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  • Agenda, decisions and minutes

    Cabinet
    Wednesday, 21st December, 2016 11.00 am

    Venue: Committee Room 1 - Civic Centre

    Webcast: View the webcast

    Items
    No. Item

    1.

    Declarations of Interest

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    There were no declarations of interest

    2.

    Minutes pdf icon PDF 164 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The minutes of the meeting held on 14 November 2016 were confirmed as a true record by the Cabinet

    3.

    2017/18 Budget & Medium Term Financial Plan pdf icon PDF 477 KB

    Additional documents:

    Decision:

    CAB 66/16 

     

    2017/18 Budget & Medium Term Financial Plan

     

    Options Considered/Reasons for Decision

     

    The Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources introduced the budget report and stated that the adoption of the recommendations in the report would begin the period of formal consultation on the 2017/18 budget and Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) and would run until 20th January, 2017.

     

    The Cabinet Member stated that he would welcome comments and asked people to respond and to let the Cabinet know what they think of the proposals or with any alternatives so that all points made could be considered before the final budget is set.

     

    He stated that the Cabinet will finalise its proposals in its February meeting, having taken feedback from residents, key partners and interest groups and internally, feedback from our scrutiny committees, unions, school’s forum and, of course, the fairness commission. 

     

    The Cabinet Member informed colleagues that the draft proposals had been developed in challenging times. He said that essentially, it comes on the back of over £45m of savings found in previous years and the pressure created by a reducing Revenue Support Grant, which continues into next year, and probably into the future. 

     

    The Cabinet Member stated that the provisional grant settlement confirmed a £230,000 reduction in this Council’s rate support grant next year. He informed members that this grant is used to fund 80% of our net costs, meaning that savings need to be found to cover basic inflationary cost increases, cost pressures from increased demand for our services and the cost of policy changes such as the Apprenticeship Levy, which we have no choice over.

     

    He and Cabinet Colleagues acknowledged the small increase in Local Government funding overall across Wales for 2017/18 – the Welsh Government is aware of pressures facing the sector, in particular from Social Care demands. But this Council’s individual settlement was not as good in relative terms across the sector, than previous years, when our annual grant change was amongst the best across all Councils. The reasons for this were explained in the report.

     

    As to the budget proposals, the Cabinet Member stressed that it was important to note that it was not all about savings. He mentioned the Council was investing significantly in social care, to meet increased demand for these services and was also continuing to invest in the pay of key partners’ staff by funding increases in the Foundation Living Wage. The draft budget also contained investments to deal with national policy changes and to those budgets which require ‘right -sizing’ so that the Council can set a robust budget which is deliverable. The Cabinet Member stated that this needs funding and savings have to be found to do this.

     

    The cabinet would be consulting on over £1m of savings and the report provided full details on other new savings of about £2.5m which do not require consultation as they have minimal impact on services and can be implemented by Heads of Service. The report also gave  ...  view the full decision text for item 3.

    Minutes:

    The Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources introduced the budget report and stated that the adoption of the recommendations in the report would begin the period of formal consultation on the 2017/18 budget and Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) and would run until 20th January, 2017.

     

    The Cabinet Member stated that he would welcome comments and asked people to respond and to let the Cabinet know what they think of the proposals or with any alternatives so that all points made could be considered before the final budget is set.

     

    He stated that the Cabinet will finalise its proposals in its February meeting, having taken feedback from residents, key partners and interest groups and internally, feedback from our scrutiny committees, unions, school’s forum and, of course, the fairness commission. 

     

    The Cabinet Member informed colleagues that the draft proposals had been developed in challenging times. He said that essentially, it comes on the back of over £45m of savings found in previous years and the pressure created by a reducing Revenue Support Grant, which continues into next year, and probably into the future. 

     

    The Cabinet Member stated that the provisional grant settlement confirmed a £230,000 reduction in this Council’s rate support grant next year. He informed members that this grant is used to fund 80% of our net costs, meaning that savings need to be found to cover basic inflationary cost increases, cost pressures from increased demand for our services and the cost of policy changes such as the Apprenticeship Levy, which we have no choice over.

     

    He and Cabinet Colleagues acknowledged the small increase in Local Government funding overall across Wales for 2017/18 – the Welsh Government is aware of pressures facing the sector, in particular from Social Care demands. But this Council’s individual settlement was not as good in relative terms across the sector, than previous years, when our annual grant change was amongst the best across all Councils. The reasons for this were explained in the report.

