Agenda, decisions and minutes

Cabinet
Tuesday, 9th July, 2019 10.30 am

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Hanbury Road, Pontypool, NP4 6YB

Contact: Rachel Beale  Senior Business Support Officer (Democratic Services)

Items
No. Item

1.

Attendance / Presenoldeb

Minutes:

Executive Members (with Portfolios):

Councillors:

           Anthony Hunt - Leader

           Richard Clark – Deputy Leader

           Fiona Cross – Executive Member for Environment

           David Daniels – Executive Member for Adult Services & Housing

           Alan Jones – Executive Member for Corporate Governance & Performance

            Mandy Owen – Executive Member for Children, Families and Communities

           Kelly Preston – Executive Member for Resources

           David Yeowell – Executive Member for Education

 

           Officers:

            Nigel Aurelius – Assistant Chief Executive (Resources)

           Dave Congreve – Assistant Chief Executive (Strategy)

           James Griffin - Head of Transformation and Improvement

            Delyth Harries – Monitoring Officer and Assistant Chief Legal Officer        
Neil Howell - Head of Housing, Commissioning & Service Transformation
Rachel Jowitt – Chief Officer Neighbourhoods, Planning and Public Protection

Dermot McChrystal - Chief Officer, Education         

            Joanne Newman – Adult Services Group Manager 

            Jacquelyn Tranter - Senior Business Support Officer (Democratic Services)

            Steve Williams – Team Leader – Ecology

 

          

                                  

 

2.

Apologies for absence / Ymddiheuriadau am absenoldeb

Minutes:

2.1       There were no apologies.

3.

Declarations of Interest / Datganiadau o fudd

Minutes:

3.1       The Monitoring Officer advised members that they should consider declaring an interest if they had a close personal association with anyone eligible for a low costs grant as set out in agenda item number 12. 

 

3.2       When that item was discussed Cllr Daniels declared a personal interest as he had an uncle who maybe eligible.

 

3.3       The Monitoring Officer also advised members that they should consider whether they had any links to any organisations who would be eligible for discretionary rate relief as set out in agenda item number 9.

 

3.4       Cllr Richard Clark declared that he was a Council appointed trustee of Torfaen voluntary alliance and Cllr Daniels declared that he was a trustee of the Citizens Advice Bureau, Mount Pleasant Hall, Glenside Community Association and Pontrhydyrhyn Community Association. When the item was being discussed Cllr Alan Jones declared that he was a trustee of Blaenavon Rugby Football Community Hub and Cllr Cross declared that she was a Trustee of Torfaen Leisure Trust.

 

4.

Confirmation of Cabinet minutes - 11/06/2019 / Cadarnhau cofnodion y Cabinet - 11/06/2019 pdf icon PDF 424 KB

Minutes:

4.1       The minutes of the meeting held on 11th June 2019 were confirmed as an accurate record.

5.

Confirmation of Cabinet minutes - 18/06/2019 / Cadarnhau cofnodion y Cabinet - 18/06/2019 pdf icon PDF 361 KB

Minutes:

5.1       The minutes of the meeting held on 18th June 2019 were confirmed as an accurate record.

6.

Updates on actions / Y diweddaraf ar y camau gweithredu pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Minutes:

6.1       It was noted that there were no outstanding actions.

7.

Financial and Service Planning 2020/21 to 2023/24 / Cynllunio Ariannol a Gwasanaeth 2020/21 hyd at 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 308 KB

Decision:

TITLE: Financial and Service Planning 2020/21 to 2023/24

 

DECISION:

 

      i.        The report was noted;

    ii.        The need for pace and urgency, particularly in respect of 2020/21 was recognized;

    iii.        The funding in relation to the ICT refresh was noted.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: As set out in the report.

 

CONSULTATION: As set out in the report.

 

MEMBERS’ INTERESTS: None declared.

