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 14 January were confirmed as a true record.
The Leader presented the report to Cabinet informing colleagues that the annual Capital and Treasury Management strategies, was brought to this Cabinet meeting having been reviewed and commented upon by Governance and Audit Committee at their meeting which took place on 27th January.
Cabinet was required to endorse the strategies prior to them being presented to full Council for final approval and was also required to approve the detailed Capital Programme, which formed one of the appendices to this report.
The comments from the Governance and Audit Committee were included within this report and, where appropriate, the report was amended in line with these comments.
The two strategies were a requirement of CIPFA’s Prudential Code, form a critical part of short, medium and long term financial planning and are intrinsically linked with the revenue budget setting process.
The purpose of the Capital Strategy was to set out the Council’s approach to decision making regarding capital expenditure and, in the process, demonstrating that those decisions were made in line with service objectives, with consideration given to risk, reward and impact.
The Capital Strategy was inherently linked with the Treasury Management Strategy which, itself, was concerned with the Council’s approach to managing its cash, including, primarily, the approach to borrowing and investing activities.
A key aspect of the Treasury Management strategy was the borrowing limits, which were ultimately approved by Council, and form part of the suite of prudential indicators which govern the Council’s cash management activities.
The Capital Strategy was a long-term focussed document, which considered the next 10 years as a minimum. Because of this long-term focus, it was critical that decisions made are reflective of the need for capital plans to be affordable, prudent and sustainable. Essentially, this meant the following:
· Debt-funded capital expenditure incurred today would result in a long-term commitment upon the Council to repay that borrowing and the interest that arises from it
· That commitment to meet capital financing costs would form part of the revenue budget
· Whilst that commitment might be affordable now, it must be possible to maintain this over the long term
· Capital financing costs, once locked-in, could not be reduced or avoided, meaning that any future budgetary challenges would impact upon the level of funding available for other services and priorities, rather than the capital financing budget.
Due to the importance of these factors, the Head of Finance’s commentary within the report specifically addressed these.
As outlined at the beginning, whilst Cabinet made decisions regarding the projects that comprise the Capital Programme, it was full Council that determined the borrowing limits that must be adhered to.
Whilst many projects were funded from sources such as grants, capital receipts and specific reserves, there would be a number that cannot be funded in this way and were ultimately funded via borrowing. The overall Capital Programme, therefore, needed to be set within these borrowing limits.
The forthcoming financial year (2022/23) represents the last year of the current five-year Capital Programme. However, two years were added ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
The Leader presented the report, informing Cabinet on the final Medium-Term Financial Plan and 2022/23 revenue budget report. This was one of the council’s most significant reports and needed to be considered carefully.
This report represented the culmination of six months hard work, from reviewing and agreeing budget assumptions to form the basis of our planning, to this final stage of allocation of funding to our key priorities.
There were challenges to the budget process this year. Not only was the Council going into the third year of working through the pandemic and all its associated issues, but the draft Welsh Government settlement, which funds 76% of the budget, was received very late on 21 December. This meant final and detailed budget work could not be finished within the customary timescale.
The settlement this year, however, included a multi-year funding settlement which brought a reasonable level of certainty. The inclusion of indicative values for the next two years supported our capacity for long term planning.
The settlement received from Welsh Government was much higher than that included within the planning assumptions, removing the need to identify any new budget savings.
A ‘balance in hand’ was reported to January Cabinet and this report summarised the investments that would support key priorities. The report also provided detailed feedback from the consultation process.
The Cabinet considered the results of the consultation, along with other key contextual matters and would set out our investment areas in the 2022/23 budget.
Council Tax only made up 24% of the Council’s revenue budget funding, but it was still an essential element of the Council’s overall funding.
Full Council made the final decision on the Council Tax level only.
The Council’s Revenue Support Grant increased significantly, by nearly £25m, however, this was predicated on the Council covering several cost pressures and investments determined by external influences including, but not limited to:
· additional costs of introducing the Real Living Wage for care workers from 1 April 2022
· the costs associated with the teachers’ pay deal
· increased National Insurance contribution for employers from April 2022
· the management of the continued residual impacts of increased costs and reduced income from the Covid pandemic, in recognition of no continuation of the hardship fund beyond this financial year.
