Minutes 26th September 2014

 

Wales- fav

NORTH & MID WALES ASSOCIATION OF LOCAL COUNCILS

MINUTES

of the Special Meeting held on
Friday 26th September 2014 at 10.30am
at the The Royal Oak Welshpool

Present were:

Officers: Cllr Derek Hainge (Chair), Cllr Eva Butler (Vice Chair), Robert Robinson (Secretary & Treasurer), Cllr K Stone  (Vice President)

ABERGELE TOWN COUNCIL Cllr B C Roberts, Mandy Evans Clerk
ARGOED COMMUNITY COUNCIL Cllr R Hampson Jones
BANGOR CITY COUNCIL See officers
BAY OF COLWYN TOWN COUNCIL Cllr Lindsay Griffiths, Cllr Mrs H Meredith, Cllr Mrs Roy
BUCKLEY TOWN COUNCIL Cllr A Williams, Cllr J Woolley
CAERWYS TOWN COUNCIL Cllr J Webb
CONNAH’S QUAY TOWN COUNCIL Cllr P Attridge, Ian Jones (Clerk)
CONWY TOWN COUNCIL Cllr H Roberts
FLINT TOWN COUNCIL Cllr Terry Renshaw, Cllr David Cox, A Loveridge Town Clerk
HOLYWELL TOWN COUNCIL Cllr P York

LLANFAIR CAEREINION TOWN COUNCIL Cllr K Astley
LLANDUDNO TOWN COUNCIL Cllr T Davies
LLANFAIRFECHAN TOWN COUNCIL Cllr C Gell Mayor
PRESTATYN TOWN COUNCIL N Acott
RUTHIN TOWN COUNCIL Cllr E Wyn
TOWYN AND KINMELL BAY TOWN COUNCIL Cllr M Roberts

WELSHPOOL TOWN COUNCIL Cllr Ann Holloway, Cllr Estelle Bleivas, Cllr Hazel Evans, Cllr Steve Kaye  (Deputy Mayor of Welshpool)

 

Apologies were received from:

President & Rhyl Town Council: Cllr J Butterfield

Abergele Community Council:  Cllr J McLennan, Cllr Waters

Argoed Community Council: Cllr M Joines, Cllr J Norwood

Bagillt Community Council: Cllr C R Willaims

Bay of Colwyn Council: Cllr Mrs Roy, Tina Early Town Clerk

Buckley Town Council: Cllr A Woolley

Connah’s Quay Town Council: Cllr R Hill, Cllr Carol Grainger

Holywell Town Council: C Pierce Clerk, Cllr Karin Davies, Cllr P Curtiss

Llanfair Caereinion Town Council: Viki Griffiths Clerk

Llandudno Town Council: Cllr Brian Bertola

Llanasa Town Council: Cllr D Banks

Llandrino & Ardleen Communty Council: C Davies (Clerk)

Llandysilio Community Council: C Davies (Clerk), Cllr Frances Buckingham

Meinai  Bridge Town Council: Cllr M Davies, Cllr H Hunt Mayor, Ms L Powell Town Clerk

Prestatyn Town Council: Cllr J McLellan, Cllr J S Galro, Cllr R Cooper

Rhyl Town Council: Cllr J Chamberlain-Jones, Cllr D Simmons G Nickels Clerk

St Asaph Town Council: Cllr Elsie Powell, Cllr Barbara Rust

Town and Kinmell Bay Town Council: Hazel Parkes Clerk, Cllr B McLaughlin

1707. Welcome by Deputy Mayor of Welshpool Town Council

Cllr Steve Kaye welcomed the delegates to the meeting held at the Royal Oak Hotel.

1708. Notice of the meeting
The notice of the meeting was received.

1709. Attendance and apologies list
The meeting completed the attendance and apologies list as above.
The meeting was informed that Cllr Brian Bertola was ill in hospital. The Association agreed to send a get well card.

1710. Presentation on Local Government Re-organisation
The Secretary gave a presentation on the various elements, as known, of the local government re-organisation including both the County Councils and the future of Town and Community Councils.
A copy of the presentation is to be posted on the web site.

1711. Discussion points
The meeting held a general discussion and the following points were made:

County Council
The following comments related to County Councils:

(i) Double taxation is not acceptable in the delivery of services.
(ii) Concern over precept being higher in some Counties compared to
others which will mean an increase in the lower precepted area.
(iii) There is a need to find out how the £200m to £400m figure was
reached as a the cost of the County re-organisation.
iv) A lot more information is required to make objective decisions.
v) The County Councils should have an overall plan which they should
be working towards, in this way clarity can be given to the role of
Town and Community Councils in the delivery and protection of
services.
vi) There is a need to remind the Welsh Government of the contents
of the Williams Report and its findings which differ from what is
now proposed.
vii) There does not appear to any move by the Welsh Government or
County Councils to seek the public view on paying more in tax
to keep the services which are being cut or removed.