     

    As to the budget proposals, the Cabinet Member stressed that it was important to note that it was not all about savings. He mentioned the Council was investing significantly in social care, to meet increased demand for these services and was also continuing to invest in the pay of key partners’ staff by funding increases in the Foundation Living Wage. The draft budget also contained investments to deal with national policy changes and to those budgets which require ‘right -sizing’ so that the Council can set a robust budget which is deliverable. The Cabinet Member stated that this needs funding and savings have to be found to do this.

     

    The cabinet would be consulting on over £1m of savings and the report provided full details on other new savings of about £2.5m which do not require consultation as they have minimal impact on services and can be implemented by Heads of Service. The report also gave details of those savings already approved and underway, from previous years. All proposals could  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

    4.

    WAO Corporate assessment pdf icon PDF 399 KB

    Additional documents:

    Decision:

    CAB 67/16

     

    Corporate Assessment: Update on the action plan

     

    Options Considered/Reasons for Decision

     

    The Leader of the Council introduced a report setting out the progress made in addressing the recommendations and proposals for improvement made by the Wales Audit Office. (WAO)

    The WAO presented their most recent review of the Corporate Assessment at the October Cabinet meeting, it contained four recommendations which was a reduction from the seven recommendations that the Council previously had.

    The action plan presented to Cabinet allowed for monitoring of progress in addressing the remaining recommendations and proposals for improvement. The Leader stated that good progress is being made towards achieving the actions and embedding the changes made into our everyday work.

    The Leader stated that the  report also included progress made against proposals for improvement from previous corporate assessment reviews and other WAO reviews – there are 14 of these and 10 are now considered closed.  The remaining four are on-going although good progress has been made and further actions will continue to be monitored.

    Cabinet was reminded that Newport was the first authority to go through this process and this probably contributed to the original number of recommendations. The improvement was continuing despite financial and legislative pressures

    .

    Decisions:

     

    I.        To note the progress made towards meeting the recommendations and proposals for improvement

     

    II.        To receive further quarterly monitoring reports on the progress towards meeting recommendations and proposals for improvement.

     

     

    Consultation

     

    Monitoring Officer; Head of Finance; Head of People & Business Change

     

    Implemented By:  Head of People & Business Change

    Implementation Timetable:  Immediate and ongoing 

     

     

    Minutes:

    The Leader of the Council introduced a report setting out the progress made in addressing the recommendations and proposals for improvement made by the Wales Audit Office. (WAO)

    The WAO presented their most recent review of the Corporate Assessment at the October Cabinet meeting, it contained four recommendations which was a reduction from the seven recommendations that the Council previously had.

    The action plan presented to Cabinet allowed for monitoring of progress in addressing the remaining recommendations and proposals for improvement. The Leader stated that good progress is being made towards achieving the actions and embedding the changes made into our everyday work.

    The Leader stated that the  report also included progress made against proposals for improvement from previous corporate assessment reviews and other WAO reviews – there are 14 of these and 10 are now considered closed.  The remaining four are on-going although good progress has been made and further actions will continue to be monitored.

    Cabinet was reminded that Newport was the first authority to go through this process and this probably contributed to the original number of recommendations. The improvement was continuing despite financial and legislative pressures

    .

    Decisions:

     

    I.        To note the progress made towards meeting the recommendations and proposals for improvement

     

    II.        To receive further quarterly monitoring reports on the progress towards meeting recommendations and proposals for improvement.

     

     

    5.

    Certificate of Compliance pdf icon PDF 311 KB

    Additional documents:

    Decision:

    CAB 68/16

     

    Certificate of Compliance

     

    Options Considered/Reasons for Decision

     

    The Leader of the Council informed the Cabinet that the Wales Audit Office. (WAO) carries out two reviews of the Improvement plan each year the first is to assess whether the Improvement Plan complies with legislation the second is to assess whether the year-end review of the previous improvement plan complies with legislation and that we have met our obligation to demonstrate continuous improvement.

    The Leader stated that the first certificate was achieved and presented to Cabinet in June. The Leader informed Members that this was the second certificate of compliance which also includes a letter recommending that national comparative data is used more in the assessment of performance. National data has already been entered into the new performance management system and has been considered when assessing progress towards the Improvement plan objectives in quarter 2.

    Decisions:

     

    To welcome the positive outcome of the second Certificate of Compliance in relation to the council’s Improvement Plan Annual Review 2015-16

     

    Consultation

     

    Monitoring Officer; Head of Finance; Head of People & Business Change

     

    Implemented By:  Head of People and Business Change

    Implementation Timetable: Immediate and ongoing

     

     

    Minutes:

    The Leader of the Council informed the Cabinet that the Wales Audit Office. (WAO) carries out two reviews of the Improvement plan each year the first is to assess whether the Improvement Plan complies with legislation the second is to assess whether the year-end review of the previous improvement plan complies with legislation and that we have met our obligation to demonstrate continuous improvement.

