ENVIRONMENTAL & PUBLIC PROTECTION
9th DECEMBER 2013
(NOTE: THESE MINUTES ARE SUBJECT TO CONFIRMATION BY THE COMMITTEE AT ITS NEXT MEETING)
Councillor A.P. Cooper (Chair)
R. Bartlett, J. Davies, I.J. Jackson (Vice-Chair), A. James, W.J. Lemon, A.D.T. Speake, W.G. Thomas
Also in attendance:
Councillor W.T. Evans – Substitute for Councillor L.D. Evans
Councillor D.M. Jenkins – Substitute for Councillor A. Davies
Councillor G.O. Jones – Substitute for Councillor D.E. Williams
Councillor T. Theophilus – Substitute for Councillor D.B. Davies
Councillor D.C. Evans – Executive Board Member for Technical Services
Councillor T.J. Jones – Executive Board Member for Environmental & Public Protection
The following officers were in attendance:
Mr. R. Workman – Director of Technical Services
Mr. M. Cresci – Head of Street-Scene
Mr. P. Davies – Head of Public Protection
Mr. P. Lumley – Head of Property Services
Mr. C. Moore – Head of Financial Services
Mr. S. Pilliner – Head of Transport & Engineering
Mrs. E. Rees – Group Accountant
Ms. K. Thomas – Community Safety Manager
Mr. A. Williams – Street-Scene Manager
Mr. M. Hughes – Assistant Consultant
Present as observers:
Mrs. G. Ayers – Corporate Policy & Partnership Manager
Mr. B. Jenkins – Graduate Trainee Accountant
Ms. H. Siggery – Graduate Trainee Accountant
Venue: Chamber, County Hall, Carmarthen (10:00am – 1:15pm)
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors A. Davies, D.B. Davies, L.D. Evans, J.P. Jenkins, K.P. Thomas and D.E. Williams.
2. DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL INTEREST
Nature of Interest
Cllr. D.C. Evans
4. Revenue Budget Strategy Consultation 2014/15 to 2016/17
Member of Ammanford Town Council
Cllr. A. James
4. Revenue Budget Strategy Consultation 2014/15 to 2016/17
Local member for Llangadog Ward in which All Waste Services Ltd. is located.
Cllr. D.M. Jenkins
4. Revenue Budget Strategy Consultation 2014/15 to 2016/17
Member of Cwmaman Town Council
Cllr. W.G. Thomas
4. Revenue Budget Strategy Consultation 2014/15 to 2016/17
Member of Llanelli Town Council and a Blue Badge holder
3. DECLARATION OF PROHIBITED PARTY WHIPS
There were no declarations of party whips.
4. REVENUE BUDGET STRATEGY CONSULTATION 2014/15 TO 2016/17
Councillor D.C. Evans had earlier declared a personal interest in that he is a member of Ammanford Town Council.
Councillor A. James had earlier declared a personal interest in that he is the local member for the Llangadog Ward in which All Waste Services Ltd. is located.
Councillor D.M. Jenkins had earlier declared a personal interest in that he is a member of Cwmaman Town Council.
Councillor W.G. Thomas had earlier declared a personal interest in that he is a member of Llanelli Town Council and a Blue Badge holder.
The Committee considered the Revenue Budget Strategy 2014/15 to 2016/17, which had been approved as a basis for consultation by the Executive Board on the 18th November 2013. The Committee noted that the report was based on officers’ projections of spend for the forthcoming year and that it took into account the provisional settlement issued by the Welsh Government on the 16th October 2013.
The Head of Financial Services informed the Committee that the report outlined the budgetary pressures facing the Council as well as the departmental submissions on efficiencies which had been discussed by members at a seminar held on the 21st October 2013. The Committee was informed that whilst significant work had already been undertaken in preparing the budget, this was only an initial position statement and that during the next two months, the budget would be further developed as figures were reviewed and public consultation undertaken.
The Director of Technical Services gave an overview of his departmental budget and also briefed the Committee on the Draft Waste Strategy Briefing Note (Appendix E) which had been included with the report. The Committee was informed that to meet future recycling targets (2025 target of 70% recycling), the Local Authority would need to sustain an incremental recycling performance gain of 2% per year. Therefore, to achieve this increase in performance, a five year Draft Waste Strategy (203/14 to 2017/18) had been developed to set out how the Authority intends to meet these targets. The Director also noted that the current budget proposals did not include funding for this additional work and that the strategy would have to be funded from within existing budgets.
The Head of Public Protection also gave an overview of his divisional budget and details of efficiencies being proposed. The Committee was reminded of the additional pressures faced by this service in implementing and enforcing new legislation from both UK and Welsh Governments, without any additional funding.