Minutes:

7.1       The Executive Member for Resources introduced the Financial and Service Planning report and commented as follows:

 

·         The significant financial challenges faced by local authorities;

·         Current level of political uncertainty is problematic and the UK government’s Autumn spending review maybe delayed which will impact on finding decisions;

·         All members have been given the opportunity to offer views on the budget;

·         The ICT refresh will be funded through the Capital programme. Details of the plans were outlined;

·         a more detailed report would be presented to Cabinet in September on the emerging monitoring position;

 

7.2       The ACER provided Cabinet with the following additional information:

 

·         the report starts the budget process

·         20/21 could be the most challenging budget due to time of austerity and before the T22 programme kicks in;

·         Lobbying Welsh Government for further funding must continue;

·         The need to move forward with ‘pace and urgency’ was underlined;

 

7.3       The Leader underlined the importance of consultation, commenting that the scrutiny process had improved giving members the opportunity to ask questions and review spending from the start of the process. Difficult decisions have to be made and through wide consultation with members and the public the process is open, transparent and inclusive.

 

7.4       The Leader also referred to the importance of lobbying the Welsh Government. He stated that he had recently attended several meeting at WG and there is a climate of uncertainty due to the vagueness around the comprehensive spending review, a new Prime Minister and Brexit. He emphasized the importance of working with WG and seeking indicative figures to plan for key local services.

 

7.5       Cabinet agreed:

 

      i.        That the report be noted;

    ii.        That there is a need for pace and urgency, particularly in respect of 2020/21;

    iii.        To note the funding in relation to the ICT refresh.

 

8.

Fees and Charges and Income Strategy / Strategaeth Ffïoedd a Thaliadau ac Incwm pdf icon PDF 323 KB

Decision:

TITLE: Fees and Charges and Income Strategy

 

DECISION:

 

i)              the proposals outlined below were approved:

 

The established increase to apply generally in 2018/19 was based upon CPI and it is proposed to do the same again for 2019/20. The CPI rate in April 2019 was 2.1% and it proposed that it is the rate for any general fees and charges increases in 2019/20, with effect from 1st August 2019. This will not apply to any specific budget proposals that have already been agreed.

 

The residual base budget income target is £59,000 and applying the rate in 5.1 will yield £22,300 in 2019/20 but in a full year £33,500. The fees and charges included are mainly within the Resources and Chief Executives service areas.

 

The remaining small shortfall in a base budget sense will be derived from other income not currently allocated within the budget deriving from the introduction of the employee benefits scheme.

 

ii)             Next steps towards a more strategic approach are noted:

 

The weaknesses identified in the early part of this report still need to be addressed. Indeed the continuing difficult public sector funding environment makes it more relevant. It will be important that as a Council we have an approach to income generation that:

 

o          Is both strategic and whole authority;

o          explores opportunities for generating extra revenue;

o          considers subsidisation and makes considered decisions on levels;

o          develops an approach appropriate for Torfaen in terms of ‘commercialisation’;

 

This will put the Cabinet in the position of making informed and strategic decisions.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: As set out in the report

 

CONSULTATION: As set out in the report

 

MEMEBERS’ INTERESTS: None declared.

Minutes:

8.1       The Executive Member for Resources outlined the key areas of the report commenting on the following:

 

·         The proposals are the same as the previous year and this does not affect any budget proposals already agreed;

·         In moving forward a more strategic approach is required around income generation so a set of principles are included in the report with a view to developing a strategy for presentation to a future meeting.

 

8.2       The ACER provided the following additional comments;

 

·         A report will be presented in the Autumn;

·         The strategy will be important for the budget and exploring opportunities for generating revenue income and reducing subsidy levels.

 

8.3       Cabinet APPROVED the proposals outlined below:

 

·         The established increase to apply generally in 2018/19 was based upon CPI and it is proposed to do the same again for 2019/20. The CPI rate in April 2019 was 2.1% and it proposed that it is the rate for any general fees and charges increases in 2019/20, with effect from 1st August 2019. This will not apply to any specific budget proposals that have already been agreed.

 

·         The residual base budget income target is £59,000 and applying the rate in 5.1 will yield £22,300 in 2019/20 but in a full year £33,500. The fees and charges included are mainly within the Resources and Chief Executives service areas.

 

·         The remaining small shortfall in a base budget sense will be derived from other income not currently allocated within the budget deriving from the introduction of the employee benefits scheme.

 

8.4        Cabinet noted the next steps towards a more strategic approach.

 

 

 

9.

