Agenda item

Community Governance Report

·         Community Hub Update

·         Whole Place Update


Corporate Governance Report:

The Head of Governance, Engagement and Improvement provided a report to update Members on the way the Council is changing its relationship with Town and Community Councils.


The following points were highlighted:


·         Members took the decision to establish a cross party, Member led working group to consider recommendations and decide upon a structure for community governance and engagement.

·         Of the seven options proposed, Option 2 to establish five area committees instead of the current four was the preferred model - Abergavenny, Monmouth, Usk, Caldicot and Chepstow.

·         Chris Jones had been commissioned to undertake a piece of work with Whole Place and all Members to look at the name of group, terms of reference, how often groups should meet, level of power and participation. 

·         A priority is to improve communication between the County Council and Town and Community Councils.

·         Member of SLT had been allocated as a liaison officer to each of the five areas.  The Chepstow meeting has been held.


Members made the following points:


·         It was queried how the local government reforms might affect the proposals.

·         The Chepstow area meeting was valuable and was received positively.

·         Concern was expressed that one Councillor’s ward had two community councils that would be in different areas under the proposals and queried if this would cause any difficulties.

·         Concern was expressed that there was no mention of budgetary provision for the new committees and that the public would continue to not attend meetings.  It was queried how productive and proactive the meetings would be and that it was potentially another layer of bureaucracy or a talking shop.

·         The re-establishment of urban and rural councils approach was suggested as a favourable alternative. 

·         It was noted that the proposals do not define the role of County Councillors, Town and Community Councillors.

·         The opportunity to talk about local issues for an area was raised as a priority whilst accepting that the public will not necessarily attend when they are largely satisfied with the services they receive.

·         It was suggested that it should be borne in mind that any attempt to abolish community councils would be difficult with membership consisting of dedicated, community spirited volunteers.

·         It was stated that the limited capital available to area committees under the current arrangements was a constraint and should be considered as part of the detail of the new proposals that could include how to spend S. 106 funding and also improvements to the grants process.

·         How best to encourage participation is difficult unless the public are directly impacted by proposals.


Community Hub:

Members were assured of progress and were impressed after their visits.  Better signage and expansion of the desk area is in hand.  Confirmation was provided that the library continues to be supported by professional librarians, who also work in the Hub.  Feedback on the range of queries on services and interventions was requested.  Additionally, it was requested that Councillors are provided with feedback when requests are made concerning their Ward.


Whole Place:

The Whole Place Manager provided an update on Whole Place. The following points were made:


·         Plans were evaluated and were not working well, so it was decided to change to working with groups and identify leaders to make more sustainable progress. 


·         Members agreed that they need to know what the residents and proposed residents of large housing developments need.


·         It was explained that a bid for £55,000 has been submitted to work with GAVO to develop a toolkit for the Whole Place group to have plans of their own.  Additionally, a bid has been submitted to provide training for community members in e.g. road closures, leadership, event management and managing finance. 


·         It was commented that the meeting was helpful to discuss clusters, positioning senior officers in the cluster areas and the work with communities, however, the loss of the local knowledge held by former Area Service Managers is regrettable.   


·         Section 106 monies may be available for training for Community Councils. Planning training may also be arranged.  It will also be possible to invite an adviser on Rural Development Plan to attend a meeting as necessary. 


·         It was confirmed that Town and Community Councils can access grants for innovative projects that target gaps in services. Attention was drawn to the availability of £2.7million grants that, to date, £250,000 have been allocated.


·         Engineering work - Severn Tunnel: The significant work to reschedule trains, provide alternative travel arrangements and meet the public’s needs was acknowledged. 

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