    The Leader stated that the first certificate was achieved and presented to Cabinet in June. The Leader informed Members that this was the second certificate of compliance which also includes a letter recommending that national comparative data is used more in the assessment of performance. National data has already been entered into the new performance management system and has been considered when assessing progress towards the Improvement plan objectives in quarter 2.

    Decisions:

     

    To welcome the positive outcome of the second Certificate of Compliance in relation to the council’s Improvement Plan Annual Review 2015-16

     

     

    6.

    Improvement Plan Update pdf icon PDF 2 MB

    Additional documents:

    Decision:

    CAB 69/16

     

    Improvement Plan 16-18 Update for Quarter 2

     

    Options Considered/Reasons for Decision

     

    The Leader of the Council introduced a report which informed Cabinet that overall progress against the Plan is good and improving. The overall assessment for quarter 2, of progress towards achieving the Improvement Objectives set out in the plan is classed as ‘Green – Good.’ meaning that good progress is being made overall.

    All Wales data is used as part of the assessment for each objective to ensure that our assessment takes into account how we are performing against other councils for national measures.

     

    The Leader stated that three objectives are improved from ‘Amber – Acceptable’ in quarter 1 to ‘Green – Good’ in quarter 2.

    ·         Ensuring people have the right social service to meet their needs

    ·         City Regeneration and Development

    ·         Increasing recycling

    Members welcomed the report and progress.

     

     

    Decisions:

     

    I.        To welcome  the progress made during the second quarter of 16/17 regarding key actions and measures

     

    II.        To agree that corrective action be taken to address areas of underperformance

     

     

    Consultation

     

    Monitoring Officer; Head of Finance; Head of People & Business Change

     

    Implemented By:  Head of People & Business Change

    Implementation Timetable: In line with required timeframes

     

     

    Minutes:

    The Leader of the Council introduced a report which informed Cabinet that overall progress against the Plan is good and improving. The overall assessment for quarter 2, of progress towards achieving the Improvement Objectives set out in the plan is classed as ‘Green – Good.’ meaning that good progress is being made overall.

    All Wales data is used as part of the assessment for each objective to ensure that our assessment takes into account how we are performing against other councils for national measures.

     

    The Leader stated that three objectives are improved from ‘Amber – Acceptable’ in quarter 1 to ‘Green – Good’ in quarter 2.

    ·         Ensuring people have the right social service to meet their needs

    ·         City Regeneration and Development

    ·         Increasing recycling

    Members welcomed the report and progress.

     

     

    Decisions:

     

    I.        To welcome  the progress made during the second quarter of 16/17 regarding key actions and measures

     

    II.        To agree that corrective action be taken to address areas of underperformance

     

     

    7.

    Mid-year performance analysis pdf icon PDF 650 KB

    Additional documents:

    Decision:

    CAB 70/16

     

    Mid-Year Performance Analysis

    Options Considered/Reasons for Decision

     

    The Leader of the Council introduced a report setting out the Councils performance analysis for September 2016

    The Leader stated there had been some changes over the first half of the year including the revocation of the National Strategic Indicator as well as the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act which has introduced new measures for Social Services. The Leader stated that this means that there have been changes to the data so a much smaller set of measures can be compared to previous year performance and Wales Average

    The mid-year analysis shows that the council is meeting is obligation to demonstrate continuous improvement as 63% of measures reported through service plans have improved in performance since this time last year.

    The Leader stated that 71% of national measures have improved since the end of 2015/16 year and 53% are meeting or exceeding the Wales average.

    At the end of 2015/16 a small set of measures were selected for extra focus because they had been in the lower quartile for the past few years. The Leader reported that 4 out of 5 of these measures are now meeting or exceeding targets and one is slightly below and work would be done to move forward on this.

    The Leader and Cabinet Members considered that overall this is a positive picture reflecting efforts of staff in service areas when faced with cuts to council budgets, more challenging targets and a set of measures which has changed, leading to new challenges. Cabinet Members and the Chief Executive recorded their thanks to all Council staff for their efforts

    Decision:

     

    I.        To receive a further update on the year-end position once the data is available

     

    II.        To take urgent action in conjunction with Heads of Service and Directors to address any red measures

     

     

    Consultation

     

    Directors, Heads of Service, Monitoring Officer, Head of Finance, and Head of People & Business Change

     

    Implemented By:  Head of People & Business Change

    Implementation Timetable:  Immediate and ongoing

     

     

    Minutes:

    The Leader of the Council introduced a report setting out the Councils performance analysis for September 2016

    The Leader stated there had been some changes over the first half of the year including the revocation of the National Strategic Indicator as well as the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act which has introduced new measures for Social Services. The Leader stated that this means that there have been changes to the data so a much smaller set of measures can be compared to previous year performance and Wales Average

    The mid-year analysis shows that the council is meeting is obligation to demonstrate continuous improvement as 63% of measures reported through service plans have improved in performance since this time last year.

