Declarations of Interest
Public Open Forum
No submissions were received.
To conduct pre-decision scrutiny on the Strategy.
Scott James and Steve Robinson presented the report and answered the members’ questions with Cabinet Member Rachel Garrick.
On p1, Chepstow is missing from the list of the 6 main settlements?
Apologies, that is a typo: Chepstow should be included.
Regarding the Top 10 spend categories, would showing percentages also not be useful?
The chart is there in a ‘holding position’, so we will take on board the comments about the percentages.
Could we have further detail about the measures and delivery targets?
There will be a lot of small steps in terms of progress to deliver e.g. carbon, which is a significant challenge in all authorities. We are looking at the practical steps that we can take to support delivery. The delivery plan is mature now in its main contents but the key thing to agree is the additional support we can get from across the authorities – there is still a limited amount of resource. The key activities to pursue are fairly well-defined but those elements are still to be worked through. Fair work is a key area of focus for the new Social Partnership & Public Procurement bill. Work is ongoing; some of our officers are working with Welsh Government on developing the social clauses that will be required to go into contracts. The main point coming through is the importance of following up through contract management to ensure that those clauses are being complied with.
Is there a difference between the proposed legislation in UK and Wales? The UK legislation won’t have an impact on Wales?
The UK government legislation will apply to Wales. Welsh Government, in consultation with the Welsh public sector, took the decision that rather than developing its own regulations, it would work with the UK Government. Work on the development of the Welsh legislation concerning the Social Partnership & Public Procurement bill is being done in tandem, so that the two pieces of legislation are complementary.
Does this strategy include or encompass schools and school purchasing?
Schools purchasing isn’t excluded from the strategy.
Is the delivery plan different for each local authority or will a common paper be rebranded for each?
3 strategies have been developed in conjunction with each other. The initial draft of the strategy and delivery plan has been informed by Cardiff, and vice-versa – that is the benefit of the collaboration. We are often trying to achieve the same things but are at different levels of maturity i.e. where Cardiff is advanced in an area we can bring that learning to the benefit of Monmouthshire and Torfaen.
What mechanisms are in place for the monitoring and enforcement of contract compliance?The 7 objectives seem to be in separate silos – how are they being integrated, to be put into practice?
One piece of work has been to look at governance process key controls; several pieces of work are ongoing. We have a robust governance approach in Cardiff so are picking elements that Monmouthshire would benefit from and looking at ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
Scrutiny of the annual performance report prior to submission to Welsh Government.
Phil Thomas delivered the presentation and answered the members’ questions with Craig O’Connor and Mark Hand.
Repetitive reference to the 5 actions could be consolidated and made more concise and easier to read e.g. on one page. Perhaps targets could be made more realistic and achievable with regard to available resources. There might be more creative ways to achieve these actions given the resources e.g. in Action 1, rather than being concerned about the resource to implement the preservation order work data, the action could be to update now and retrospectively fill in when possible.
We note these points and agree in particular to make the report more concise in future.
Regarding 4.9.4, Wonastow Road, as an example of big developments: there is no pavement from that development to the town centre and active travel routes are still not in place – so is that development ‘completed’?
Yes, a development is considered complete once housing construction is complete. The legal agreement associated with the development has enhancements and improvements to deliver the service as well, which are done alongside. There is a pedestrian link from Wonastow Road and the Active Travel link is currently under construction.
How is the wider function then reflected in the Performance Report?
The information about Wonastow Road is a summary concerning the LDP monitoring of sites i.e. how many houses have been built on a particular development, rather than the more subtle issues around infrastructure provision. Social infrastructure often comes later than the point at which people begin living there, as the developer will need to sell some houses first in order to fund elements of a scheme. The sustainability element isn’t part of Welsh Government’s 12 ranked indicators, for the purposes of a performance report.
Is the action point on enforcement robust enough to address its current under-performance? Is there more detail to address the poor performance and perception of it amongst residents?
There are two ‘reds’ in relation to enforcement, as needing improvement. We are very aware of that. The pandemic, in particular, affected our service delivery last year, especially in that a number of colleagues with children were off for certain periods, which was difficult. We have already seen an improvement in enforcement performance to ‘fair’, and are now at full capacity, so hopefully there can be confidence that we are improving and there will be a much stronger showing in next year’s report.
The report focusses on Systems Thinking, highlighting the customer as the planning applicant – but should our primary customer not be the community?
This is a very good point. When we talk about customers in Planning, we talk about the applicant, developer, community, town councillors, local residents and neighbours (there are detailed discussions with them), county councillors, etc., so assure members that everyone who engages in Planning is treated equally, and we will continue to work that way.
Where we do see a planning breach but decide not to take further action – how transparent are ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Month 6 Budget Monitoring Report
Scrutiny of the Council’s budgetary position (revenue and capital).
Cabinet Member Rachel Garrick and Jonathan Davies presented the report and answered the members’ questions with Tyrone Stokes and Will Mclean.
As we end this financial year what element of the planned reserves is usable? Is it £16.6m? Are reserves the principal tool being applied to deal with the currently forecast cost overspend? Is that really ‘robust’?
The replenishment of reserves over the last two financial years was due principally to the funding provided by Welsh Government: they identified budget risks that authorities would face coming into this year, notably around social care income losses, and remaining pandemic effects. We always had an expectation that reserves would be used to cover expenditures this year. We didn’t build that into our budget setting because how those risks would manifest was very uncertain in timing and the amount. To clarify the reserves section in the report, and the level at the end of this year: if we utilised reserves as outlined in the budget recovery plan it would leave revenue reserves at £21.6m. We tried to show in the chart the further projection and risk if no corrective action were taken – it is a reasonable assumption to make that we would need further support if we didn’t take steps to address that position.
Just under £2.2m of savings will come from a reduction or redesign of services – are they mainly unfilled vacancies? Is more significant redesign not therefore required?
While there is a degree of continuing with vacancies in the workforce it isn’t a significant part of the recovery plan: the majority would be where services have identified alternative or flexible ways to generate income, whether through grants or agreements with joint partners. We have started conversations with services about the medium-term picture of their service models, given the onward budget deficit, but they need to be developed quickly.
What are the current projected plans for council tax increases next year?
Cabinet has not considered council tax levels for next year. We are going through the budget process currently, with lots of uncertainties about funding and cost pressures for next year; notably, the Autumn statement will have implications for funding next year, and the Welsh Government budget that is due to be published in December will provide further clarity. So, while we can make planning assumptions about council tax levels, those things need to come together for us to garner what the rate might be next year.
We are in a position where a number of risks have been realised; unfortunately, last year we chose a 2.9% increase, when the administration started the budget planning process, knowing that inflation was around 5.1% and that it climbed to 7% by the time they set that budget. We need to appreciate the scale: the problem won’t be fixed by a rise in council tax e.g. a 1% increase in council tax will only generate £700k. What we therefore need to discuss is funding, and the harder decisions that we will need ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
A Special meeting is to be scheduled to scrutinise the budget proposals. Members will be emailed with suggested dates after the meeting.
· 7th July 2022
· 11th October 2022- Joint Scrutiny Committee (Performance Scrutiny and Overview and People Scrutiny Committees)
The minutes were confirmed and signed as an accurate record.
Next Meeting: 15th December 2022
Councillor Bond will be unavailable.