Agenda item

To receive the following Questions from:

Councillor A Wathan to the Cabinet Member – Resources

Can the Cabinet Member – Resources provide me with the risk assessment of Short Term Loans to local authorities under the adopted BCBC procedures?


Councillor D Hughes to the Cabinet Member – Resources

How is Bridgend County Borough Council along with other partners, creating financial support mechanisms to help protect the most vulnerable in society?


Councillor T Thomas to the Cabinet Member – Regeneration

What plans does the Cabinet Member have to increase town centre footfall in our County Borough town centres?



Councillor Alan Wathan to the Cabinet Member – Resources


Can the Cabinet Member – Resources provide me with the risk assessment of Short Term Loans to local authorities under the adopted BCBC procedures?




Treasury management is the management of the Council’s cash flows, borrowing and investments, and the associated risks. The Governance and Audit Committee has been nominated to be responsible for ensuring effective scrutiny of the Treasury Management Strategy (TMS) and policies.

Treasury risk management at the Council is conducted within the framework of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (CIPFA) ‘Treasury Management in the Public Services: Code of Practice’ 2017 Edition (the CIPFA Code) which requires the Council to approve a Treasury Management Strategy (TMS) before the start of each financial year. The CIPFA Code also requires the Council to set a number of Treasury Management Indicators, which are forward looking parameters and enable the Council to measure and manage its exposure to treasury management risks, and performance against these indicators are reported to Members regularly throughout the financial year.

The Council’s Treasury Management Strategy, was reported to and approved by full Council on 23 February 2022, and it sets out clearly the investing limits for all counterparties.  Specifically in relation to local authorities it sets the following lending limits:


Local authorities & other entities: 

Time limit: 25 years,

Counterparty limit: £12 million,

Sector limit: £unlimited.


In summary, the maximum than can be lent to any single local authority at any time is £12 million, for a period no longer than 25 years.  The total amount this Council can lend to all local authorities cumulatively is unlimited.

The Council regularly lends to other local authorities as it is a well-established practice across the sector and provides a high level of security and a low level of risk, with a commensurate level of return.  Local authorities are regarded as very low credit risk investment counterparties. As public sector organisations they are far less subject to the type of market forces that can make banks and other businesses insolvent and although they may merge, split or otherwise change, they and the functions they provide are unlikely to cease to exist.

Most local authorities are not rated by credit rating agencies, however those that do possess strong ratings.

All investments are made in line with the advice of the Council’s Treasury Management Advisors, who were appointed via a competitive tendering process.  The majority of investments this Council makes to other local authorities are less than 1 year, although one recent investment has been made for a period of 2 years, with a value of £5 million to July 2024.  All other investments with other local authorities are for less than 1 year.

To help to reduce risk, this Council also does not invest up the maximum permitted and approved by Council.  The approved limit per authority as noted above is £12 million, however the maximum amount lent is usually no more than £8 million in total, and this would be across 2 separate amounts and timelines and/or durations.

Currently we have investments with other Local Authorities of £41 million, which is spread over 9 different local authorities, with average investment of £5 million, and with maturity dates falling across financial years as follows:











This Council has not been subject to any failure of any other local authority to repay its debt on time and with the associated interest due. The Council’s Treasury Management Advisors have confirmed that:

 ‘…….the intervention and support provided by central government underlines the credit worthiness of the local authority sector’.

Our advisors also believe that the probability of a UK local authority default on debt obligation remains low, with expected loss given default lower still. The Local Government Finance framework, creditor protections and likelihood of central government support result in local authorities, including those facing particular budgetary challenges, retaining high levels of credit worthiness.

Regular Treasury Management reports are presented to Cabinet, Council and Governance and Audit Committee, which gives the opportunity to review the Treasury Management Indicators and to make any formal changes to the Treasury Management Strategy.

The Council’s Treasury Management service is regularly reviewed by both external audit as part of their annual audit process, and internal audit.  The latest review by internal audit concluded in February 2020 that ‘the effectiveness of the internal control environment is considered sound and therefore substantial assurance can be placed upon the management of risks.’