    The Leader stated that 71% of national measures have improved since the end of 2015/16 year and 53% are meeting or exceeding the Wales average.

    At the end of 2015/16 a small set of measures were selected for extra focus because they had been in the lower quartile for the past few years. The Leader reported that 4 out of 5 of these measures are now meeting or exceeding targets and one is slightly below and work would be done to move forward on this.

    The Leader and Cabinet Members considered that overall this is a positive picture reflecting efforts of staff in service areas when faced with cuts to council budgets, more challenging targets and a set of measures which has changed, leading to new challenges. Cabinet Members and the Chief Executive recorded their thanks to all Council staff for their efforts

    Decision:

     

    I.        To receive a further update on the year-end position once the data is available

     

    II.        To take urgent action in conjunction with Heads of Service and Directors to address any red measures

     

    8.

    Risk Register Update pdf icon PDF 553 KB

    Additional documents:

    Decision:

    CAB 71/16

     

    Risk Register

     

    Options Considered/Reasons for Decision

     

    The Leader of the Council introduced a report that set out the latest update of the Corporate Risk Register. 

     

    The Leader stated that there are eight risks identified in the register, and all are medium risks.  Since the last update all risk scores remain unchanged, the actions have been updated to reflect the continued work to mitigate the risks contained in the register.

     

    The Leader mentioned the impact of Brexit which had now been identified as a risk. This – and the City Deal- are heavily reliant on external factors so where there is uncertainty regarding the future direction of the UK and Welsh Governments means there is little action that can currently be taken.

     

    Decision:

     

    To request a further update at the March 2017 meeting

     

    Consultation

     

    Directors, Heads of Service, Monitoring Officer, Head of Finance, and Head of People & Business Change

     

    Implemented By:  Head of People & Business Change

    Implementation Timetable:  Immediate and ongoing

     

    Minutes:

    The Leader of the Council introduced a report that set out the latest update of the Corporate Risk Register. 

     

    The Leader stated that there are eight risks identified in the register, and all are medium risks.  Since the last update all risk scores remain unchanged, the actions have been updated to reflect the continued work to mitigate the risks contained in the register.

     

    The Leader mentioned the impact of Brexit which had now been identified as a risk. This – and the City Deal- are heavily reliant on external factors so where there is uncertainty regarding the future direction of the UK and Welsh Governments means there is little action that can currently be taken.

     

    Decision:

     

    To request a further update at the March 2017 meeting

     

    9.

    Friars Walk pdf icon PDF 268 KB

    Additional documents:

    Decision:

    CAB 72/16

     

    Friar’s Walk

     

    Options Considered/Reasons for Decision

     

    The Leader stated that the Cabinet wanted to be as open and transparent as possible but needed to respect the commercial confidentiality of the proposed deal between two private organisations.

     

    The Leader referred to recent press reports and comments and welcomed a balanced contribution from the Editor of the South Wales Argus. Some comments in the original article were unhelpful. The article mentioned the Cabinet had agreed to ‘buy’ the centre if the deal falls through. The default position always had been that the Council could re-finance the existing funding.

     

    The Head of Law and Regulation stated that the Cabinet had never agreed that the Council should ‘buy’ the asset itself if the sale to Talisker did not go ahead. If the sale did not proceed, then there would be a default in the repayment of the loan and the Council would have to take steps to enforce its security over the asset. There were a number of options that Council would need to consider but they would all involve using the rental income to finance the outstanding debt charges until the scheme could be sold. The Chief Executive stated that there was no reason at this stage to consider the deal would fall through.

     

    The article also says a plan was agreed at a confidential meeting. It was explained that the report to the previous meeting was confidential only because of the commercial confidentiality for two private firms. The report today informed people of the default position which had not changed since the funding agreement was agreed by Council in 2013.

     

    Members received a report referring to options for the sale or re-financing of Friars Walk. Having considered the detailed legal and financial implications of the various proposals, Cabinet agreed that there were only two viable options at the present time – a sale to the Talisker Corporation, a Canadian equity investment company, or a re-financing of the loan by the Council.