The Council consulted on a 3.7% Council Tax increase which added a further £2.7m to potential funding for next year’s budget. In total, funding in our draft budget increased by £27.5m.
Some initial budget investments in draft budgets
highlighted key priorities of:
· our city centre
· our schools
The draft budget set out:
· £3.2m in support of our care workers, ensuring they are paid the ‘Living Wage’
· nearly £1m for supporting our most vulnerable adults with learning difficulties
· nearly £900k to facilitate the increased take up of free school meals
· nearly £400k for prevention and early intervention services within our Education and Social Care departments, building on a very significant increase in school funding, as well as specific funding to help those ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Leader presented the report to Cabinet Member colleagues highlighting the following:
2021 Summer Results
The calculation and
publication of Key Stage 4 and legacy sixth form performance
measures for 2020 to 2021 and 2021 to 2022 academic years is
Qualification awards data
would not be used to report on attainment outcomes at a school,
local authority or regional consortium level and must not be used
to hold schools to account for their learners’
There would be a direct
impact on the usual data releases provided by the Welsh Government,
with some releases suspended for one or more of the years disrupted
by coronavirus or still to be determined.
All schools and post-16
providers continued to be required to undertake effective
self-evaluation to support continuous improvement. This involved
schools, with support from local authorities and regional
consortia, using the learner level information they had on
attainment and other outcomes to reflect on and improve their
School categorisation would
not take place in academic year 2021 to 2022. Regional consortia
and local authorities continued to work in partnership with schools
to help provide them with the support they need to improve and to
successfully implement our ambitious reforms.
The School Performance and Absence Targets (Wales) Regulations 2011 were revoked in 2020, this meant that schools were no longer required to set and publish targets.)
Curriculum for Wales and Welsh Government Draft School Improvement Guidance
There would be a new curriculum for schools and funded non-maintained settings in Wales from September 2022, Curriculum for Wales (CfW).
In March 2020 Welsh Government consulted on the draft school improvement guidance. The new proposals aimed to:
· Strengthen the importance and effectiveness of self-evaluation and improvement planning by schools, which draws on a broad range of evidence
· Focus on schools’ self-evaluations and improvement priorities as the starting point for work with local authorities and regional consortia.
· Consider school performance in its widest sense, with schools evaluated in their own context, supported by a broad range of evidence, bespoke improvement planning and support.
· Ensure that the school’s self-evaluation processes identify areas of strengths and priorities for improvement, which are drawn together in a single, strategic school development plan.
· Build on schools’ self-evaluations and development plans to work with local authorities and regional consortia to agree the additional support they need to improve.
· Identify where schools have strengths and capacity to collaborate with other schools to support them
Data for Elected Members
Schools used a range of evaluative information and progress data to inform and refine future practice and provision, shaping their priorities for improvement. Members continued to receive data on:
· Estyn inspection outcomes (from Spring Term 2022) and progress of schools in statutory categories (from Autumn Term 2021)
· Attendance information
· Exclusion information
· Contextual information (FSM %, All Wales Core Data set contextual data would be updated)
· My Local School with updated information including: (Free School Meals (FSM)%, Special Educational Needs (SEN)%, English as an Additional Language (EAL)% - 3 year rolling ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
The Leader firstly advised colleagues of the death of the Welsh Language Commissioner, Aled Roberts on Sunday 13 February. Aled was a former Leader of Wrexham Council and an Assembly Member for North Wales region in 2011.
The council was subject to a number of Welsh Language Standards, imposed by the Welsh Language Commissioner.
Standard 145 placed an obligation on the council to publish a five year strategy which sets out how we proposed to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language in Newport.
The Standards also required that the Strategy must include a % target for increasing or maintaining the numbers of Welsh speakers in the area and a statement setting out how this would be achieved.
The Leader was delighted to present our second Welsh Language Promotional Strategy which built on the links, good work and progress made over the last five years.
The Strategy represented an evolution from our 2017 – 2022 plan, with a focus on delivering a vision for the Welsh language in Newport that included all of our diverse communities, works in partnership with key stakeholders and met statutory obligations.