Supplementary question by Councillor Alan Wathan


“Thank you for a very detailed technical answer. I note with interest that this Authority on the 30th of August 2022 confirms the ethical policy

for pension Investments. I would like to ask the cabinet member does this Authority have a similar adopted ethical policy on investments to low risk local authorities that would have questionably Casino style operating practices that are reported prior to agreeing lending terms”




The Chief Officer Finance Performance and Change explained that we do have strict guidelines on who we can and cannot lend to. From an ethical standpoint Local Authorities were considered to be a low risk. Much of the lending is done through the Governments Debt Management office which is Central Government ran. She added that she did not have the information regarding the 2nd part to the question but would provide it to the Member at a later date.


Supplementary question by Councillor Steven Bletsoe


“Following from Cllr Wathan’s question, is an ethical policy that were not linked to pensions something that Cabinet would consider moving forward”




The Chief Officer Finance Performance and Change explained that we reviewed the Treasury Management document on an annual basis and have already made a commitment to the Governance & Audit Committee to do that, in particular in relation to our investments with Local Authorities and so this could be looked at the next review.


Councillor Della Hughes to the Cabinet Member – Resources


How is Bridgend County Borough Council along with other partners, creating financial support mechanisms to help protect the most vulnerable in society?




The Council has provided support to residents in the County Borough via a number of different means in recent times and is continuing to do so now.


Discretionary Housing Payments

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) are paid from a cash-limited budget, provided by the Department of Works and Pension, and are intended to help people meet housing costs, usually where there is a shortfall between their Housing Benefit (HB), or housing element of Universal Credit (UC), and their rent. A DHP can only be awarded if the claimant is claiming HB, or UC with housing costs towards rental liability.

A DHP can be awarded for a rent deposit or rent in advance for a property that the claimant is yet to move into if they are already entitled to HB or UC at their present home, and also payments for past housing costs (including arrears of rent).


These payments are emergency payments and the council has to ensure that any payment reaches those who are most in need.

The DWP’s allocation of funding to Bridgend in the current year is £258,312, and this is being supplemented by a further £150,000 allocated from Welsh Government’s Discretionary Homelessness Prevention grant (total £408,312).


We do promote these services via our own resources and also work with free advisory organisations such as CAB, who offer free advice to residents and promote this support.


Council Tax Reduction Scheme

The Council Tax Reduction Scheme helps people on low incomes to pay their council tax. This support is provided via an application process and individuals can receive this help to pay their council tax whether or not they are receiving other benefits, working, unemployed, caring for an adult or child or retired.


The total financial support provided to individuals in Bridgend via this route is estimated to be £14.87 million in the current year. Currently 12,565 individuals or families are receiving financial support via this scheme.

Again, information on how to claim this support is available via our website.


Fuel Payments

For the second year running, the Council is acting as an agent for Welsh Government and is currently paying the Fuel Support Scheme. This scheme supports eligible households with the cost of heating their homes throughout the winter months and provides applicants with a one off £200 payment. This year the scheme is open to households where someone is claiming benefits such as Council Tax Reduction (based on household income), disability benefits, universal credit, income support, child and working tax credits, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and income-related employment and support allowance. Householders who are not themselves receiving a qualifying benefit could also receive a payment if they live with another adult or child who receives a disability benefit. The full criteria and list of qualifying benefits are available on our website.


To date, 14,201 payments have been made, totalling £2,840,200; the scheme continues until the 28 February 2023.


Payment to unpaid carers

Earlier this financial year, the Council also acted as an agent for Welsh Government to make one-off payments of £500 to unpaid carers. The payment was made in recognition of the increased financial pressures that unpaid carers experienced during the pandemic, and to help with some of the additional costs they incurred. The payment was available to all eligible unpaid carers who were in receipt of Carer’s Allowance on 31 March 2022.


