Venue: Committee Room 1 - Civic Centre
Contact: Anne Jenkins, Governance Team Leader Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for Absence
Declarations of Interest
Minutes from 28 April were confirmed as a true record.
The Leader presented the Corporate
Risk Register Update (Q4) report to Cabinet for their
consideration. This was an update for
the end of Quarter Four (1 January 2022
to 31 March 2022).
The Council’s Risk
Management Policy and Corporate Risk Register effectively
identified, managed and monitored those
risks which could prevent the Council from achieving its objectives
in the Corporate Plan (2017-22) and to undertake statutory duties
as a local authority.
The Quarter four risk
report would also be presented to the Council’s Governance
and Audit Committee in July 2022 to review the Council’s risk
management process and governance arrangements.
At the end of quarter four
the Council had 44 risks recorded across the Council’s eight
The risks that were deemed
to pose the most significant risk in the delivery of the
Council’s Corporate Plan and services were escalated to the
Council’s Corporate Risk Register for monitoring.
At the end of quarter three, 16 risks were recorded in the Corporate Risk Register; these being nine Severe Risks (15 to 25) and seven Major Risks (7 to 14).
In comparison to quarter
three, there were no new and/or escalated risks and no risks were
Twelve risks remained at the same score as quarter three.
Two risks (Safeguarding
risk and In Year Financial Management) were de-escalated from the
Corporate Risk Register to Service area risk registers for
One risk (Pressure on
Housing and Homelessness service) increased from 16 to
Three risks (Covid-19 Pandemic outbreak, Demand for Additional Learning Needs and Special Education Needs support, and Schools Finance / Cost pressures) had their risk scores decreased.
The Leader went on to highlight further decreased risks, these included:
Safeguarding Risk (Children Services) and In Year
At the end of the quarter, the Covid-19 Pandemic Outbreak (20 to 16) risk score reduced following Welsh Government’s announcement on easing restrictions.
Cabinet agreed to an additional £.12M to address the discrepancy between the funding to statemented pupils and their actual costs, in relation to Demand for Additional Learning Needs and Special Education Needs support (16 to 12).
Schools Finance / Cost Pressures (12 to 9) decreased as those schools currently subject to the Deficit Recovery process were each demonstrating much improved financial positions. Two of these three schools were expected to end the 2021/22 financial year in surplus, and only one school is considered as likely to need to submit an application for a further licence for the 2022/23 financial year.
WG Covid related guidance in relation to Pressure on Housing and Homelessness Service (16 to 20) continued. There were consistently over 400 households in temporary accommodation, with less than 20 being rehoused each month due to the lack of availability of permanent accommodation. In the absence of the Covid-19 Hardship Fund for 2022-23, additional grant funding was awarded by WG to support the authority to continue to meet the requirement to accommodate a high number of homeless households. This funding, however, would not fully meet the additional costs of ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
The Leader referred to Council in November 2021, where Council declared an Ecological and Climate emergency. As part of the declaration, the Council pledged to develop a city-wide Local Area Energy Plan. With this in mind, the Leader was pleased to present that plan to Cabinet.
Over the last year, the Council
collaborated with stakeholders from the public, private and third
sectors to develop the plan which set out a vision and route map
for reaching a zero-carbon local energy system for the whole of
Newport by 2050.
The plan built on the city’s existing strengths, including our industrial heritage and our track record of innovation, and would enable us, as a local authority, to support residents and businesses in Newport to decarbonise heat, electricity and local transport and realise local renewable energy production.
This was another positive step on the way to decarbonising Newport and tackling climate change in our city.
The Leader invited the Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Biodiversity, Councillor Forsey to comment.
Councillor Forsey was pleased to see the final draft of this plan. It was an ambitious plan, of which the Cabinet Member would monitoring progress closely and requesting regular progress updates to ensure that the Council continued to proceed at the speed that would be required.