Town and Community Councils
The following comments related to Town and Community Councils:

i) It was observed that Town and Community Councils have many
powers but few duties. Until many services are a duty direct funding
will not be available from the Welsh Government.
ii) Representation was an issue if Town and Community Councils are
combined substantially reducing the number of Councillors.
iii) Timescales was an issue with the service cuts coming ahead of
any enlarging of Councils.
iii) Taking over of County Council Staff was an issue with regard to
the generous terms and conditions upon which many are employed.
iv) When taking on County Council Staff care should be taken that
Town and Community Councils are not inheriting any pension deficit.
v) If Town and Community Councillors are required to put in more time
consideration should be given to some form of remuneration.
vi) There may need to be a financial provision for translations and
bi-lingual paperwork.
vii) As Town and Community Councils grow there maybe a need for
a separate Town Clerk and RFO.
viii) It is not clear who would pay for any costs in amalgamating
Town and Community Councils.
ix) The representation role of Town and Community Councils was
considered very important.
x) Town and Community Councils may wish to ascertain what their
electorate would want in the way of service delivery.
xi) It varied from area to area with regard to re-actions to large increases
in Town or Community Council taxation.
xii) There is the issue of County Councils not making it clear what their
longer term plans are.
xii) Suggestion that all Leaders of County Councils should be made
aware of the Association comments.
xiii) Concern was expressed about Neighbourhood Management as opposed to Town and Community Councils.
xiv) Some Town Councils have elected to stop and wait to see what happens.
xv) Various updates were given on each Councils approach at this stage
to service delivery. These varied from waiting to see what happens to
giving the County Council a list of services the Town Council wishes
to take over.
xvi) The old issue of the County Council providing finance to help with the
running of services was raised.
xvii) The issue of disabled candidates was raised looking for a ‘level playing
field’.
xviii) The Power of Wellbeing has a cap on how much can be spent and this
needs to be taken into account. (cap due to be removed or reviewed
soon).
xix) A strong feeling that the public should be asked what they want their
Town or Community Council to do was evident.

When the Town and Community Council white paper comes out later in the Autumn the Secretary will prepare a response taking into account the above comments. The response will be posted on the web site for comment before it is sent to the Minister.

1712. Response to White Paper of 8th July 2014
The meeting AGREED that the Secretary should respond to the Welsh Government as per letter attached to these minutes at appendix A.

1713. Mid Wales Health Study
The meeting was issued with a copy of the completed survey, a full copy is also on the web site at www.midwaleshealthstudy.orguk

1714. North Wales Health Study
Ian Jones gave an update on the North Wales Health Study which can be accessed via the Association Web Site at www.northwalesassociation.or.uk
Responses are coming in but all are encouraged to support the study by encouraging people to complete the survey by 7th November 2014.

1715. Rail Services
The Secretary updated the meeting on the Cambrian Line improved rail services from May 2015. There is some changes to improve the North Coast Line which can be published in January/February 2015 which in turn affect the Wrexham Shrewsbury train line (early morning train).

1716. Dates of the next meeting
To note the date of the next meetings as follows:
Friday 24th October 2014 at 10.30am at the Civic Halls Connah’s Quay

APPENDIX A

Devolution, Democracy and Delivery White Paper – Reforming Local Government

Consultation Response Form

Robert Robinson FRICS AILCM
North and Mid Wales Association of Local Councils
Tel no 01938 553142
Town.clerk@welshpooltowncouncil.gov.uk

Triangle House Union Street Welshpool Powys SY21 7PG

The future of Local Government – what should we expect of Local Authorities?

Q1
How can Local Authorities engage more effectively with their communities, about the challenges of sustaining services as they are currently delivered and the need for change?

The current consultation process used is not a consultation (from many reports) but an information session with questions.
One question that does not appear to have been asked of the electorate is ‘would you play more Council tax to retain the services’.

Q2
What more could the Welsh Government do to assist Authorities with this dialogue to improve their performance in the delivery of priority services?

There is a need for County Councils to be clear about where they wish to get to in planning terms over the coming months.
There is not enough information passed to Town and Community Councils about what services the Counties wish to pass down to them.
Q3
What specific suggestions do you have for reducing and simplifying administration which would free up time and resources to deliver and improve services?

The best way of delivery a lot of the local services is by devolution to Town and Community Councils. However recommendation 27 of the Williams Report needs to be implemented first in many cases.
Q4
What specific changes should be made to the way in which Local Authorities are currently constituted to ensure openness, transparency and clarity of accountability?

No comment other than to concur that transparency is very important.

Q5
How should the scrutiny support programme be shaped to support improvements in the effectiveness of scrutiny?

No comment.

Q6
In what other ways should scrutiny be strengthened to drive service improvement?