The Strategy reflected Newport as a Welsh city with rich multicultural, multilingual communities. We wanted to celebrate the Welsh language as part of our shared identity, and increase opportunities for everyone to see, hear, learn, use and love our national language.
It also brought together exciting Welsh language work across a range of areas including our new Welsh in Education Strategic Plan and our work with Public Service Board partners through our Right Skills Board.
As well as focusing on growing the range of partners and stakeholders who were engaging with the Welsh language, we continued our commitment to develop our internal structures and policies to support staff who wish to learn Welsh, or use their skills in the workplace.
This Strategy would provide a drive and focus for the next five years as we continued to raise the profile of the Welsh language across the city, supporting Welsh Government reach its target of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050, and create a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language.
The Leader invited Cllr Jason Hughes, Welsh Language Member Champion to say a few words.
Councillor Hughes shared sentiment on Aled’s passing and thoughts went out to family and friends.
Mae’rstrategaeth yn. Cyflwyno gweledigaeth y cyngor ar gyfer yr iaith gymraeg Yong Ngasnewydd-Bod pawb yn gallu gweld; clywed; disgu, defnyddio a caru Cymraeg.
Er bod ein targed ar gyfer twf yn canolbwyntio ar addysg, rydym yn cydnabod bod angen uchelgais ehangach ar gyfer y Gymraeg yng Ngasnewydd er mwyn gwneud yr iaith yn hygyrch a gynhwysol fel y gall ein holl drigolion ymgysylltu a hi.
I gyflawni hyn rydym weds datblygu tair thema strategol syn canolbwyntio ar gymunedau addysg, diwylliant ac hefyd chyflogaeth a sgilliau.
Mae cypress o gamau gweithredu syn ymwneud ar themau hyn wedi cynnwys y strategaeth a bydd y rhain yn ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Established in November 2019, the Western Gateway was a strategic partnership which aimed to deliver an economic powerhouse along the M4 and M5 corridor, driving growth on both sides of the Severn. As one of five cities, Newport was a key player in the success of the partnership and stood to profit from the benefits that greater collaboration brought. As a partnership we had nearly 4.4 million residents, approximately 160,000 businesses and in the region of 2.1 million jobs. We also enjoyed excellent connectivity with major motorways and roads, 2 airports and 9 ports.
Since July 2020, the membership of the partnership board was broadened to include representatives from local economic partnerships, universities, and the Cardiff Capital Region. The Board also included appointed business representatives, one of which was Ian Edwards, Chief Executive of the Celtic Manor Resort.
An Independent Economic Review was undertaken in Autumn 2021 and considered the Western Gateway’s economic strengths and opportunities, and how these could be led and coordinated to drive the region’s economic development. The three identified themes and associated workstreams were:
· Innovation - the UK Government had an ambitious target to increase public R&D spend by an additional £9bn per year by 2024/25 and the partnership are exploring the potential for Innovation Funds,
· Net Zero - cutting emissions by 80% to 2050 was a core policy of Welsh Government and the UK Government legally committed to reducing emissions to Net Zero by 2050. £12bn of support already ringfenced to achieve this. The potential for tidal energy in the Severn Estuary is being explored, as well as opportunities for hydrogen.
· Connectivity - also a Welsh and UK Government priority. The partnership was focussing on Strategic rail infrastructure and mapping the 2050 ‘ideal’ national and regional rail network to understand where the gaps existed, what the carbon savings could be from achieving a modal-shift, and what the economic benefits would be for the region.
The partnership board were also committed to improving the profile and prominence of the Western Gateway through targeted communications and events. A key event would be the Inaugural Conference which due to be held on 8 March 2022 at the ICCW. A wider Communications and Engagement plan was also being developed which would see the production of a new prospectus and the redesign and rebranding of the website.
The partnership board was keen to have a presence at prominent international events, including MIPIM in June, where the opportunities of the region could be promoted to international companies and investors. The Western Gateway would be hosted on existing stands occupied by the West of England Combined Authority and Cardiff Capital Region/Cardiff. There was also interest in having a dedicated area at the UK Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum in May. As part of the Western Gateway, Newport would have a presence at these events and promotional material is being developed to showcase Newport to an international and influential audience.