The following issues were raised in relation to the report and its appendices:
A question was asked as to whether a department’s underspend should be reinvested in that department completely to address budgetary pressures, rather than a percentage being reinvested corporately. The Head of Financial Services reminded the Committee that the policy of reinvesting a percentage of departmental underspends corporately, had been in place for many years. The policy appeared to work well as an incentive for departments to deal prudently with their allocated budgets and reduce unnecessary spending at the end of each financial year.
It was suggested that in addition to eliminating costly errors within different services, departments should be looking for more opportunities to generate income. It was suggested that the Technical Services Department should consider charging local businesses for erecting roadside advertisements and that a significant amount of income could be generated from this. The Director of Technical Services acknowledged that this suggestion had been made at a previous meeting and that whilst officers had investigated the matter further (including adverts on bus shelters), charging for advertising on highways was not considered to be a viable option especially due to restrictive highway and planning regulations.
Clarification was sought as to how the bridge assessment programme would be completed in accordance with EU directives but within the proposed budget constraints. The Street-Scene Manager informed the Committee that approximately 90% of the county’s bridges would have been assessed by the end of the current financial year and the remainder would have to be funded from other departmental budgets in order to meet the legislative requirements. A failure rate of approximately 25-30% had been recorded during the assessments which equated to a £12-16 million backlog in financial terms. The Authority was seeking to mitigate the impact by introducing traffic and weight restrictions on the affected bridges in order to prolong their operational life. In response to a further question, the Group Accountant informed the Committee that there was no provision for infrastructure projects under current EU funding. It was unlikely that future EU funding could be used for such work as it would be considered as maintenance and repair work, rather than a new infrastructure project. The Street-Scene Manager added that some of the Welsh Government’s Local Government Borrowing Initiative funding had been used for the structural rehabilitation and replacement works but this could only cover a fraction of the work required.
Concern was expressed at the potential impact on those living in rural areas of the county due to the reduction in funding for public transport and proposals for school and post-16 college transport. It was suggested that young people’s educational and career aspirations would be severely impacted should the proposals for home to college transport be approved. The Head of Transport & Engineering acknowledged that public transport was facing a very difficult future and that members were uneasy with the proposals. He stressed that the decision to put forward the proposals had not been taken lightly but having already delivered all efficiencies possible, the only remaining options available were from non-discretionary services. The Regional Transport budget had not yet been finalised but it was envisaged that details would be available in time for the member seminar on public transport, which would be arranged in early 2014.
Clarification was sought as to the conflicting information in Appendix A(ii) regarding statutory or non-statutory responsibilities in relation to flood defence and land drainage. Concern was also expressed at the damaging effects that the lack of investment could have on the county’s coastal defences, especially for new developments within the latest Local Development Plan. The Director of Technical Services acknowledged that this service should have been recorded as both statutory and non-statutory within the Appendix. He also reminded the Committee that any developments located within the new Local Development Plan would be subject to a Flood Consequence Assessment and that it was for the Planning Committee to ensure that these were undertaken for relevant developments.
Reference was made to the impact of the economic downturn on the income generated at car parks and it was asked whether residents and visitors were once again prepared to pay increased car parking charges. Clarification was also sought as to whether private car park operators had experienced a similar loss of income during the past few years. The Head of Transport & Engineering stated that the loss of income had been experienced across the public and private car parking sectors and added that the Local Authority’s charges were reasonable and competitive when compared with other neighbouring authority areas.
A question was asked as to whether the transport costs associated with MEP developments (e.g. Dyffryn Tywi) had been incorporated into the Technical Services departmental budget. The Head of Transport & Engineering confirmed that a detailed transport assessment had been undertaken for the new school in Ffairfach and although approximately £250,000 was provided for in the budget to cover transport provision, there was potential for the cost to increase to approximately £410,000, depending on pupils’ choice of schools.
Concerns were expressed regarding the proposal to cease the school crossing patrol service or to recover the cost of the service from individual schools and in response to a further question, the Head of Transport & Engineering confirmed that the proposal and the implications for schools were being discussed with the Education & Children Department as well as Legal Services.
In response to a question in relation to private sewer connections and non-agency pumping stations, the Head of Property Services informed the Committee that proposals for transferring responsibilities for the pumping stations to Welsh Water were being explored and that this could provide possible savings from 2017 onwards.
Reference was made to the charging for services such as MOT testing and whether these could be rounded up (e.g. £37 to £40) and in turn increase the income generated. The Head of Transport & Engineering informed the Committee that whilst this service was still being developed, there was reluctance to increase the charges until it was an established service. The Head of Public Protection also reminded the Committee that local authorities had to be careful in setting charges for specific services. Many, such as those within the Public Protection Division, were prescribed by central government and could not be increased by individual authorities. The Committee was informed that Westminster City Council had recently been taken to court by a private company which claimed that this Council’s charges were excessive compared with the actual cost of providing a particular service. The outcome of the case would have implications for local authorities across the UK.
