Venue: Committee Room 1 - Civic Centre
Contact: Anne Jenkins, Governance Team Leader Email: Cabinet@newport.gov.uk
Apologies for Absence
Declarations of Interest
The Minutes of 15 December 2021 were accepted as a true record.
The Leader presented the report to Cabinet Member colleagues. The report highlighted the key issues affecting the development of the Council’s 2022/23 budget and Medium-Term Financial Plan. Cabinet were therefore asked to agree the proposals to enable the commencement of the 2022/23 budget consultation process.
It was noted by the Leader that there were no new budget savings for consultation and no requirement for new or additional savings for us to balance the overall budget for next year. This was an exceptional position that in which the Council found itself in comparison to previous years, this was thanks to the favourable draft settlement received from Welsh Government at the end of last year.
There was currently a balance in hand for the 2022/23 financial year, this is unavoidable due to the late settlement. There remained, however, further work to identify appropriate investment as set out within its key priorities.
Overall, the draft budget
included investment of almost £26m in 2022/23 and £47m
over the medium term. This included pay and pricing inflation,
however the Leader took the opportunity to specifically mention the
areas of investment that herself and Cabinet colleagues believed
were the areas in need as well as areas which saw further
investment following the better-than-expected settlement:
This budget proposed investment in schools of up to £8m in 22/23, which represented a 7.3% growth in schools’ budget, and up to £17.5m over the next three years. The 22/23 investment represented an additional £2m over and above pay and pricing inflationary increases with the costs associated with new and growing schools. This would increase the per pupil funding amount and all schools would experience the benefit of this. The Leader gave her personal thanks and that of Cabinet, for the professionalism and commitment shown by schools-based staff over the last two years. Staff worked tirelessly since the start of the pandemic to adapt to changes in teaching and learning and should be commended for their efforts.
The Leader mentioned further investment proposals for early intervention and prevention to alleviate the pressures that Councils continued to face within both education and social care settings. This included investment to create additional capacity within the safeguarding hub to support families, providing additional resource and to support a proactive approach into assessing and supporting vulnerable pupils.
Consideration was also given to other targeted investments which might impact on support given to vulnerable families and individuals, as the Council continued to manage the impact of the pandemic. These would be announced in the final budget.
Consideration was also being given to investments which would impact on the city centre and the businesses within it. In particular, promotion of the city, marketing, inward investment, co-ordination of activities and events, tourism, and the general environment in and around the city centre. These would also be announced in the final budget
The Council was currently planning to invest around £9.5m in the draft budget over and above an allowance for pay and pricing inflation and the details of ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
The Leader presented the report highlighting the forecasted position on the Council’s revenue budget along with the financial risks and opportunities that presented themselves as at November 2021.
Against a net budget of £316million, the November revenue position currently forecasted an underspend of £10 million, after taking account of a new reserve request, representing a 3% variance against budget. This position was inclusive of the continued financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and assumed full reimbursement of all significant costs and lost income for the remainder of the year. This followed confirmation from WG that the Hardship Fund would be available until March 2022.
The Leader went on to explain that although service areas were reporting an underspend against the budget resulting from difficulties/ delays in recruitment, covid related activities being reimbursed by the Hardship Fund and additional grant income within both Children and Adult Services, much of the underspend originated from non-service budgets, such as savings against:
(i) capital financing budget,
(ii) Council Tax Reduction Scheme and Council Tax collection,
(iii) the revenue contingency budget, which was currently not needed, and
(iv) some other non-service budgets which were not committed currently. These together produced the £10m underspend.
Some individual areas however, continued to overspend against specific activities, details of which were set out within the report. In previous years, these overspends related to demand-led activity areas, such as Social Services, however the last couple of years were not a true representation of the challenges faced in these areas due to the pandemic and the reimbursement of additional costs received from the Hardship Fund. Given the uncertainty in these areas, there was a risk that in year demand levels may change from current forecasts, with a potential for the forecast underspend to increase further. This did not mean that the Council did not spend the money; but meant it would be spent later.
The key areas contributing to the £10million forecast position included:
(i) Increased costs in respect of dealing with ‘ash die-back’, increased insurance premiums and the remedial works required across the commercial and industrial estate. The anticipated overspend in areas of emerging risk was expected to be short of £1 million by the end of the financial year.
