Agenda, decisions and minutes

Cabinet
Tuesday, 7th January, 2020 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

            Joanne Gauden – 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)

            Rachel Beale – Senior Business Support Officer (Democratic Services)

            Dave Congreve – Assistant Chief Executive (Strategy)

           James Griffin - Head of Transformation and Improvement

Delyth Harries - Monitoring Officer

Allan Jones – Energy Manager

Neil Jones – Head of Communications, Engagement and Civil Contingencies

Rachel Jowitt – Chief Officer Neighbourhoods, Planning and Public Protection

Dave Lilly – Head of Financial Services

Lyndon Puddy – Head of PSSU

Geraint Thomas - Senior Business Support Officer (Webcasting)

Cath Turner - Senior Corporate Improvement and Scrutiny Officer

John Tushingham - Head of Access, Engagement and Performance

Alison Ward – Chief Executive

Dave Weaver - Group Finance Officer

 

Public Gallery:

Neil Jones – Head of Communications, Engagement and Civil Contingencies

2.

Apologies for absence / Ymddiheuriadau am absenoldeb

Minutes:

2.1       There were no apologies received.

3.

Declarations of Interest / Datganiadau o fudd

Minutes:

3.1       There were no interests declared.

 

4.

Confirmation of Cabinet minutes - 19/11/2019 / Cadarnhau cofnodion y Cabinet - 19/11/2019 pdf icon PDF 330 KB

Minutes:

4.1       The minutes of the meeting held on the 19th November 2019 were confirmed as an accurate record of the meeting.

5.

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

Minutes:

5.1       It was noted that there were no outstanding actions.

6.

Financial Monitoring 2019/20 and Revenue Budget 2020/21 / Monitro Ariannol 2019/20 a'r Gyllideb Refeniw 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 394 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

Cabinet agreed that the:

a)         Position outlined in respect of the 2019/20 revenue forecast is noted;

b)         Current positions in relation to 2020/21 Budget and MTFP are noted;

c)         Identified 1% mitigations are endorsed, with a view to implementing the changes effective from the 1st April 2020; and

d)         Reserve use outlined in paragraph 4.5 of the report be approved.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: As set out in the report.

CONSULTATION: As set out in the report.

MEMBERS’ INTERESTS: None declared.

Minutes:

6.1       The Executive Member for Resources introduced the report which set out the latest revenue budget forecast for 2019/20, the initial estimates for 2020/21 and the next steps in the budget setting process; and commented on the following:

·         The monitoring position remained challenging particularly in Social Care & Housing and Neighbourhood Services, a lot of work was being undertaken to address the financial position and action plans were being put in place to address the forecast pressures going forward.

·         The provisional settlement was better than expected at 4.5% which gives the opportunity to avoid cuts which would damages services and enables support to be given to schools to meet their financial pressures.

·         Whilst the settlement was good news, it was important to be mindful that it was only a one year settlement against a backdrop of ten years of austerity. 

 

6.2       The Assistant Chief Executive (Resources) gave the following further details:

·         It was a difficult budget which presented a challenging in year financial position.

·         The Council’s reserves were low and under pressure and it was important to remain focused to improve financial resilience.

·         Even though the settlement was good it was only a one year settlement and the Council continued to have ongoing financial challenges. 

·         The financial position for 2019/20 was an improving situation but adverse variances were still expected. Children’s Services presented as a challenge, however work was ongoing under the T22 programme which was having a tangible effect. The Chief Officer was also carrying out work on short term aspects to make savings.

·         Neighbourhood Services was showing an adverse projection however it was a significantly better position than expected earlier in the year due to an action plan being put in place.

·         The Council’s reserves were falling and did not take in to account the adverse projections of Service Areas.

·         General reserves will need to be used to address the overspend of services areas.

·         At the start of the year the Council faced a medium term financial pressure and estimates were produced on the assumption of a 1% increase. A number of activities were identified to reach a balanced budget including; the Council’s borrowing and capital financing costs, the potential not to increase the LGPS Pension Employers cost, funding for Domiciliary Care and the increase in properties which would increase the Council Tax Yield.

·         All Service Areas were requested to submit 1%, 3% and 5% saving proposals based upon their 2019/20 budget. In developing a funding proposal for the 2020/21 Medium Term Financial Plan shortfall, the 1% mitigation submissions have been considered and were manageable with minimal impact upon service provision.

·         Each revised assumption has been individually worked through and agreed with the service areas, totalling £1.2 million which can reduce the shortfall. A small number of financial and corporate adjustments were proposed to the overall estimates including bringing forward into 2020/21 the £200,000 of the T22 target saving from the Support Services theme.

·         As part of the T22 programme the Council’s procurement process was being reviewed and a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Risk Management / Rheolaeth Risg pdf icon PDF 720 KB

Decision:

Cabinet agreed to note the work undertaken to improve the Council’s management and monitoring the Council’s identified risks.