Discretionary Rate Relief / Gostyngiad Trethi yn Ôl Disgresiwn pdf icon PDF 235 KB

Decision:

TITLE: Discretionary Rate Relief

 

DECISION:

 

Cabinet approved that the changes outlined below and the Council’s discretionary rate relief policy is amended with effect from April 2020:

 

To review the scheme and make amendments where appropriate. Presently the scheme benefits all organisations that meet the criteria irrespective of their size. Organisations of an appropriate size would have the ability to properly incur any rates liability over the 80% it could be argued. At a national level there are a number of rate relief schemes affecting businesses up to a level of £50,000 rateable value.

 

It is suggested therefore that where the rateable value of the premises is £50,000 or more (excluding museums/schools) then there will be no entitlement to the 20% discretionary top for charities who benefit from 80% mandatory relief.  Similarly, not for profit organisations who qualify in this category will be limited to 80% discretion.

 

The exceptions to this change would be in respect of museums and schools that qualify based upon rateable value but do not have the power to charge so will remain unaffected and benefit from 20% top up or 100% not for profit discretion.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: As set out in the report.

 

CONSULTATION: As set out in the report.

 

MEMBERS’ INTERESTS:

 

Cllr Richard Clark declared that he was a council appointed trustee of Torfaen voluntary alliance

Cllr Daniels declared that he was a trustee of the Citizens Advice Bureau, Mount Pleasant Hall, Glenside Community Association and Pontrhydyrhyn Community Association.

Cllr Alan Jones declared that he was a trustee of Blaenavon Rugby Football Community Club

Cllr Cross declared that she was a Trustee of Torfaen Leisure Trust.

 

 

Minutes:

 

9.1       The Executive Member for Resources introduced the report and made the following comments:

 

·         It has been some time since the Council reviewed its discretionary rate relief policy;

·         The Council is obliged by law to award 80% relief from the full rates where the ratepayer is a charity or trustees of a charity, community amateur sports clubs and the property is used wholly or mainly for charitable purposes or is a CASC. The cost of the scheme is met by Welsh Government;

·         The Council can award a further 20% discretionary rate relief to those charities who qualify for mandatory relief if all policy conditions are met;

·         100% Discretionary Rate relief can be awarded to not for profit organisations that do not qualify for mandatory rate relief but still meet the discretionary rate relief criteria;

·         The changes proposed will not affect the vast number of small, community based organisations, the majority of those who benefit from the scheme will continue to do so, those that don’t should be large enough to manage the change;

 

9.2        The ACER provided the following additional comments:

 

·         Torfaen’s scheme is much more simple and generous than neighboring authorities and it is recommended it stays that way because the organisations add a significant value to the community;

·         The next review will occur in a few years’ time;

·         The aim of the review was to maintain the integrity of the scheme and make a saving.

 

9.3       Cabinet approved Option 2 - the changes outlined below and that the Council’s discretionary rate relief policy is amended with effect from April 2020:

 

·         To review the scheme and make amendments where appropriate. Presently the scheme benefits all organisations that meet the criteria irrespective of their size. Organisations of an appropriate size would have the ability to properly incur any rates liability over the 80% it could be argued. At a national level there are a number of rate relief schemes affecting businesses up to a level of £50,000 rateable value.

 

·         It is suggested therefore that where the rateable value of the premises is £50,000 or more (excluding museums/schools) then there will be no entitlement to the 20% discretionary top for charities who benefit from 80% mandatory relief.  Similarly, not for profit organisations who qualify in this category will be limited to 80% discretion.

 

·         The exceptions to this change would be in respect of museums and schools that qualify based upon rateable value but do not have the power to charge so will remain unaffected and benefit from 20% top up or 100% not for profit discretion.

 

 

Cllr Richard Clark declared that he was a council appointed trustee of Torfaen voluntary alliance

Cllr Daniels declared that he was a trustee of the Citizens Advice Bureau, Mount Pleasant Hall, Glenside Community Association and Pontrhydyrhyn Community Association.

Cllr Alan Jones declared that he was a trustee of Blaenavon Rugby Football Community Club

Cllr Cross declared that she was a Trustee of Torfaen Leisure Trust.

 

 

10.

Delivering the requirement of the Environmental (Wales) Act 2016 / Cyflenwi gpfynion Deddf yr Amgylchedd (Cymru) 2016 pdf icon PDF 300 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

TITLE: Delivering the requirement of the Environmental (Wales) Act 2016

 

Cabinet agreed to approve the Torfaen Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience Plan (attached as Appendix 2 to the report.)