In total 2,587 payments were made, totalling £1,293,500


Cost of Living Scheme

The cost of living scheme is another Welsh government initiative which is being managed locally by this council. The scheme is intended to provide support as Wales recovers from the pandemic and supports households to deal with the impact of increasing energy and other costs. The criteria for accessing the scheme was set by Welsh government. Each eligible household within the county borough received a payment of £150 under the main scheme which ended on 30th September 2022.


The total funding allocated to Bridgend for the main part of this scheme was £7.514 million. As a result Bridgend Council allocated 49,120 payments totalling £7,368,000 which was 98.05% of the allocated funding, against an average of 96.25% throughout Wales.


Welsh Government also made available a  further £1.236 million towards a discretionary scheme where the Council could determine how the extra support could be distributed to those most in need. The Discretionary Scheme commenced on 1 October 2022 and to date 10439 households have received a £60 payment with 6197 payments of £50 being made in respect of child in receipt of free school meals. This scheme will run until 31 March 2023.


Warm Hubs

In anticipation of rising energy costs and the concern that people will not be able to keep warm at home we are working with strategic partners and local community groups to identify places and events across Bridgend  where people can access to keep warm during the winter of 2022/23.  Most of these activities will build upon what currently exists but are being adapted to take account of the need to keep warm but also to undertake an enjoyable activity in a welcoming space. Council staff are engaging with the local groups and organisations in each area of the county to map what exists and this information is being hosted on a new Cost of Living Web page on the councils site as well as being shared with other key organisations so they can post it. Welsh Government has provided funds for Local Authorities in Wales to support Warm Hubs.  It is anticipated that a grant scheme will be available shortly so that organisations can apply for funding to expand or enhance their existing offer or develop new if a gap exists.



Business Rate Relief for businesses in the area

Support has been given to local businesses via the Small Business Rates Relief Schemes and the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Rates Relief Scheme to ensure they can continue to trade to support the local economy and maintain employment levels in the County Borough.

Through the Small Business Rates Relief scheme 3,206 businesses in Bridgend with a rateable value below £12,000 receive relief on a sliding scale of between 0% and 100% depending on their rateable value.

Currently there 362  businesses that are benefiting from 50% Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Rates Relief. Letters have recently been issued to eligible businesses to encourage them to apply for the reduction and reduce their liability.


Council Tax 2022/2023

In setting the revenue budget for the current year, the Council agreed to a 0% Council Tax increase. Within the budget report it states clearly that the rationale for this was to support the citizens of Bridgend to deal with the rising cost of living, such as increased energy and food bills, other inflationary increases, mortgage interest rises and national insurance increases.


Free Parking

During the pandemic the council has had a generous parking offer of free parking for 3 hour in its primary car parks.



We have been providing capital grants across the County Borough for business and new home owners, to bridge the gap in being able to get on the property ladder or to allow businesses to operate differently.


Since March 2021, £371k in grant has been awarded to 23 new home owners in our Valley communities to enable them to get on to the property ladder and bring back into occupancy previously vacant residential properties in their local communities.


Almost £600k of capital grants were also given to 83 businesses across the County as a result of covid to invest in their premises and in outdoor spaces. The changes enabled businesses to remain viable and operational, and will support their business going forward.


Food Poverty

The community pantries were established as part of our RDP (LEADER) funded project on Sustainable Community Venues.  The project was refocused at the beginning of the pandemic to provide relief to residents in terms of access to affordable food.


The aim of the pantries was to provide an affordable bag of food per week (£5/bag) and the income went directly to cover the costs of the food deliveries from FareShare Cymru and the membership fee each centre had to pay FairShare to be part of the scheme.  The remaining money went straight into the community centres to support their costs which supported the overall aims of the project to support community centres to thrive and continue to provide services to their communities.


The Council funded the pantries until October 2021 and it is now being delivered through a Community Interest Company who have secured funding from a number of other sources. This is a real success story for BCBC as not only was the project very successful in supporting communities in rural wards but it went on to continue post pilot phase and has created a CIC and associated jobs.  Up to October 2021 we supplied 6037 bags of food equating to approximately 53,750Kg of food.