A number of concerns were expressed regarding the increased charges for maintenance and repair of sports facilities and the potential impact on local clubs. The Executive Board Member for Street-Scene acknowledged the Committee’s concerns but stated that the current situation was inherently unfair and could not be allowed to continue. Some organisations currently benefited from the maintenance provided by the Local Authority at a heavily subsidised rate whilst other organisations undertook all ground maintenance work themselves. The Head of Property Services informed the Committee of the on-going dialogue with local community groups and community councils on transferring sports facilities and responsibilities for maintenance, to such organisations. There were numerous opportunities for community organisations as unlike the Local Authority, they could apply for a wide range of grants to fund maintenance and improvement projects (e.g. new drainage for pitches). He added that the Local Authority’s approach of engaging and negotiating with communities was far more lenient and proactive compared with the approaches seen in other counties and it was hoped that officers’ support and advice would enable clubs and communities to be ready to draw down grants and additional funding in due course.
Concern was expressed at the proposal to review the Household Waste Recycling Centre at Llangadog, currently operated by AWS Ltd. Clarification was sought as to what the review entailed and what future recycling provision would be in place for the residents in the north of the county. The Head of Street-Scene confirmed that the current agreement with AWS Ltd. was coming to an end in March 2014 and that discussions with the company would be commencing shortly. He added that a saving of approximately £250,000 per annum would be achieved by the non-renewal of the contract. In terms of future provision in the area, the Head of Street-Scene noted that there was a possibility of considering an enhanced ‘bring site’ model in Llangadog as an alternative solution to accommodate certain waste/recycling streams.
Clarification was sought on the proposal to cease free black bag provision as part of the Waste Strategy. The Head of Street-Scene noted that residual waste does not contribute to the overall recycling rates and that more needed to be done to increase recycling of waste food material. It was possible that instead of black bags, free biodegradable food bin liners would be issued both to promote the recycling of food waste and also to meet requirements of the new regional food waste treatment process, which would be unable to accept paper liners or food wrapped in waste paper. However, the Committee was reminded that there was potential of obtaining more recyclate from sorting black bags and that in the long term, it would be more cost effective to undertake sorting of residual waste than disposing of the material in landfill, due to the annual increase in landfill taxes.
Reference was made to the low recycling rates amongst English local authorities when compared with those in Wales and a question was asked whether more could be done to utilise ‘waste to energy’ processes, which is in common use in mainland Europe. The Director of Technical Services reminded the Committee that EU legislation prescribes how much waste can be sent to landfill and that each devolved body (e.g. Welsh and Scottish Assemblies) within the UK has taken its individual direction with regards to waste and recycling. The Welsh strategy target for recycling is currently 52% which will rise to 70% in 2025. Once a target of 70% is achieved, local authorities will be permitted to send the remaining residual waste to be incinerated which will be cheaper than burying it in landfill sites. The Director noted that the Authority was investigating future options for obtaining energy from waste.
4.1 The Corporate Budget Strategy for 2014/15 – 2016/17 be noted.
4.2 The proposals for delivery of efficiency savings in the Technical Services Department, Public Protection Division and Community Safety Service, be noted.
4.3 The Charging Digest for the Technical Services Department, Public Protection Division and Community Safety Service be endorsed.
The Committee resolved to suspend standing orders in order to complete its consideration of the remaining agenda items.
5. FIVE YEAR CAPITAL PROGRAMME – 2014/15 TO 2018/19
The Committee considered the Five Year Capital Programme report which provided members with an initial view of the programme for 2014/15 to 2018/19. The Head of Financial Services and the Director of Technical Services both gave a brief overview of the issues relating to the capital programme.
The following issues were discussed during consideration of the report:
In response to a query on the reinstatement of the Renewal Areas capital grant, the Head of Financial Services noted that if the grant is allocated on the same basis as 2013/14, the Authority will receive £851,000 per annum in 2014/15 and 2015/16. He added that in previous years the Authority had match-funded the grant but confirmation as to whether this would be required for 2014/15 had not been received to date.
Clarification was sought as to the location of the development site within the Llanelli Waterside Joint Venture area, whose sale could help fund a new leisure centre in Llanelli. The Head of Financial Services confirmed that the site in question was the Tesco development at Burry Port although the use of such funds for another development within the Joint Venture area, would be subject to Welsh Government approval.
Further to a query on external EU funding, the Head of Financial Services confirmed that £2.8m of EU funding had been factored into the capital programme for 2015/16 but this was subject to change as the future EU funding programme itself and allocation of funding had yet to be agreed.
UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the five year capital programme for 2014/15, 2014/15 and 2018/19 be endorsed.
6. FORTHCOMING ITEMS.
The Committee was provided with a list of forthcoming items to be considered at its next meeting scheduled for Monday 13th January 2014.
UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the list of forthcoming items be noted.