There were some uncertainties on the pathway to 2050, but seven priority areas of work were identified and key actions for each of these areas would be undertaken for the first five years. Support from a wide range of stakeholders and partners was recognised, to deliver this plan and the Cabinet Member looked forward to working together across the city with residents, businesses and public and third sector organisations.
Comments of Cabinet Members:
· Councillor Davies mentioned that this was being implemented when the Cabinet Member portfolio was handed over to Councillor Hughes. It was exciting to be part of the first steps with Conwy. The key priorities to make the changes to Newport an innovative place to be and a credit was given to those involved in the plan. We were leading the way, in Wales to be carbon neutral by 2050 but could not do this in isolation therefore working with businesses and WG in tandem was important.
· Councillor Hughes paid tribute to those officers who was involved within the plan and, as Councillor Davies had previously mentioned, Newport had led the way on this and therefore fully supported the report.
The Leader thanked Cabinet Members for their valued contribution.
Cabinet approved the draft city-wide Local Area Energy Plan for the whole Newport Local Authority area.
The Leader reminded colleagues that Cabinet previously agreed to seek an alternative commercial use for the ground and first floor of the Information Station and relocate staff and services to the Central Library and Museum building. Officers were working on the delivery of this project and to date had managed to agree heads of terms with Tramshed Tech as the operator of the proposed tech hub and co-working space. The Council had also secured £1.3m of Welsh Government Transforming Towns funding for the refurbishment of part of the Central Library and Museum to provide a new face to face facility.
There was extensive and protracted negotiations with the landlord of the Information Station with regard to the sub-lease to Tramshed Tech, however the Leader was pleased to advise Cabinet a point was reached where those overarching consents were in place. What also occurred in the intervening period, however, was a global increase in price for construction projects. Unfortunately, this resulted in the cost of delivering this project increasing by £140,000.
Despite the cost increases,
this project provided the Council with an opportunity to deliver
new co working and tech hub space in the City Centre. This would build upon and improve current access
to co-working space and strengthen our ambition to be a centre for
data and tech. Furthermore, by
co-locating our face-to-face service alongside our central library
service, our residents would have better access to a wider range of
support and services all in the same place.
Current tender prices were only held until the 30 June 2022 and any further delay in finalising the lease to Tramshed Tech and appointing contractors presented a real risk of costs increasing further. The Leader recognised that the increase in project costs puts added pressure on financial resources but given the amount of external funding secured and the benefits which flowed from this project for residents and businesses, the Leader proposed Cabinet endorse the report and support the increased budget requested.
Comments of Cabinet Members:
· Councillor Harvey welcomed the report and mentioned that there had been so many delays and was therefore behind the project and eager for the work to commence. The Leader shared the Cabinet Member’s sentiment.
Cabinet agreed to meet the increased costs of the project in order to allow the proposal to proceed.
The Leader mentioned that Cabinet colleagues would recall that the UK Government launched a £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund last year. Round 1 bidding took place last year and Newport put forward a proposal which focussed on public realm investment opportunities around the Newport Station area. Unfortunately, the Council was not successful with that bid but UK Government had now opened bidding for round 2. This remained a competitive bidding process and up to £20m of capital funding was available for regeneration and cultural projects. The deadline for the submission was 6 July 2022.
Newport was identified as a Priority 1 area and whilst this provided an advantage in terms of hierarchy of need, it remained a competitive process and funding would be awarded on the basis of the quality of the bid and not priority status.
The Leader was very pleased to present this report requesting Cabinet’s approval to submit a round 2 bid which focussed on the creation of a City of Newport National Technology Institute. This new Technology Institute would be based in the City centre and would complement and build upon the delivery of the Newport Knowledge quarter. This facility would be delivered in collaboration with Cardiff Capital Region, Further and Higher Education, business and industry experts, and employers. The focus would be on delivering targeted and focused courses and qualifications where employer demand was greatest. It was expected to:
§ significantly increase the number of learners with higher technical qualifications
§ provide the skills that employers need, both now and in the future, which were crucial to local, regional and national productivity growth
§ attract a diverse range of learners to address the lack of diversity in some parts of the technical workforce, to maximise their social as well as economic impact, and
§ support adult learners, whether in employment or not, who want flexible access to higher-level education
This would be a different offer to existing Further Education and Higher Education provision and local partners were supportive of this bid. It was important to acknowledge that this bid was developed as a result of ongoing feedback from employers and representatives through our regional and local partnerships. Our employers and businesses were telling us that they desperately needed a pipeline of suitably qualified and trained people in the local area to meet their current needs and enable their businesses to grow. Newport had already seen how alternative offers such as the National Software Academy and the Cyber Security Academy could succeed, and this concept expanded on those offers.