 

REASON FOR DECISION: As set out in the report.

 

CONSULTATION: As set out in the report.

 

MEMBERS’ INTERESTS: None declared.

Minutes:

10.1     The Executive Member for the Environment introduced the report to approve the Council’s Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience Pan, thus ensuring compliance with the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.

 

10.2     The strategic purpose of the report and the plan referring to the context for the work, both locally and nationally, the process used to develop the plan and a brief summary of the contents of the plan were outlined.

 

10.3     The Chief Officer explained the correlation of the plan with the authorities’ statutory responsibilities and other plans – the LDP and the Corporate Plan and Torfaen’s positive position due to the Cleaner and Greener corporate priority.

 

10.3     Appreciation was given to officers for the work undertaken, in particular, Steve Williams, Ecology Team Leader.

 

10.4     Members commented on the plan, in summary as follows:

 

·         On the difficulties of managing the differing expectations of the public around for example, cutting or not cutting grass verges, use of  weed killer, pollinated areas etc.;

·         The Cleaner and Greener policy aims to brings the two strands of thought together – to keep Torfaen clean but in a sustainable way that fulfils the obligations of biodiversity;

·         Signage is advantageous – bee pollination areas etc. – aids public understanding of areas left wild and discourages anti-social behaviour;

·         Ward councillors should be involved in the grass cutting review to assist the programme and communication;

 

10.5     In response the ecology officer explained:

·         A strategic, balanced, sustainable approach to managing green space and grass cutting – some areas need to be cut short and others require less cutting which helps biodiversity;

·         The Plan is about communication – internally and externally to the public which is important to ensure an understanding of what is to be achieved and why the action is being taken;

·         The Plan must be embedded in the Well-being process, populated accurately around ecological and biodiverse issues;

·         Public signage aids communication of the measured approach taken in managing verges and other areas;

·         The current programme of grass cutting is to be reviewed and updated by officers in line with the plan presented and up to date environmental management. A new strategic approach will be considered which includes signage and engagement with community councils and local residents and ward councillors;

·         A members’ seminar will be arranged to assist consultation and information for members;

·         A report will be presented to Cabinet before the end of the financial year;

 

10.6     Cabinet agreed to approve the Torfaen Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience Plan (attached as Appendix 2 to the report.)

 

11.

Future of Public Protection Services / Dyfodol Gwasanaethau Amddiffyn y Cyhoedd pdf icon PDF 191 KB

Decision:

TITLE: Future of Public Protection Services

 

DECISION:

 

Cabinet approved:

 

1)            that the collaboration with Blaenau Gwent for the joint management of Public Protection Services will end on 31st November 2019; and

2)            the creation of an in-house leadership model for Public Protection services.

 

 

 

 

REASON FOR DECISION: As set out in the report.

 

CONSULTATION: As set out in the report.

 

MEMBERS’ INTERESTS: None declared.

 

Minutes:

11.1     The Executive Member for Environment presented a report to withdraw from the collaboration with Blaenau Gwent for Public Protection Services on 30th November and to agree a new in-house model as outlined in the report. An identical report was being presented to Blaenau Gwent Cabinet on 17th July 2019.

 

11.2     It was noted that the Cabinet Member requested a review to determine the future of the collaboration due to concerns over capacity and ability to respond to Torfaen priorities. The review determined that the collaboration was iterative but due to workloads and priorities this model is not sustainable moving forward.

 

11.3     Appreciation was noted for the work managers had undertaken in trying to make the model successful. A strategic framework and governance model were lacking as well as mangers workloads being stretched and services were suffering. Following agreement with Blaenau Gwent and much deliberation it was deemed appropriate to end the collaboration.

 

11.4     A consultation on a new Torfaen specific leadership model is being undertaken subject to approval of the report. Additional costs were included in the 2019/20 budget proposals.

 

11.5     The Chief Officer reiterated thanks to managers for their work and professionalism in light of the decision by both authorities to end the collaboration.

 

11.6     The new model had been received by the department with enthusiasm and commitment and aspiration for opportunities to take the service forward. The Chief Officer outlined interim and future staffing arrangements to ensure the smooth running of the service.