The partnership operated under Standing Orders and Terms of Reference agreed ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
The Leader provided Cabinet with an update on the above report.
Following the last report to this Cabinet in January, the Omicron variant peaked across Newport and Wales. But over the last couple of weeks the case rate has significantly dropped.
In response the Welsh Government eased restrictions back to level 0 meaning households and businesses could return back to normal business but maintaining the need for social distancing and face coverings when entering indoor venues and public transport.
The Welsh Government’s position is for public sector services to work from home where it was possible.
Council services continued to operate as normal to the best of their ability but there remained ongoing demand and pressures within some front-line services.
Both this report and the EU Transition report were highlighting the ongoing pressures and uncertainty many households are facing across Newport and Wales with the cost of living crisis caused by rising energy, food and fuel costs.
Both Newport Council and the Welsh Government were supporting households and businesses that were struggling to meet these pressures. Newport Council committed an additional £100,000 towards tackling the food poverty supporting food charities and groups.
We were also supporting the Welsh Government’s Winter Fuel Support scheme which was extended to 28 February and amounts increased from £100 to £200.
As Elected Members of Newport it was important that we supported struggling households and people helping them to find the right support and guidance during this difficult time.
Comments from Cabinet Members:
§ Councillor Truman took the opportunity to thank Environmental and Trading Standards Teams who reprised their role in track and trace over Christmas period because of the Omicron spike and had now continued their inspections. The Cabinet agreed and the Leader also thanked staff for their continued support.
§ Councillor Davies added that in light of the omicron variant, schools planned to manage during an increase in sickness levels. It was admirable to note that teachers adapted to ensure that school classes were not closed down. It was difficult not having teaching and support staff at full capacity and were thanked for their efforts, as well as the Education Service for their tireless and continued support.
§ Councillor Jeavons thanked City Services for their contribution and their continuous refuse collections through omicron and the adverse weather. The Deputy Leader also thanked staff for the Winter maintenance regime.
Cabinet considered and noted the contents of the report and for Cabinet / Cabinet Members to receive updates from officers as part of their portfolio.
The Leader presented the report and informed colleagues on the progress to date. It was over a year since the UK left the European Union and Single Market.
Throughout the year we continued to see widespread impacts not only from leaving the EU but also due to the global impacts of Covid as economies have seen increased demands and supplies have been 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 had 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 offering to provide debt advice, training, and employment opportunities.
Newport Council continued to administer grants and financial support to households and businesses in the City.
· This included processing over 7,000 applications for Winter Fuel applications and paying the grant to 6,253 households
· For businesses, Non-Domestic Rates grants have been paid to 510 businesses totalling £1.3m.
It was important for households that were eligible for the grant to apply and provide support to their energy costs during this difficult time.
Also, for Businesses in Newport it was important to apply for the Non-Domestic Rate grant and also to visit our website and Business Wales to see what financial support and advice was provided.
For the City’s EU / EAA citizens living in Newport, over 10,000 applications for settled status have been concluded with 920 applications awaiting a decision (based on Home Office figures to September 2021).
Cabinet reiterated its support for EU/EAA citizens living and working in Newport and that they all had a part to play in making Newport a great city to live and work in.
This Cabinet encouraged anyone still awaiting a decision or having difficulties to conclude their application to contact the Council and other organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau.
Newport Council and its partners continued to engage and involve residents from the EU. Feedback from these events was important for us to understand how we could continue to support our citizens.
It was encouraging to see that 85% of EU citizens that attended the events felts happy living in Newport but we Cabinet was aware of the ongoing challenges they faced to ensure that Newport remained a safe and welcoming city.
The Council continued to see an increase in the number of EU and non-EU nationals needing support from Council services but did not have any recourse to public funds.
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 from Cabinet Members:
§ Councillor Harvey asked that those residents who had not applied for assistance, to contact their ward councillors who would help them apply for grants as outlined by the ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
This was the regular monthly report on the work programme.
Please move acceptance of the updated programme.
Cabinet agreed the Work Programme.