In addition to the community pantries, the Council is helping to support the mobilisation of Welsh Government Big Bocs Bwyd scheme across the County Borough.  The scheme supports a network of ‘pay as you feel’ shops based in converted shipping containers in school grounds.  Called the Big Bocs Bwyd project, there will be 60 of these projects in situ across Wales by the end of 2022 and Bridgend Local Authority area has received the largest number of these projects in one county  – 16 in total.  These Big Bocs Bwyds provide affordable food, to both the school families and the wider communities. 


The Council is part of the Food Poverty Network of providers, co-ordinated by BAVO, and has worked with BAVO to deliver a capital/revenue grant fund to support community organisations addressing concerns within their localities.


The Council has also been able to support food poverty support organisations with funding drawn down from the Welsh Government’s Household Support Fund.  The Big Bocs Bwyds, Baobab Bach CIC Pantries and the Bridgend Foodbank Network have all received funds this year.


Further funding will be available via the Council in the next calendar year, following an award of £68,619 from the Welsh Government’s Direct Food Support Scheme.


The Council is also exploring funding options from the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Food Partnership programme.  The programme seeks to provide targeted support to the most vulnerable households to help meet the rising household costs through strengthening a range of activities delivered to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis. This funding would support joint working between the Council and our partners, to develop cross-sector food partnerships and strengthen existing food partnerships. These will help build resilience in local food networks through the co-ordination of on the ground, food-related activity which tackles the root-causes of food poverty.


Employability Bridgend

Through the Employability Bridgend programme, the Council continues to provide training opportunities and assist our residents back into work through initiatives such as “Employability Bridgend” which supports disadvantaged participants across the whole Council, regardless of location, by offering a suite of interventions that aim to break patterns of multi-generational worklessness and poverty.


The schemes work closely with community venues across Bridgend to ensure that we are providing services locally that meet a local need and reduce travel costs for residents by bringing the service to their locality.

In the 7 months From April 2022 to end of October 2022, the Employability Team helped 774 people from Bridgend engage in the programme, including 33 people who were already in work being supported to improve their labour market position; 193 people have achieved qualifications and  239  have gone into work.


Supplementary question by Councillor Della Hughes


Thank you for the response and it was pleasing to see the support that is available to the residents of Bridgend. With the current sky rocketing energy prices, the support from the UK and Welsh Government is welcomed but there are still many struggling to heat their homes. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the significant financial impact for our most elderly and vulnerable residents and in particular the charges relating to communal spaces of sheltered accommodation such as Court Gwalia in Ogmore Vale. Residents will now see their weekly charges for the communal area increased significantly and this is on top of their energy increases in their own apartments. I am concerned that we could see these wonderful living environments become unaffordable to some of our most vulnerable. One resident’s service charge is going to be increased by over £200 a month and some will be paying slightly more and some slightly less. This is before any rise in cost for her own apartment and any rent increases, and the monthly rent is now more than she gets from her state pension. Staff are working closely with the residents and their families to ensure that they are receiving any financial support that they are entitled to, however, they will be unaffordable for some so we are aware of this issue in our sheltered accommodation and nursing homes and what can we along with other agencies do to support these vulnerable residents.”


The Deputy Leader thanked Cllr Hughes for the question and shared the concerns particularly around the extra care and supported living and stated that would look into this and provide a response to the member outside of the meeting.


Supplementary question by Councillor Melanie Evans


“After recently visiting Pencoed Primary I noticed there was a school uniform Swap Shop and was wondering if you could advise what further support is available for Learners and parents in the county Borough”




The Cabinet Member Resources explained that the Pupil Development Grant assists schools and parents in providing school uniform to pupils. Parents are able to claim up to £225 and in some cases even more. The Corporate Director Education and Family Support added that money was available to support the purchasing of school PE kits and equipment and was targeted for lower income families. The funds have also benefited children over the holidays with free school meal provision which had helped over 6000 pupils in Bridgend over the last 2 years.


