Council and democracy > Agenda item

Agenda item



Following an introduction from the Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance, Committee Members received a presentation from the Corporate Policy Manager. Members were given an overview of the statutory requirements and key points from the Self-Assessment Report were also highlighted.


One Member asked why grant funding was underspent and also enquired if grant money received is now being spent on the intended uses or had it been returned. The Head of Financial Services and S151 Officer outlined that the underspend related to money received specifically during the pandemic such as the Covid-19 hardship fund which had now ceased. So, it was money which had been directed at addressing Covid-19 challenges rather than funding which had not been spent. Members heard how no grant money had been returned. The Member also sought clarification on a sentence under Equalities and Welsh Language and suggested the report is properly proof-read before publication. A further question on the low level of Welsh learners was also put to officers. The Head of Transformation outlined how the paragraph in question would be checked for clarity and the whole document would be test checked again. On the issue of Welsh learners, the officer advised that the training programme was relaunched following the pandemic and would offer courses ranging from beginner to advanced learner. The Corporate Policy Manager added that the Council also offered confidence building classes to encourage staff to use existing Welsh skills.


A Member highlighted the projected occupancy rate of less than 40% at Ty Penallta over the coming years and asked about future usage. He believed that some of the space could be used to help the homeless. The Corporate Director for Education and Corporate Services highlighted a section of the report that referred to the opportunity to rationalise the Council’s estate and therefore reduce associated expenditure such as rent, heating and lighting. Members heard how due to the Agile Working Policy it would be possible to increase occupancy at Ty Penallta above 45% as part of a review of what happens to outlying buildings.


One Member observed that the Voluntary Sector should be included as part of partnership working towards a single public estate. On the issue of equality, the Member highlighted that many elderly residents did not access online services, and this should be factored into future planning. The Member also queried the running of food cooperatives as depicted in the report as she felt the role of voluntary organisations had been overlooked. On the issue of working with the Voluntary Sector the Corporate Policy Manager advised that the current policy on the development of Community Hubs involved partnership working with this sector. The officer also stressed that the Council acknowledged that not everyone was digitally enabled and therefore face-to-face services would also be available in the Hubs. The Corporate Policy Manager also observed that she would check the wording of the food cooperatives section of the self-assessment. The Member also raised hospital discharge challenges due to a lack of adequate social care and suggested that this should be a priority for the Council. The Corporate Director for Social Services and Housing assured Members that this was a key priority for the Authority and outlined some of the achievements and challenges within domiciliary care for communities. Members heard how it was a challenging balancing act between prioritising people in the community and those ready to be discharged from hospital.


A Member questioned the principle of self-assessment and suggested that in terms of general well-being a freeze on Council Tax and rents would be welcome during a cost-of-living crisis. It was also suggested that national charities should be allowed to use surplus capacity in Council buildings. The Chief Executive suggested that a lot of what had been outlined was not relevant to the report being discussed. Members were advised that there would be opportunity to discuss issues around the Council Tax when the budget was discussed at Full Council. In terms of the principle of self-assessment the Corporate Director for Education and Corporate Services reiterated a point made earlier in the meeting that the Council was subject to an independent review at least once a term and that this process checked for accuracy on performance data.           


One Member suggested that surplus capacity in Council buildings should be addressed as a priority. The Corporate Director for Education and Corporate Services reiterated points around the Agile Review that would consider opportunities to cut costs by rationalising the estate and maximising the workspace at Ty Penallta.


A Member raised the issue of the Street Lighting policy as decarbonisation was highlighted in the report. He suggested an adult conversation was needed for safety reasons over the issue of switching off 87% of lighting at midnight. The Member also suggested that the Reserve Strategy scheduled for March should be brought forward so that Members were better informed when discussing the budget. The Head of Financial Services and S151 Officer advised that work was already taking place on the approach to addressing the financial challenges and that robust scrutiny of the reserves held is part of this process. He advised Members that the Reserves Strategy would come before the Policy and Resources Scrutiny Committee in January. The Cabinet Member for Prosperity, Regeneration and Climate Change advised that the street lighting policy had recently been considered by the Environment and Sustainability Scrutiny Committee and that leaving lights on after midnight would increase carbon emissions.    


One Member questioned why the views of residents were not included in the assessment. He suggested that a panel review every 5 years was not good enough in terms of monitoring the assessment process. The Corporate Director for Education and Corporate Services advised that the What Matters survey for all residents was imminent and that the findings would feed into future self-assessments.


The Chair concluded that the report had been discussed, challenged and scrutinised as per the recommendation and brought the meeting to a close.



            The meeting closed at 6:30 pm.



Approved as a correct record and subject to any amendments or corrections agreed and recorded in the minutes of the meeting held on 25th January 2023, they were signed by the Chair.


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