The Leader reiterated that this was a competitive process, with no guarantee of success. There may or may not be a third round of funding and the Council needed to pursue all grant funding opportunities available in order deliver on ambitious regeneration plans for the City Centre.
Comments of Cabinet Members:
· Councillor Lacey, with an IT background herself, the Cabinet Member fully supported the report and felt it was an exciting move for the future generations in ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
The Leader presented the
report. Before Cabinet was
the 2021/22 Outturn on Treasury Management. This
report was reviewed by the Governance and Audit Committee, with no
comments or observations requiring the Cabinet’s or the
Council’s attention were made. From here, it would go to full
Council who were responsible for setting the Council’s
Treasury Management strategy and the various indicators and limits
that managed this activity.
The report explained the
Council’s borrowing and investing activities in 2021/22 and
its position against the indicators and limits set.
Regarding borrowing, a substantial difference could be viewed relative to the expected position. The Council had a long-term requirement to borrow and in pursuing an internal borrowing strategy, should normally have minimal investments (spare cash) which it invested over the short term.
This second year of significant underspending and the resulting increase in reserves which have yet to be spent also meant that cash resources were much higher than expected. This allowed some small maturing loans to be repaid without re-financing and for spare cash levels to be high and invested.
As outlined in the report, this
was a temporary position and as the Council worked to catch up on
capital projects and with the financial support linked to Covid now
ended, cash resources and investments would reduce, then borrowing
resume, in line with requirements over time.
Officers were undertaking a detailed review of the capital programme to gain a better understanding of delivery timescales, and this would be reported to Cabinet in due course.
On the indicators and limits, the report highlighted one area where these were not met, which was unusual.
The indicator related to the Council’s exposure to interest rate changes. Borrowing costs increased if the interest rate increased and our income from investing activities would reduce if the interest rate dropped.
It could be noted that the issue was highlighted due to a different interpretation of our LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loans as variable interest loans rather than fixed interest rate loans. It was therefore more of a ‘technical’ issue as opposed to one caused by borrowing decisions made. Indeed, the report confirmed that given the nature of these LOBO loans, if the interest rate did increase; the Council would be more likely to make a budgetary saving rather than being exposed to the risk of costs increasing.
Regarding the limit, this breach occurred because amounts invested was much greater than that envisaged when setting the indicator. Again, this was of no concern as the Council’s budget target for interest receivable had not changed and even if rates decreased; it would not impact on that budget.
It should be noted that managing the Council’s cash-flows was particularly challenging over these last ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
Since the last report in April, the Leader advised that the Welsh Government announced the removal of the last legal restrictions for people to wear face coverings in health and care settings.
People were still being asked
to self-isolate if they displayed symptoms and/or test positive for
covid. Vaccinations were offered to over 75s who could still
receive the vaccine if they had not done to date. Further
vaccinations would be offered in the autumn for residents in care
home settings (including staff), frontline health and social care
workers and adults aged 65 and over; and those in clinical risk
group (16 to 65).
Covid financial support for
those self-isolating and unable to work from home would be coming
to an end at the end of June. Other
financial support was continuing to be offered to households and
businesses that were struggling post pandemic and through the
increasing cost of living.
Various schemes were available from the Council and Welsh Government for households and businesses to access. On behalf of this Cabinet and Councillors across Newport, people were encouraged to contact the Council if they were struggling or required assistance.