Councillor Tim Thomas to the Cabinet Member – Regeneration


What plans does the Cabinet Member have to increase town centre footfall in our County Borough town centres?




“BCBC have a suite of interventions in place which are aimed at increasing footfall in our town centres. Footfall across the three primary town centres in BCBC, has increased since Covid-19 restrictions have come to an end, and whilst not quite reaching pre pandemic levels, the numbers are steadily growing.


Our approach to generating footfall can only be delivered by a combination of investment in businesses and enterprise; support to high street traders and owners; enhancements to premises and town centre environment and delivering marketing campaign. It also requires our partners, local organisations and traders and to play a role in promoting and investing in our towns and local initiatives.


Town centre promotional and marketing work underpins all activity and investment in our high streets. Under the branding: Town Centres – People | Community | Belonging - a number of coordinated campaigns have been run for specific agendas; these include a promotional video and press campaign promoting Independents Day which highlighted the diversity and quality of the independent shopping offer we have in our town centres, directly featuring local traders and products.


Another campaign in May 2022 was run specifically to support Bridgend Indoor Market. This celebrated the markets centenary and promoted the traders, whilst also highlighting the opportunity for new businesses to take a market stall under the councils Elevate & Prosper project.


This year we promoted ‘Spend Summer in your town centre’, a campaign which encouraged people to visit the town centres across the summer months and engage in various activities taking place.         


Similarly at present, we are running the ‘Spend Christmas in your town centre’ campaign which promotes our town centres as places to shop, socialise and celebrate over the festive season.  A new Christmas film on the councils You Tube channel celebrates the distinctiveness of each of our three town centres. We are also using the opportunity to showcase in the film some of the nine destination restaurants that have changed the night-time economy in Bridgend town centre by offering a wide variety of culinary experiences.


All of this promotional work to support businesses over the crucial Christmas trading period and prolong dwell time is underpinned by a very successful social media campaign. In addition, a Digital Christmas website once again provides businesses with a free opportunity to register an offer, voucher or loyalty card and feature on the sites Advent Calendar.


The authority has worked with Green Top Events to bring a programme of street markets to Bridgend and Porthcawl in 2022 and will add Maesteg to the programme of markets planned for 2023. The number of additional people visiting a town centre on market days does vary considerably, but on average we see an increase of between 2000 and 2500 between the two towns, with the highest additional footfall on market days recorded as 8035 in Porthcawl.


Bringing events to the town centres is supported by the authority through the engagement of event operators with the councils ESAG process, where assistance and supported is given to help them develop their event. Over the last few weeks Christmas events have taken place and the authority has worked alongside Town and community councils who worked incredibly hard in staging Christmas activities to draw footfall to our high streets.

A significant amount of Business Support happens across our towns and high streets, the council works in partnership with business representative groups, including Bridgend Traders Forum, Bridgend Market Traders Association, Porthcawl Chamber of Trade & Maesteg Business Association to develop and support ideas to promote trade and business.


Increase in footfall comes from an improved offer on our high streets and evidence of this can be seen in the number of new businesses that have opened in our three town centres since April 2022 – in Bridgend 17 new businesses have opened, 6 in Porthcawl and 5 in Maesteg. Importantly, it is recognised that each of these new businesses is making an investment in one of our town centres.


One of the innovative ways that the council uses to attract new businesses is through its online Town Centre Property Index which lists the properties for sale or to let within the three town centres of Bridgend, Porthcawl and Maesteg. The Index shows the agents contact details and lists some information about the properties which the agents have supplied. There is also a photo for each property and a map showing its location.


The authority continues to work with business start-ups and entrepreneurs to bring new business ideas and ventures to the town centres, recently delivering an Elevate and Prosper Project (EAP) project in Bridgend. A project which works by developing a series of meanwhile and popup initiatives to create opportunities for start-ups and micro-business, with 18 new businesses being supported with various types of support. 


The authority also continues to support parking offers in Porthcawl, and Bridgend offering free parking to access our commercial centres seven days a week. Improved LED lighting has been installed at the Maesteg multi-storey car park to increase user safety as part of the Maesteg Town Hall goodwill projects.