 

11.7     The Chief Officer stated that decisions had not been taken lightly particularly in view of Welsh Government’s collaboration programme and emphasized that the business case was strong enough to take a different course of action.

 

11.8     members commented as follows:

 

·         The Leader commented on the positive collaborations across Gwent and beyond;

·         The Deputy Leader praised officers for their effort in trying to make the collaboration work and underlined Torfaen’ s commitment to collaboration;

 

11.9     In response to questions around ‘lessons learnt’ the Chief Officer stated that a pathway forward must be clear in terms of a thorough understanding of the purpose, clear aims and objectives, performance measures and governance structure to include regular meetings must be in place. She touched on the difficulties of duplicate meetings, service plans etc. and the pressures on staff in having to do double the amount of work which was unsustainable.

 

11.10   Cabinet approved:

 

1)            that the collaboration with Blaenau Gwent for the joint management of Public Protection Services will end on 31st November 2019; and

2)            the creation of an in-house leadership model for Public Protection services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12.

Low Cost Adaptations / Addasiadau Cost Isel pdf icon PDF 278 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

TITLE: Low Cost Adaptations

 

DECISION:

 

Cabinet approved to update the “Low Cost Grant” policy for all adaptation work costing between £1,000 and £5,000.  This grant would be administered outside of the traditional DFG process.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: As set out in the report.

 

CONSULTATION: As set out in the report.

 

MEMBERS’ INTERESTS: Cllr Daniels declared a personal interest as he had an uncle who maybe eligible

Minutes:

12.1     The Executive Member for Adult Services & Housing presented a report to update the policy for the ‘Low Cost Adaptations Grant’.

 

12.2     The purpose of the grant is to provide 100% financial assistance for disabled applicants in respect of building work costing between £1,000 and £5,000. This would enable a speedier response to lower cost work that applications for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).

 

12.3     The EM explained the two changes – eligible applicants can receive one scheme of work within a 12 month period as long as the estimated cost is under £5,000. Also, applicants cannot ‘pick and mix’ from the recommendations made by the assessor to keep the costs below the £5,000 limit but must accept the recommendations in full.

 

12.4     It was noted that the introduction of this policy will ease the pressure on the Disabled Facilities Grant process.

 

12.5     Cabinet approved to update the “Low Cost Grant” policy for all adaptation work costing between £1,000 and £5,000.  This grant would be administered outside of the traditional Disabled Facilities Grant process.

 

MEMBERS’ INTERESTS: Cllr Daniels declared a personal interest as he had an uncle who may be eligible.

 

 

13.

Exclusion of Press and Public / Gwahardd y Wasg a'r Cyhoedd

To agree the exclusion of the press and public from the meeting as the report is not for publication because in accordance with paragraph 14 of Schedule 12a of the Local Government Act 1972 (As Amended By The Access To Information Variation Wales Order 2007) it contains information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information) and the public interest in maintaining the exemptions outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

 

Cytuno gwahardd y wasg a’r cyhoedd o’r cyfarfod gan nad yw’r adroddiad i’w gyhoeddi oherwydd, yn unol â pharagraff 14 o Atodlen 12a Deddf Llywodraeth Leol (fel y’i diwygiwyd gan Orchymyn Amrywio Mynediad at Wybodaeth Cymru 2007),  ei fod yn cynnwys gwybodaeth yn ymwneud â materion ariannol neu fusnes person penodol (gan gynnwys yr awdurdod sydd â’r wybodaeth) ac mae budd y cyhoedd o ran cynnal yr eithriadau yn gwrthbwyso’r budd cyhoeddus o ddatgelu’r wybodaeth.

 

Minutes:

13.1     The Leader asked Cabinet to agree the exclusion of the press and public from the meeting as the report was not for publication because in accordance with paragraph 14 of Schedule 12a of the Local Government Act 1972 (As Amended By The Access To Information Variation Wales Order 2007) they contain information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information) and the public interest in maintaining the exemptions outweigh the public interest in disclosing the information.

 

13.2     Cabinet agreed the Exclusion of the Press and Public and the webcast concluded. 

 

14.

Confirmation of Exempt Cabinet minutes - 11/06/2019 / Cadarnhau Cofnodion Cabinet Eithriedig - 11/06/2019

Minutes:

14.1     Cabinet confirmed the exempt Cabinet minutes dated 11th June 2019.