     

    Cabinet agreed that the preferred option was a sale to Talisker, on commercial terms, which represented the best market price obtainable for the scheme at the present time. This was clearly demonstrated by the market testing carried out by QRE and comparability with proposed sale terms offered by other potential investment purchasers. The Talisker proposals would enable the Council to discharge the primary loan debt and interest charges.  Therefore, officers were instructed and authorised to agree the detailed terms and finalise the necessary documentation for the delivery of the proposed sale to Talisker, with a target completion date early in the New Year.

     

    However, Cabinet recognised that, if the Talisker deal did not complete, for whatever reason, then the fallback position for the Council would be to take control of the asset itself, re-finance the debt and utilise the net operating income from the scheme to service that debt until such time as a new buyer could be found.

     

    Such a decision to re-finance the Council debt  ...  view the full decision text for item 9.

    Minutes:

    The Leader stated that the Cabinet wanted to be as open and transparent as possible but needed to respect the commercial confidentiality of the proposed deal between two private organisations.

     

    The Leader referred to recent press reports and comments and welcomed a balanced contribution from the Editor of the South Wales Argus. Some comments in the original article were unhelpful. The article mentioned the Cabinet had agreed to ‘buy’ the centre if the deal falls through. The default position always had been that the Council could re-finance the existing funding.

     

    The Head of Law and Regulation stated that the Cabinet had never agreed that the Council should ‘buy’ the asset itself if the sale to Talisker did not go ahead. If the sale did not proceed, then there would be a default in the repayment of the loan and the Council would have to take steps to enforce its security over the asset. There were a number of options that Council would need to consider but they would all involve using the rental income to finance the outstanding debt charges until the scheme could be sold. The Chief Executive stated that there was no reason at this stage to consider the deal would fall through.

     

    The article also says a plan was agreed at a confidential meeting. It was explained that the report to the previous meeting was confidential only because of the commercial confidentiality for two private firms. The report today informed people of the default position which had not changed since the funding agreement was agreed by Council in 2013.

     

    Members received a report referring to options for the sale or re-financing of Friars Walk. Having considered the detailed legal and financial implications of the various proposals, Cabinet agreed that there were only two viable options at the present time – a sale to the Talisker Corporation, a Canadian equity investment company, or a re-financing of the loan by the Council.

     

    Cabinet agreed that the preferred option was a sale to Talisker, on commercial terms, which represented the best market price obtainable for the scheme at the present time. This was clearly demonstrated by the market testing carried out by QRE and comparability with proposed sale terms offered by other potential investment purchasers. The Talisker proposals would enable the Council to discharge the primary loan debt and interest charges.  Therefore, officers were instructed and authorised to agree the detailed terms and finalise the necessary documentation for the delivery of the proposed sale to Talisker, with a target completion date early in the New Year.

     

    However, Cabinet recognised that, if the Talisker deal did not complete, for whatever reason, then the fallback position for the Council would be to take control of the asset itself, re-finance the debt and utilise the net operating income from the scheme to service that debt until such time as a new buyer could be found.

     

    Such a decision to re-finance the Council debt and take control of the property would be a decision  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

    10.

    Work Programme pdf icon PDF 259 KB

    Additional documents:

    Decision:

    CAB 73/16

     

    Work Programme

     

    Options Considered/Reasons for Decision

     

    The Corporate Assessment suggested to the Council that it should consider strengthening committee work programming arrangements to ensure they are timely, meaningful, informative, and transparent, balanced, monitored, and joined up.

     

    In response to that suggestion, Cabinet had previously agreed that the Head of Democratic Services will regularly ask Chief Officers to update the Cabinet work programme and an update will be reported to Cabinet each month.

     

    An updated work programme suggested by Chief Officers was discussed. This was, of course, a working document and will be subject to change. 

     

    Decision:

     

    To adopt the suggested programme and provide an update at the next meeting

     

    Consultation

     

    Directors, Heads of Service, Monitoring Officer, Head of Finance, and Head of People & Business Change

     

    Implemented By:  Head of Democratic Services

    Implementation Timetable:  Immediate and ongoing

     

    Minutes:

    The Corporate Assessment suggested to the Council that it should consider strengthening committee work programming arrangements to ensure they are timely, meaningful, informative, and transparent, balanced, monitored, and joined up.

     

    In response to that suggestion, Cabinet had previously agreed that the Head of Democratic Services will regularly ask Chief Officers to update the Cabinet work programme and an update will be reported to Cabinet each month.

     

    An updated work programme suggested by Chief Officers was discussed. This was, of course, a working document and will be subject to change. 

     

    Decision:

     

    To adopt the suggested programme and provide an update at the next meeting