An increase in the footfall is also a critical outcome from all major financial Capital investment and grants for property and environmental improvements, including works to Maesteg Town Hall, where the library will be brought into the heart of the high street and create a community focal point. Works at Cosy Corner in Porthcawl will create much needed additional retail and leisure space and a major funding bid has also been submitted to renovate Porthcawl Pavilion.  Also, officers are working very closely with colleagues at Bridgend College, to bring a new learning campus to the town centre. This multi million pound project in itself will bring more than a thousand students and staff to the town centre on a daily basis which will change the demographic profile of visitors to the town centre. This in turn will increase daily footfall and it is hoped act as a catalyst to generate spend and attract new development and investment.


As part of the Welsh Government Transforming Towns Programme and previously Targeted Regeneration Investment (TRI), between April 2018- March 22, £1,572,620 of funding was secured and expended on high street properties in Bridgend and Maesteg via the Urban Centre Property Enhancement programme. These projects focussed spend on the delivery of physical and social improvements through the re-development of vacant, poor quality, underused or derelict buildings and premises, with a view to generate employment opportunities; provide prominent and suitable locations for commercial and retail use; protect and sustain local shopping areas, increase town centre footfall. As the Authority owns very few properties across our towns the vast majority of this finance is utilised as an incentive, available to support buildings owners and tenants wanting to be part of regenerating their environments.


Officers are continuing to work with our housing developers and local Registered Social Landlords, and Welsh Government to develop and invest in housing in town centres to make available suitable town centre housing solutions, including providing grants for living above shops. Ensuring a greater number of people live within walking distance of our high street, in addition to the provision of services and leisure in our centres, will inject daily investment into our high street economies.


Proposals for the Transforming Towns Placemaking Grant 2022-2025 are being worked through with Welsh Government to ensure investment aimed at our primary high streets will support a variety of interventions principally aimed at increasing footfall.


More opportunities for targeted investment, support and advice for high streets is being created within the new Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) 2022 – 2025, which can be delivered across all high streets and commercial areas in the County Borough.


The package of investment being created will include more capital grants and investment for current vacant commercial premises; a larger suite of business and enterprise grants; pop up and meanwhile use advice and finance and marketing and event finance, all with a view to attract footfall and activity to our high streets.”


Supplementary question by Councillor Tim Thomas


Thank you to the cabinet member for the very comprehensive response to my initial question. One area that I was a little bit surprised that was not given any mention was the importance of increasing footfall for the night-time economy for our town centre areas and this comes at a time when some of my constituents reported to me that when they visited Bridgend Town Centre for an evening meal they were dismayed to learn that the Rhiw car park closes at 7 pm when other local Authority car Parks actually offer a little bit more flexibility to support the night-time economy.


So given this one example I would like to ask the cabinet member what is her personal political vision for a safe and sustainable night-time economy for our town centres in the county borough.”




I totally agree with Councillor Thomas and it is something that we have raised with the officers and we are exploring how we can resolve the car parking issue. I do understand that you can park on the streets after certain times so although the Rhiw car park closes at 7:00pm, there are parking spaces are available on the streets but it is an issue that that was raised by the local ward members as well. So we are going to be looking at it.”


The Leader added that recently he parked in the Brackla Street car park or commonly known as The Wilkinson’s Car Park, which is very close to town. He added that it was heartening to see the new Greek restaurant as well as the new Steakhouse recently opening in Bridgend and wished them ever success.


Supplementary question by Councillor Eugene Caparros


“Bridgend is indeed becoming a place to come for our fantastic restaurants and I was very pleased to see the new Marble steakhouse transforming a unit at the Rhiw and providing employment opportunities for local people. So please, can I ask what involvement did BCBC have in supporting this venture and what else were you doing to show that Bridgend is open for business?”




The Cabinet Member stated that Marble Steakhouse received a £100,000 in grants from BCBC and Welsh Government in conjunction with the transforming towns programme.