Agenda and minutes
Venue: County Hall, Usk - Remote Attendance
Contact: Democratic Services
Declarations of Interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
Public Open Forum.
Select Committee Public Open Forum ~ Guidance
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Budget Scrutiny: Scrutiny of the budget proposals for 2022/23. A summary paper for the Strong Communities Select committee on the areas falling within its remit will follow. PDF 368 KB
Please use this link to access the papers for this item - available as part of the 19th January 2022 Cabinet agenda.
Cabinet Member Phil Murphy delivered the presentation, with additional comments from Jonathan Davies. Carl Touhig and Jonathan Davies answered the members’ questions.
What will be the effect on waste and other services, such as grounds maintenance?
Waste has particularly struggled throughout the pandemic, notably in not being able to carry out intended improvements. On a positive note, we have an underspend that will hopefully help next year’s budget; however, because we haven’t been able to roll out everything that would have made savings for next year, we will need that same money next year. We have seen a substantial move from people using the CA sites to having kerbside collections, which has pushed up our recycling rates significantly – well in front of Welsh Government targets this year, though that comes with an additional pressure on frontline services.
In 2021, we implemented a staff succession and planning programme, training more people to be HGV drivers, senior loaders, helping new people to come into the service, etc. This comes with an additional cost but improves career prospects for those in the front line. the Re-use shops and Repair Cafes are going very well but they again involve a cost, and we haven’t been able to maximise the income generation opportunities, due to the Covid lockdowns.
The change to garden waste bins has been a massive success, greatly reducing the subsidy needed form the council to run that service but, again, the ‘double-edged sword’: the popularity of that service is pushing us into needing to acquire another vehicle. We didn’t expect such success, with an increase of 2,000 customers. We will need to promote the service again, to get more customers to help to balance the books. Grounds maintenance workload has increased dramatically. We are trying new things all the time, such as No Mow May. Though there was a very good response to this from most people, it is still a work in progress. Recognising the difficulties of an ageing workforce, we have brought in progression succession planning to grounds maintenance, creating teams to do specific works, some of which generate income – but we are at our limit with these and need to invest in certain areas of the council.
We have been very successful in drawing down grant funding for regeneration projects and improving our town centres but for the towns to continue looking their best, we need to maintain the infrastructure that we have put in. This adds a cost but is the right thing to do, particularly in encouraging visitors into our town centres.
Ash dieback is hitting the whole county now, with a huge increase in the number of trees affected. This year we will bring in a new tree officer who will plot where all of the trees are. We have asked for Capital funding and can hopefully start to make a difference in the areas with a lot of ash dieback.
We went out to tender on the HWRC contract and transfer station: ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
Café Pavement Policy - Pre-decision Scrutiny of this revised policy ( report to follow). PDF 1 MB
Paul Keeble delivered the presentation and answered the members’ questions with Mark Hand.
In paragraphs 7 and 7.1, under resource implications: how much will the possible consultant cost? Will it be covered by the nominal £10 charge? If not, why not?
The £10 fee will not cover the additional expense of either internal staffing resource or a consultant, it is something we will have to take from our budget. We don’t have time with the interim policy to set and consult on a new fee, and get that agreed by a Cabinet member before the pre-election period starts. The best approach is to carry on for this interim period and resolve that once we’ve worked out what the costs are of delivering the service and set the fee accordingly next year.
Can this survey not be undertaken in-house by our own employees?
We don’t have enough staff. We had agreement back in July to fill a number of vacant posts and create additional ones; we are still working through that process. Filling those posts has been a time-consuming and problematic task, and a number of vacancies remain. We therefore don’t yet have the in-house resource, given all the other work that the team is doing.
When the arrangements have been agreed, and the areas delineated, will there be some way of alerting the visually impaired with something on the ground, if there are no barriers?
Where there are barriers, they will be covered, to assist partially sighted persons. any other suggestions as to how we can improve awareness would be gladly received. This would be part of the reviewing process, when we engage with the various groups.
The report mentions ‘pedestrians’ i.e. those who are walking. But there are other users of the route – is there a better term that could be used?
This is a good point but we aren’t sure what else could be used.
Everyone with a licence must have a minimum £5m liability insurance. What assurances do you have that all the licenced premises have and maintain this insurance?
Insurance is part of the licencing process – it is a legal agreed document, and we would need to see proof of their public liability insurance before granting a licence. It is a condition of the licence.
Are we dealing with cases of cafes over-extending their boundaries?
Yes, there is a tendency to this, which we picked up in the Evaluation section, as disabled persons are often affected when a business pushes its boundaries further out. This is why, as part of the interim policy, there needs to be a marked-up plan that is monitored regularly so that when we carry out our highways safety inspections, we will go out and inspect the areas and ensure that they match the arrangements on the plan. We could consider putting markers down on the carriageway, as we progress. We will have a better idea of how to manage this once the pandemic settles down.
We wouldn’t want ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To consider a report produced by County Councillor V. Smith in relation to burials and cremations. PDF 300 KB
Councillor Smith presented the report. Debra Hill-Howells explained MCC’s service, and Rhian Jackson answered the members’ questions:
MCC has undertaken 7 publicly assisted funerals in the last 3 financial years. None of those related to families being unable to meet the costs of the funeral service, but to individuals not having next of kin or being estranged from their families. We look after the reservation of burial plots, undertake checks for things like rights to burial, organise burials themselves in conjunction with funeral directors, look after the headstones, and look after the sites through grounds maintenance teams. We also provide support and advice for the bereaved.
In considering how we might expand the service we need to be realistic, given that we have one designated Cemeteries Officer, Rhian Jackson. She has previously had discussions with the funeral directors about whether anything could be done with ‘no frills’ services, and what else could be done as an authority. At that time, there was limited appetite. The directors in our area already offer ‘no frills’ services but we are happy to look at any other ideas that might be beneficial.
Regarding the 7 funerals in the last 3 years, we have had no-one in such dire circumstances that they couldn’t undertake a funeral?
That is correct, at this time. We only get assisted burials, where there are no next of kin. The hospitals will take on what we would consider to be an assisted burial if the person dies in hospital with no funds. If they did have funds, but the family didn’t want to take on the burial if the person died in hospital, then we would take it on. So, there could be people out there that have trouble in financing the funeral but a lot of that would be hidden from us and dealt with by the hospital bereavement team.
Officers will set up a meeting with the Cabinet Member and Councillor Smith to consider the recommendations in depth and further detail.
To confirm the minutes of the previous meeting. PDF 472 KB
The minutes were confirmed and signed as an accurate record, proposed by Councillor Treharne and seconded by Councillor Smith.
Strong Communities Select Committee Forward Work Programme. PDF 493 KB
There have been changes to the programme: the next meeting on 10th February will cover the Welsh Language Strategy and the Social Justice Policy – to discuss amendments to policy and the action plan. Public Spaces Protection Order on Dog Controls was on that day, which is a significant piece of work following a 3-month public consultation; that was deferred to the March meeting, which was originally proposed for later in March but due to pre-election considerations will need to be brought forward. 10th March is the suggested date.
10th March at 2pm was agreed by members.
Next Meeting: Thursday 10th February 2022 at 10.00am.