(ii) An anticipated shortfall against the delivery of 2021/22 and prior year savings of almost £600k, largely due to delays in progressing the necessary actions, mostly due to the pandemic. Whilst the level of unachieved savings in relation to the current financial year was lower than in previous years, there remained a need to ensure that all savings were delivered, in full, as soon as possible and officers continued to take action to ensure these were delivered from the earliest opportunity.
(iii) There was a forecast underspend of £2.7million in relation to the Capital Financing budget. As part of the budget setting for 2021/22, the capital financing costs of the current capital programme, which ends in 2022/23, were funded up front. This resulted in a saving within the Minimum Revenue ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Leader presented the report advising Cabinet that the report was an iterative one, and highlighted the changes to the capital programme since Members last considered capital monitoring as at September 2021 and sought to add in new schemes totalling +£4.84m, predominantly grant related.
The report captured the movements and forecasts up to the end of November 2021. The September capital programme budget reported was £65.99m.
There were amendments (net reductions) of -£3.49m, most notably the handing back of grant in respect of A467 improvements which would not be progressed beyond design stage in the current financial year.
Service colleagues identified a further -£9.81m slippage, in respect of schemes progressing at a slower rate financially than originally anticipated when service colleagues indicated annual expenditure plans, moving that part of the budget into 2022-23.
When added to the September budget, the revised capital programme budget for 2021/22 now totalled £57.53m.
The focus of the monitoring was primarily upon the current year (2021-22). The capital programme recognised however that larger schemes would have expenditure that crossed financial years, such that the convention was to establish a five-year programme envelope, with the current one due to expire at the end of 2022-23. The presentation of multi-year tables to 2024-25 in the report implied a seven year programme, but was mainly recognition that 21st Century schools and City Deal commitments extended beyond the end of 2022-23.
Against the revised 2021-22 budget, spend of £57.58m was projected, resulting in a temporary overspend of £51k. These overspends were anticipated to be funded through additional grant bids, but where such financing was not forthcoming they would instead become a call upon the various annual sums maintenance budgets.
Service departments were successful in sourcing additional funding in the form of grants to supplement the traditional programme. This was certainly most welcome in enhancing the Council’s ability to maintain and upgrade infrastructure but tended to be specific to certain years. This resulted in an increasing volume of slippage being rolled forward towards the end of the current programme envelope, such that the 2022-23 starting budget was anticipated to be above £100m, which was far in excess of traditional spending levels and anticipated current programme management capacity. This figure had the potential to increase further based on past experience of last quarter considerations such as inclement weather, supply chain issues, and more recently Covid induced absences affecting progress predictions made earlier in the year.
The magnitude of slippage involved may impact upon the capacity to introduce new schemes into the first couple of years of the new programme, owing to the fact that completion of the existing programme might take priority.
The remainder of the report identified the running balances of available resourcing to support new schemes and initiatives, in the form of capital reserves and receipts and treasury headroom.
The Capital Receipts uncommitted running balance (£2.65m) in the report was an increase on the September figure, due to the inclusion of receipt activity that has occurred ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
In November 2020 the National TOMs Framework for Wales was launched on behalf of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), supported by the National Social Value Taskforce Wales.
The TOMs for social value was a measurement framework and practical toolkit that allowed for an unlocking of social value through its integration into procurement and project management across the whole Council.
The Welsh TOMs framework had been designed around seven themes (the seven wellbeing goals of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015), 35 Outcomes and 93 Measures:
Themes – The overarching strategic themes that an organisation is looking to pursue,
Outcomes – The objectives or goals that an organisation is looking to achieve that will contribute to the themes,
Measures – The measures that can be used to assess whether these Outcomes have been achieved.
For the TOMs Framework, these were action based and represented activities that a supplier, service provider and contractor could complete to support a particular desired outcome.
The framework consisted of a set of 93 Measures. A range of these measures were selected, according to the nature of the procurement, to be included in a Council’s tender process, in order for tendering suppliers to respond against these measures and inform the Council how it could add this social value to the contract. The tenderer’s response was then scored, and the evaluation of this social value element was then factored into the full evaluation of their tender bid.