 

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 Corporate Governance & Performance presented the report which gave an update of the Council’s risk management process and gave assurances that the processes were effective and made the following comments:

·         The Council was required under the Local Government Measure to demonstrate that appropriate arrangements were in place for both strategic and operational management. Risk management was an essential part of good corporate governance, enabling Councils to determine its appetite for risk and put in place appropriate measures to manage and mitigate risks.

·         There have been a number of improvements introduced since the last update to Cabinet, including a treat or tolerate approach. Some risks always exist and being able to tolerate a risk accepts that it cannot be eliminated or reduced and to treat a risk identifies the measures to reduce and where possible eliminate the risk.

·         The last report to Cabinet was in 2015 and Cabinet recommended scoring and weighting each identified risk, this was implemented and enabled ongoing and effective challenge.

·         There was a newly formed Corporate Governance and Risk Management Group that met four times a year to enhance governance and the Executive Member received a briefing following each of those meetings.

 

7.2       The Senior Corporate Improvement and Scrutiny Officer added the following information:

·         The Council’s Audit Committee looked at the risk management processes ensuring they were up to standard, however given that there was a new Executive Member for Corporate Governance & Performance, Officers thought that it would be useful for Cabinet to have an update.

·         There have been enormous changes to the risk management processes since the last time Cabinet received an update on the risk register and a Corporate Governance and Risk working group had been established who met quarterly and also provided the Leadership with updates on a quarterly basis.

 

7.3       The Leader commented that it was appropriate to have an appetite to risk and an acceptance that risks do exist and having appropriate mitigation is place was very important.

 

7.4       Cabinet agreed to note the work undertaken to improve the Council’s management and monitoring the Council’s identified risks.

8.

Ty Coch Solar Farm / Fferm Solar Ty Coch pdf icon PDF 427 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

Cabinet agreed to support the Final Business Case, attached as appendix B to the report for the delivery of a 3.04MW solar farm at Ty Coch former landfill site and to give approval to proceed to the next phase of the scheme as described in the report to include:

 

a)        Approval to procure all packages which support the project.

b)        Approval to proceed to Council for provision of a Capital Budget of £2.45m to be financed from a dedicated Public Works Loan Board loan, which will cover development costs to date to be capitalised and build costs to commissioning of the project.

 

Cabinet agreed to allow the Assistant Chief Executive Resources and the Chief Officer Neighbourhoods, Planning and Public Protection to allow commissioning of all contracts should the outcome of the procurement process deliver a positive net financial return to the Council over the life span of the project. If the procurement process determines that the Council would need to contribute to the running costs of the solar farm, a Special Emergency Cabinet will be called to determine the project in light of Council finances and its Climate Change Emergency Declaration.

 

REASON FOR DECISION: As set out in the report.

 

CONSULTATION: As set out in the report.

 

MEMBERS’ INTERESTS: None declared.

Minutes:

8.1       The Executive Member for Environment outlined the key areas of the report and made the following comments:

  • A few years ago the Council embarked with the support of Welsh Government on a study to identify land which would be suitable for renewable energy production in order to contribute to the national carbon neutral targets as well as responding to the Climate Change emergency declared by the Council.
  • If the project proceeds it would generate 3.047 MWh of electricity per annum equivalent to a fifth of the annual CO2 generated from Torfaen Council buildings which was also the equivalent to the electricity generated by 982 homes. 
  • Soft market testing has been undertaken and has proven the project to be viable with strong interest from the market. 
  • The Council has chosen to go down a different procurement route to the one advised by Welsh Government to enable SMEs and local suppliers to be included for greater involvement of the local market.
  • The modelling has demonstrated that the scheme should make a small overall return to the Council of £24,000 as net revenue.
  • The project would be both environmentally and financially beneficial.
  • The project was a bold policy change for the Council and aligns with the Council’s new value of being innovative whilst also delivering against the Council’s corporate priorities.
  • If the project does progress then it could become a pathfinder for other energy projects of a similar nature. 
  • The Executive Member thanked scrutiny for their positive contribution to the Final Business case which was a detailed document which outlined thefive key case areas which were financial, economic, strategic, management and commercial.

 

8.2       The Chief Officer Neighbourhoods, Planning and Public Protection supplied Cabinet with the following additional information:

·         If the project was to be progressed it would be included on the risk register for monitoring.

·         The Solar Farm was proposed to be situated on the old landfill site at Ty Coch in Llantarnam. The site was allocated for employment use however there had never been any interest in the site. When looking for other uses of the site it came out as a prime location for a solar farm.

·         The Council has a significant strategic partner, Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canal Trust at the site. The solar farm was proposed to be larger however it has been scaled back to allow for the Canal Trusts aspirations to be progressed at Ty Coch. The Council had worked really closely with the Canal Trust in relation to the project

·         One of the key risks of the proposal was the financial profile. Financial modelling had been undertaken but the final figures were not yet known and were dependant on the procurement process.

·         Soft market testing had been undertaken and the figures were based on discussions with other Local Authorities who have gone through the process and the current state of the energy market.

·         The Council had received an offer from Western Power for the grid connection and that cost was certain.

·         The cost of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.