropriate quality standards. So what we all want is to deliver this as soon as possible. We are also minded that we do need to take the appropriate expert advice.


So in short, as the Minister indicated, we are getting on with it.


To avoid further delays, we have already initiated the procurement exercises necessary for engaging with the relevant experts prior to receiving that final award letter from Welsh Government and are keen to make further progress as quickly as possible on this important work.


Clearly, we want to make necessary improvements to the affected homes as soon as possible, but as I say, we do also need to learn from the deficiencies in the way that previous programs have been managed. I think that it is really, really important that we do that.


I'm sure members will welcome this long-awaited positive news, and as the project develops further and takes greater shape, I will of course provide additional updates. This will include details of an intended meeting early in the New Year with all local members in Caerau, members of parliament and members of the Senedd, as soon as that Welsh Government confirmation is in place with details of the program, timescales and profiling, and they have told me they intend getting that to us before Christmas.


The intention is that once we hold that initial meeting, we will also take soundings from local members within their communities about the best way of engaging with local residents. Clearly, the balance here again is that when we are going to do that we do need to have sufficient information to be able to adequately answer their likely questions.


I hope that gives you a comprehensive briefing. What I will say is that, as always, I am always happy to answer additional questions or meet with members as appropriate if there is any more information that you require, and I have committed to ensuring that you are kept up to date as necessary moving forward.