The principal benefits of this TOMs framework were associated with a consistent reporting standard for Social Value. It therefore:
· provided a consistent approach to measuring and reporting Social Value,
· was flexible, adaptable and bespoke which was fundamental in order to demonstrate that the methodology can succeed,
· allowed for continuous improvement,
· provided a robust, transparent and defensible solution for assessing and awarding tenders,
· allowed organisations to compare their own performance by sector and industry benchmarks and understand what good looks like,
· was based on non-financial performance but allow monetary value to be reported, and
· reduced the uncertainty surrounding Social Value measurement for businesses, allowing them to make informed decisions based on robust quantitative assessments and hence embed social value into their corporate strategies.
It was the intention that the Welsh National TOMs Framework be adopted as an over-arching framework and toolkit to be used in an appropriate and proportionate manner within procurement activity, initially for contracts above £75,000 in value. This value was similar to other local authorities and was matched to our Contract Standing Orders open tendering procedure, applicable to the same £75k value.
The TOMs Framework was an effective and efficient mechanism in measuring, recording and monitoring Social Value and Community Benefits.
Comments of Cabinet Members:
§ Councillor Davies welcomed the adoption of the TOMs Framework which tied in the Future Wellbeing Generation Act, which would enable the Council to add social value to the climate change. A portable for businesses was also available to help local businesses.
§ Councillor Mayer mentioned the different parameters were currently ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
The Leader presented the report, informing Cabinet on the Mid-year performance analysis (2021/22) in the delivery of the Council’s service plans for the first six months (April to September) of this financial year.
Cabinet was asked to consider the contents of this report noting where the Council was succeeding in delivering against their Plans and where the Council could also improve. The report included the feedback and recommendations from the Council’s performance scrutiny committees.
The Council was in its final year of the five year Corporate Plan which set out vision and goals for improving people’s lives in Newport and the delivery of services. The Council’s eight service areas developed service plans outlining how they would contribute toward achieving the Council’s Wellbeing Objectives and improve the delivery of their services. The focus in the last two years was to protect its services and some of the most vulnerable residents and businesses in the City during this pandemic. Despite these challenges services were responding and adapting to meet these new demands and additional pressures.
The report provided an overview of the progress being made across the Council’s projects, service area objectives and actions; and performance measures. Overall, despite the challenges being faced by services, the Council continued to make good progress against the objectives set in the service plans.
At the Mid-year point of this financial year, 47 out of 61 projects were reporting a green status meaning they were on track to deliver within scope, time and budget. There was only one project (Additional Learning Needs Transformation) that was reporting a Red status with 13 projects reporting an amber status, however officers were taking all necessary actions to ensure their performance improved.
With regard to the performance measures across the eight service areas, 69% of their actions were reporting a Green status with only 2% (6 actions) reporting Red and 17% reporting an Amber status. 63% (48 out of 76 measures) of the Council’s measures reported a green status meaning they are on track and/or succeeding against their target. 15 out of 76 of measures reported an amber status meaning they are behind on meeting their target. 13 measures however were reporting a red status meaning that the measures are significantly off target. Further information on the Council’s Red projects, actions and performance measures were reported in appendix 1 of the report. The Council’s Senior Officer group were taking necessary actions to improve their performance and to closely monitor these measures to ensure improvements were made.
The report has also highlighted
some of the achievements and notable developments in the delivery
of the Corporate Plan:
Adult & Community Services – Continued support to services within the community, including care homes.
Children and Young
People Services – Supporting
Kinship Carers and unaccompanied Asylum Seeking children to settle
The Leader introduced the report, which was a common report, based on a background note prepared by the Director of the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal. The report was being presented to all of the 10 local authorities forming the South East Wales Corporate Joint Committee, to provide an update on the implementation process in order to meet the statutory requirements of the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021.
The report set out an interim governance and delivery model, pending the resolution of a number of outstanding financial issues and the transfer of functions to the Corporate Joint Committee. This involved a ‘twin-track’ approach to comply with the bare minimum legal requirements to formally establish the CJC by the statutory deadline of 31 January and would continue with the existing City Deal Joint Working arrangements, until outstanding issue were resolved.
