Agenda and minutes

Strong Communities Select Committee - Thursday, 28th January, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Remote Meeting. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services 


No. Item


Apologies for absence


There were no apologies for absence.



Declarations of Interest


Linda Guppy declared a non-prejudicial interest as Rogiet Community Council has a shared car park with the authority.



Open Public Forum


No members of the public were present.



Budget Monitoring: Scrutiny of the budget monitoring capital and revenue position at Month 7, setting the context for scrutiny of budget proposals. pdf icon PDF 382 KB

Additional documents:


Jonathan Davies and Dave Loder presented the report and answered the members’ questions, with additional comments from Cabinet Member Phil Murphy.


To date, has any reclaimed money for car parking been offered to Rogiet Community Council for Severn Tunnel car parking?

We submit quarterly claims to Welsh Government regarding income loss for car parks. The claim is based on actual activity this year vs. last year. We will have to discuss the way forward with Rogiet with the Car Parking manager.

Regarding profits and deficits, there’s nothing in the report about profits from solar panels?

We are underspending against the solar farm and the sustainability section. Our income targets are being met so we are marking the required returns on the solar farm.

Can the position with Capita Gwent be clarified – did we not part company with them years ago?

Yes, the final steps to dissolve the agreement has taken quite a while. This now is very much the final stage of ending the partnership – this is just the final administrative phase, and getting the funds back to the various partners.

Part of the way we’re balancing the budget is by keeping positions open – surely that is not sustainable in the long term for providing services properly?

It is specific to the service. Yes, it is not sustainable long-term but this year, more than ever, with staff diverted to dealing with the pandemic there hasn’t been the resource to fill those vacancies where required. Behind the scenes, we are looking towards the recovery phase and what shape those services need to take at that stage. Those services might look different then, with different demands on them, and we have to be prepared to shape and reform them to meet demand.

For years, we have taken a 2% vacancy factor. It’s a way of sharpening up the department, and enables us to assess whether a post is actually required. If a department has done without the post for a substantial time to achieve that 2% saving then it begs the question as to whether the post should be there in the first place. That was true several years ago but is certainly not true now: a vacancy factor in many departments is no longer appropriate, especially in Social Care. We have accepted this as a pressure.

What are our agency or consultancy costs, therefore?

We don’t have a figure to hand for this committee’s area. Those that have been using agency costs have benefitted from the flexibility of that. In many areas, those contracts have been flexible and we’ve been able to call on them as required. But we know we need to fill the vacancies for long-term sustainability.

There is a £72k saving on streetlights – has the rollout of LEDs been completed? Has the remote switching firm’s contract been removed?

We’re on target to finish the installation completely this financial year. The majority of our inventory will then be LEDs. The £72k underspend this year  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Budget Scrutiny: Scrutiny of the budget proposals for 2021/22. pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Please use this link to access the papers for this item - available as part of the 20th January 2021 Cabinet agenda.



Jonathan Davies and Dave Loder delivered the presentation and answered the members’ questions, with additional comments from Cabinet Member Phil Murphy.


When comparing Welsh Government funding for Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire, should more context not to be given i.e. that the former has much more deprivation?

We are conscious that our demographics in Monmouthshire are quite different from some of the other authorities but the funding formula itself is supposed to deal with all of those. We are aware that that formula doesn’t benefit us in many ways, and we are looking to have a dialogue with Welsh Government over its reform. Regarding the proposed settlement for next year, the areas where we have benefitted, comparatively, are from population numbers, pupil numbers and equalisation of resource – Welsh Government has gone some way to recognising that Monmouthshire has the largest proportion of funding from council tax, which isn’t sustainable for residents over the long term. Comparison between Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire is very useful for the public, so is included here principally for the public consultation.

What was Welsh Government offsetting through its grants? Homelessness, for example?

We are awaiting specific grant settlement figures. The pressure recognises that we haven’t had the confirmation from Welsh Government yet, so the pressure you see in the papers is the gross pressure and doesn’t recognise the further support that we expect to receive on homelessness and the housing grant. The current homelessness pressure is £875k. We’ve had information regarding additional grants for the next financial year; one is an increase in the housing support grant of £667k. We can’t apportion a lot of that homelessness cost to that additional funding – that’s being used up elsewhere – but Welsh Government has released another £4m across Wales to help deal with the homelessness issue. Housing officers think that we can move about £275k of that £875k against this funding. So Welsh Government has agreed to fund the first 6 months our homelessness costs via the Hardship Fund. Therefore, the £875k has come down to £600k.

We’re increasing fees and charges in line with inflation – could we have the precise figures? Are we going for an average? What’s the bigger picture?

There is a detailed breakdown of the fees and charges in Appendix 2 of the budget papers. There isn’t an overall increase; the increases are specific to services. The average increase is 2.5%, which is a little over current inflation. Officers set their price increases based on what they think the market will afford. They take into consideration the effect on the public etc.

To clarify: we will increase council tax by 4.95%, and, as an average, increase charges that the market can handle, at 2.5% – ‘the market’ presumably being our residents. Is that accurate?

Yes, on average, for the services in this portfolio, there is a 2.5% increase. In the detailed appendix listing the fees and charges, there is a percentage against each one. Not all services have been increased.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


To confirm minutes of the following meetings: pdf icon PDF 695 KB

·         12th November 2020

·         12th January 2021 (Special)

Additional documents:


  • 12th November 2020
  • 12th January 2021 (Special)

The minutes were confirmed and signed as an accurate record.



Cabinet & Council forward work programme pdf icon PDF 198 KB


Date and time of next meeting


Thursday 4th March.



Strong Communities forward work programme pdf icon PDF 478 KB


Note that the original date has moved from 11th to 4th March. Councillor Batrouni asked if the committee could receive a briefing about numbers of FSMs in the context of Social Justice, and its effect on families. He acknowledged that it would normally fall under CYP, and officers agreed to put in the request.