Less ‘red tape’ and more target based management to achieve results in a timely manner.
Q7
How might governance and scrutiny of strategic service and financial decisions be best secured?
No comment.
Q8
What suggestions do you have to ensure communities have an effective voice in the decision making process of the new Authorities?
Representation of the ward Councillors at Town and Community Council level is very important along with the role of the County ward Councillors.

Q9
What sort of consultation, engagement and feedback processes should the new Authorities have with communities?

The County Councils have held consultations but with little direction or clarity for the public or the Local Councils.
Consultations should lead with all speed to an overall plan.

Q10
How can we best engage with Local Government to take forward a programme of Local Government reform?

By involving the Town and Community Councils through all avenues including the North and Mid Wales Association of Local Councils (36 members – mainly larger Councils in Mid and North Wales)
Q11
How can we help and encourage Local Authorities to be more proactive in identifying and responding to delivery or governance issues?

No comment.

Q12
What should be the principles and standards for performance management and performance reporting across Local Authorities, and the broader public sector?

There should be more duties as well as powers passed to Town and Community Councils leaving County Councils to deliver the overall strategic services. In this way local decisions will be made by local people.

Q13
In what ways could we more effectively use the money we invest in supporting Local Authority improvement?

No comment.

The future shape of Local Government

Q14
Do you have specific suggestions for powers and responsibilities which could be considered for devolution to the new Authorities?

The Authorities should get right the services they run at present before any consideration of further services is considered.

The County Councils should work urgently on a plan of ‘where they wish to be in 5 years time’ and then work backwards to the current date in how to achieve the goal. At present this does not appear to be happening with ‘salami slicing’ of services causing some concern.
Q15
Does anything else need to be covered in a power to achieve a voluntary merger?

No comments on this issue.

Q16
Is your Authority considering submitting a proposal for voluntary merger?

Not applicable.
Q17
Is there anything else we need to do in order to ensure LDBCW is able to effectively consider and make recommendations for electoral arrangements in the proposed Authorities?

The electoral boundaries of Town and Community Councils should be addressed as an issue at an early stage. The Williams Report recommends the combining or enlarging of Town and Community Councils in its recommendation 27. The aid the devolution and protection of services this recommendation should be brought forward with all speed.
Q18
Is there anything else we need to do in order to ensure the IRP is able to effectively consider and make recommendations for payments to councillors in the proposed merged Authorities and any preceding shadow authorities?

No comment other than payments should be realistic.

Q19
Do you agree the proposed power for the Welsh Ministers will be sufficient for disposal of property and assets? If you do not agree the proposed power will be sufficient, what specific problems do you envisage?

The sale of assets should be completed (where it is necessary) is a correct manner which means good advice from external professionals (Chartered Surveyors) and their advice on gaining best value should be followed. This may mean not seeking tenders or going to action but other means.

Q20
What sort of assistance or guidance might Local Authorities need?

Guidance on how to merge without the loss of services and without double taxation issues coming into play.

Q21
Is there anything else which should be specified for joint transition committees to do in preparing for a merger of their authorities?

No comment.

Q22
What other powers might the Welsh Ministers require to prevent harmful damaging behaviour?

No comment.

Q23
What should be the role and responsibilities of the Staff Commission?

The Association is concerned that with devolution of services from County to Town or Community Councils there are major staffing issues such as:
i) The over generous packages a lot of County Staff enjoy and which
Town and Community Councils can not afford.
ii) The possible taking over of staff with pensions which have a
liability to a deficit.

Q24
Is anything else needed to prepare the way for merging Local Authorities?

The Association feels that the mergers need to be implemented as soon as possible so that clarity is gained at an early stage.

Q25
What would be the most equitable approach to raising revenues for local services?

The Town and Community Councils should be given more duties and with that create more direct funding from the Welsh Government.
The delivery of many local services can be done with less ‘red tape’ and cost to the ratepayer.

Other issues
Q26
We have asked a number of specific questions. If you have any related issues which we have not specifically addressed, please use this space to report them:
The following comments are those made by the Association membership at their meeting on 26th September 2014:

1. (i) Double taxation is not acceptable in the delivery of services.
(ii) Concern over precept being higher in some Counties compared
To others which will mean an increase in the lower precepted
area.
(iii) There is a need to find out how the £200m to £400m figure was
reached as a the cost of the County re-organisation.
iv) A lot more information is required to make objective decisions.
v) The County Councils should have an overall plan which they
should
be working towards, in this way clarity can be given to the role of
Town and Community Councils in the delivery and protection of
services.
vi) There is a need to remind the Welsh Government of the
contents of the Williams Report and its findings which differ from
what is now proposed.
vii) There does not appear to any move by the Welsh Government
or County Councils to seek the public view on paying more in
tax to keep the services which are being cut or removed.

The Association is willing to give oral evidence if the Welsh Government felt that this would be helpful.