Whilst Cabinet nor Council were being asked to take any further decisions at the present time, the report was simply for information purposes and Cabinet were being asked to note the current position regarding the implementation plan and the interim governance arrangements. The formation and operation of the Corporate Joint Committee was prescribed by legislation and Regulations, while the interim delivery and governance arrangements were in accordance with the CCR Joint Working Agreement previously agreed by Council.
Colleagues were aware that the 2021 Act required all local authorities in Wales to establish Corporate Joint Committees to discharge certain regeneration, economic development and transport functions at a regional level. These Corporate Joint Committees were different to previous Joint Committees, such as the CCR Regional Cabinet, because they were mandated by Welsh Government as opposed to being voluntary arrangements, and they were constituted as separate legal bodies, with powers to set their own budget, employ staff and hold property and other assets. A copy of the full Regional Cabinet report was attached at Appendix 2.
The Regional Cabinet agreed on 13 December to adopt a “twin-track” approach, which would meet the minimum requirements of the legislation but enable the CJC to remain dormant and for the City Deal arrangements to continue during this interim period. A full copy of that Regional Cabinet Report is attached at Appendix 3.
The intention was that the CJC would hold an inaugural meeting of all the respective Leaders before 31 January, to set an initial budget, adopt the proposed standing orders set out in Appendix 1 and establish a basic governance framework. The Standing Orders simply reflected the requirements of the legislation and Regulations, with each of the 10 authorities being represented by their respective Leaders and each member having one vote. Budget decisions would be unanimous and other decisions required a special majority of 70%. The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority was also required to be a statutory member of the CJC but only in relation to the development of the Strategic Development Plan, given their planning powers. There was also power for the CJC to co-opt other members.
For the purposes ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
The Leader advised Cabinet colleagues that the report was prepared by the Chief Education Officer and required Cabinet to consider the appropriateness of the new 10-year Welsh in Education Strategic Plan, or WESP, for submission to Welsh Government.
The School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 required local authorities to prepare a WESP and confirmed that this must contain targets and proposals to improve provision of education through the medium of Welsh and the standards of Welsh-medium education and teaching of Welsh. The Act also required local authorities to submit its WESP to Welsh Government for approval prior to implementation. The new 10-year WESP period was due to commence in September 2022, and the deadline for submission to Welsh Government was 31 January.
The new WESP demonstrated how Newport would contribute, over the next 10 years, towards Welsh Government’s Cymraeg 2050 strategy. Cymraeg 2050 introduced a long-term vision for a Wales where the Welsh language thrived and aims to increase the number of Welsh speakers to 1 million by 2050.
The overall target within the WESP related to the expected increase in Year 1 children who were taught through the medium of Welsh. This target was in itself prescribed by Welsh Government, and a minimum 6 percentage point was identified for Newport. This was quantified by a doubling of the provision that was available during the 2020/21 academic year by 2032. Inevitably this would need to be supplemented by increased early years and childcare opportunities, expansions in the Welsh-medium secondary sector and additional workforce.
The draft WESP was developed in conjunction with partners from Newport’s Welsh in Education Forum and as required, was subject to an eight-week period of formal consultation. This included extensive stakeholder engagement, significant publicity via the Council’s social media channels and a number of opportunities to seek learner voice comments through specifically arranged sessions through a number of secondary schools. This was described in detail in the Consultation Report which accompanied this report, and was published on the Council’s website.
The feedback received during the consultation period was considered and some minor changes being made to specific target areas. Overall however, the responses suggested that the WESP was considered to be appropriately robust and suitably ambitious and should now be submitted to Welsh Government for consideration.
Comments of Cabinet Members:
§ Councillor Davies reiterated comments made by the Leader which was an important legislation by WG. The Council was grateful for the support from the Welsh in Education Forum. The number of students that participated in the plan was positive and showed immense support. The Welsh Language Commissioner had stated that Newport City Council’s WESP contribution was excellent.
§ Councillor Hughes added, that as a Welsh speaker, he agreed with the report and was thankful for the Welsh provision that had been put in place. This was changing the environment for Welsh speakers, particularly in a diverse city as Newport. It also would not only improve the Welsh language but would also encourage children learning to ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
The Leader advised that the next Cabinet Report was an update on the post EU Transition arrangements since the UK left on 31 December 2020.