Restrictions at Council
buildings were removed in line with Welsh Government
guidance. Office based staff were still
encouraged to work from home and to only work at Council buildings
if it was necessary.
The Council’s New Normal
project is finalising its policy and procedures to fully undertake
hybrid and flexible working.
The Council welcomed new and existing Councillors following the local elections and successfully conducted its first hybrid Council meeting. Cabinet looked forward to future scrutiny and regulatory meetings using this technology.
The Leader invited Cabinet Members to highlight work in their portfolios:
Comments of Cabinet Members:
· Councillor Harvey stressed that members of the public must try to apply for some form of benefit if they were struggling and to contact the council as a matter of priority. The Cabinet Member thanked all the teams and officers for their help for the last two years, adding that people must never take their friends and family for granted and neither must Cabinet take officers for granted. The Leader echoed comments and thanked previous Cabinet colleagues in their responses and actions to the unprecedented situation.
· Councillor Davies also echoed the Leader’s and Councillor Harvey’s thanks. There was concern during last year that exams would not go ahead however, they were now in full swing and it was tough at the time for pupils as they did not have the opportunity to access education in the normal way. Supportive measures were in place by the WG and Councillor Davies was pleased to report that across Newport, exams were going really well. The Cabinet Member thanked staff in Newport schools who helped pupils to take their next steps.
· Councillor Marshall attended a foster carers event and where he received positive feedback about the council over the course of the last two years.
· Councillor Lacey added that it was so nice to see the community ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
The Leader presented to Cabinet an update on the post EU Transition and wider economic and global challenges impacting Newport’s communities and economy
Since the last report in April,
households and businesses were continuing to see increases in their
general cost of living.
Inflation was reported at 7.8%
to April 2022 and was expected to continue rising. Businesses were also having to pass on increased
costs to the consumer.
Many low to middle income households were having to make very difficult decisions between food, utility bills and transport.
The UK energy regulator Ofgem already indicated that the fuel cap would rise to £2,800 in October.
The Council’s Council Tax team encouraged households in bands A to D to claim the £150 cost of living payment.
A further announcement would be made by the Council on the provision of an additional £1.2m support for most vulnerable households.
The Welsh Government’s campaign ‘Claim What’s Yours’ was also available for people to access benefits to assist them with the help they needed.
Newport Council was also offering a £500 payment for unpaid carers who look after someone for 35 hours or more and were on low incomes.
Businesses in the City were also able to claim rate relief from the Council. Grants were also available to start up and existing businesses.
Council made £100k available earlier in 2022 to support the City’s foodbanks. Newport Council was now working in partnership GAVO offering capital grants for foodbank and community organisations to deliver food security projects.
Cardiff Capital Region was leading on delivering the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund. Newport City Council was developing its local investment plan to support the delivery of local priorities for communities across Newport. A further announcement would be made in due course by this Cabinet on the Plan.
The Leader turned to the citizens of Newport, a city that recognised the contribution of its residents in making Newport a rich, diverse and inclusive place to live. Citizens had been welcomed from across the world and supported those seeking refuge and safety in Newport and Wales.
The Council and its partners continued to support EU/EAA citizens with their Settled Status claims and ensuring citizens were able to access the services they need.
The war in Ukraine caused the displacement of many tens of thousands of Ukrainian people from their homes. Ukrainians arriving in Newport and Wales were being supported by the Council, health, school, and community groups to settle in the city. In the last month Newport Council and partners approved 80 visa applications issued in connection with 52 active Ukrainian placements across 22 sponsors.
Council services had undertaken additional responsibility, helping to process applications, complete necessary safeguarding checks and administer financial payments to host and Ukrainians.
The Council’s schools also welcomed Ukrainian children into their school communities and helped them to settle into the schools.
The Leader thanked everyone that opened up their homes to accommodate Ukrainian families during this time of crisis. Also outstanding achievement from local charity ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
Please move acceptance of the updated programme.
Cabinet agreed the Work Programme.