It was over a year since the UK left the European Union and Single Market and throughout the year the Council continued to see widespread impacts not only from leaving the EU but also due to the global impacts of Covid as economies saw an increase in demands and supplies being disrupted.
The cost of living for households in Newport and Wales increased throughout the year with wages struggling to meet these additional costs. For low-income households, these increases will have the biggest impact with energy prices expected to increase further in 2022.
As reported in the Covid Recovery Cabinet Report, the Council, Welsh Government and other not for profit / charities offered households financial support during this difficult time as well as providing debt advice, training and employment opportunities.
The cost and supply of goods and materials continued to impact services and projects delivered by Newport. Construction projects and the delivery of services such as Disabled Facility Grants were seeing increases in their costs due to these factors.
For the City’s EU / EAA citizens living in Newport, over 10,000 applications for settled status were concluded with 920 applications awaiting a decision (based on Home Office figures to September 2021). Cabinet supported EU/EAA citizens living and working in Newport, as everyone had a part to play in making Newport a great city in which to live and work. Cabinet encouraged anyone who was still awaiting a decision or having difficulties to conclude their application to contact the Council and other organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau.
Education services alongside Maindee Primary School were supporting the city’s Roma community improving residents knowledge and understanding of the Roma community, their history and traditions.
The Council’s Hardship solutions group were coordinating the effort by the Council and not for profit services to support those impacted and try to prevent exploitation of those affected.
Comments of Cabinet Members:
§ Councillor Davies referred to the levelling up agenda and hoped that the implementation of this would be in place to ensure that the Council could support its residents in the best way it could.
§ Councillor Cockeram commented on the health and social services sector vacancies that impacted on the vulnerable as a result of Brexit.
That Cabinet considered and noted the contents of the report and to receive regular updates as progress is made.
The Leader highlighted the purpose of this Cabinet Report was to provide an update on the Council’s response to the Covid pandemic and the City’s recovery ensuring residents and businesses comply with the current restrictions and the progress being made with the Council’s Strategic Recovery Aims and Corporate Plan.
The last month saw the Omicron variant become the dominant strain across Newport and Wales. The number of positive cases for the variant significantly increased across Wales over the last two weeks which was also having an impact on Council services.
In response, the Welsh Government took Wales into Alert Level 2 and reintroduced several restrictions to support the health and care services. The Welsh Minister however would be making his announcement later on possibly easing of restrictions.
The report outlined these restrictions the Cabinet continued to ask residents and businesses to follow these and to take up the opportunity to take up the booster jab and vaccinations for those have not done so already.
With the increase in the number of cases across the community, this was now having an impact on Council staff including those in school settings.
The Council’s Gold (Civil Contingencies) team and Cabinet Members were receiving regular reports on this ongoing situation and there was number of staff absences due to staff either self-isolating and/or absent with Covid. This had an impact on the Council’s front-line and critical services such as social services, City Services and our schools. Contingency measures were in place across Council and schools to manage this situation.
The Leader asked service users, residents and businesses across Newport, to keep in touch with the Council’s social media, and website with any announcements to the disruption of our services. If anyone was concerned about the delivery of their service or concerned for their neighbours and family members to get in contact with the Council.
The Leader and the Council also understood the difficulty for Newport’s residents and businesses faced during this time of year due to the cost of living, fuel payments and not being able to trade as normal.
Newport Council and the Welsh Government had many financial and non-financial support packages in place. The Leader wanted to take this opportunity to encourage those that needed assistance to contact the Council and also visit the Council’s website to see what support was available during this period of time. In addition to this support, last month this Cabinet agreed to provide an additional £100k towards supporting the City’s foodbanks and charities. This funding would help the foodbanks to manage the increase in demand for their services and to help households to try and improve their circumstances.
The Leader highlighted the strategic recovery aims as outlined within the report.
Finally, the Leader referred to Councillor Harvey’s comments earlier in that we were approaching the two year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic and echoed the Cabinet Member’s thanks to council staff supporting Newport.
Comments of Cabinet Members:
§ Councillor Jeavons referred to front line ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
Cabinet agreed the Work Programme.
One Newport Partnership Summary of Business
Please click on the link below to view the One Newport Partnership summary of Business:
Cabinet noted the One Newport Summary of Business for information.