Carmarthenshire County Council

Cyngor Sir Gar

FORWARD WORK PROGRAMME

2012-2013

Working Together for a Better Carmarthenshire

Our Programme for a Better Carmarthenshire

Introduction

I have great pleasure in introducing this Forward Work Programme on behalf of the Executive Board. The programme sets out a range of exciting proposals in the fields of job creation and regeneration, education, housing, social care and much else besides.

Despite the financial difficulties facing local government, we have been able to maintain the momentum on our major strategic schemes. Many of these involve high profile projects – such as the Eastgate development in Llanelli, new schools and care homes. These projects are transforming the county, creating much needed jobs for local people and radically improving the facilities available to our residents.

But we will equally be focussing on our ‘bread and butter’ services on which local people depend. We are committed to maintaining services and ongoing improvement.

We welcome comment and constructive suggestions as to the priorities we have set out. Increasingly, we cannot deliver these things alone and depend on partners to help deliver this exciting agenda.

Working together, we can overcome the difficulties that we are facing, nationally and internationally, and deliver a better Carmarthenshire.

Cllr Kevin Madge, Leader

Promoting Local Democracy and Transparency

We will ensure that the council is open and transparent in everything we do. All our council meetings are already open to the public and we will seek to encourage more people to come along. We will also trial some forms of new technology to provide access to meetings and will continue to work with schools and colleges to encourage younger people in particular to take an active interest. We will continue to report annually on our performance and progress with major schemes. We will provide comparative data so that people can judge us against other local authorities. We will continue to consult local people on our major decisions and to tell us what they think of council services and how they could be improved.

We will identify an Executive Board Member with specific responsibility to work with Councillors and officers across the Council to ensure local people’s voices are clearly heard and listened to.

The Executive Board will ensure that it is visible and approachable and will embark on a series of public sessions in every part of the county, meeting with Town and Community Councils, local businesses and other local stakeholders to ensure that we listen to their concerns and their ideas.

We will, particularly, seek to achieve a closer working relationship with Town and Community Councils to ensure that services are provided in the best and most efficient way possible by the most appropriate body.

We will review our Scrutiny arrangements in line with the Welsh Government’s new Local Government Measure. The scrutiny committees will continue to undertake ‘Task and Finish’ reviews into specific areas of council policy and we will ensure that the views of local people are sought and taken into account when these reviews make their recommendations to the Executive Board and council.

Whilst we are anxious not to waste local taxpayer’s money with frivolous or perceived populist ideas, we will shortly receive the findings of the Policy and Resources Scrutiny Committee review of E-Government which is recommending that the council trial the filming and webcasting of Council meetings. Such a pilot would enable us to judge whether there is a genuine interest across the County with ordinary members of the public, rather than single campaigners.

Health and Social Care

Carmarthenshire has a higher proportion of older people than Wales as a whole, and the numbers are set to increase dramatically over the next few years. We also have above average numbers of people with long term illnesses and health problems. Life expectancy in parts of the county is well below the UK and Wales average. We want to work with partner organisations such as the Hywel Dda health Board and the voluntary sector to ensure that our people have access to the very best services and to help local people make healthy lifestyle choices.

The coalition agreement will look to ensure that the people of Carmarthenshire have access to the best quality health services. We will continue to integrate community health and social care services where this can deliver real improvements for patients and clients.

We will use our new powers of scrutiny to hold the Hywel Dda LHB and others to account to explain clearly how they intend to provide these services to ensure that services meet with the needs of our communities. Health Boards across Wales are being forced to examine the services they provide and we will play our part in scrutinising these proposals and ensuring that they do not put local people at risk.

Providing quality social care for the growing numbers of older people is one of the biggest challenges facing the country. We will provide first class care services to all those who need it.

We want to help people maximise their independence and remain in their own homes for as long as they wish. This what our older people tell us they want. We will do this through providing a range of home care services and assisting with adaptations to properties where appropriate.

We will continue to promote new technology and telecare equipment in the homes of older and at risk people and will aim to expand this service to a further 1000 homes.

However, many people will eventually need residential care. Where it is appropriate to provide residential care, we will support those in need and their families to choose a home best suited to them. We will strive to ensure a range of choices spread geographically throughout the county and continue to build on the ‘mixed economy’ of the council and independent providers to provide quality homes.

The Council will continue to manage its own residential homes and will continue the investment programme to build new homes in Carmarthen (to replace Argel & Cartref Tawelan), in Ammanford (to replace Tegfan and Glanmarlais) and in Llanelli, building on recent investments in new homes in Burry Port, Newcastle Emlyn and Llanybydder.

We will also seek to increase the supply of sheltered accommodation around the County, including plans to build new bungalows ourselves, for the first time in decades.

Regeneration

Providing secure and well paid jobs for local people is central to everything we are seeking to achieve. In the past, too many young people have been forced to leave Carmarthenshire to get jobs. Creating jobs and providing high quality apprenticeship, training and work experience opportunities will be a high priority for the new coalition. Where we undertake investments in new schools, care homes, regeneration schemes and housing we will work with contractors to maximise employment and training places for local people.

We will work hard to create jobs, especially for our young people.

We will expand our existing 140 construction apprenticeships and work with the Carmarthenshire Local Service Board and delivery partners to create new apprenticeships, training opportunities and work placements.

We will continue to secure external funding from the Welsh Government, the European Community and other sources to create new sites for employment, such as the new Cross Hands East Business Park.

We will work with partners in the public and private sectors to build new office and factory developments ready for occupation, such as the new 200 job office development at Eastgate in Llanelli.

We will embrace the re-launched Communities First programme as an opportunity to tackle low incomes, unemployment, health inequalities crime and other related problems in our most deprived communities.

We will continue to develop and promote Carmarthenshire as a destination for tourists. We will build on our rapidly improving choice of attractions, accommodation and events to attract more visitors which will underpin the growth of tourism related businesses and employment. We will review the branding of Carmarthenshire and where possible increase the promotion of the county as a destination for day visitors and tourists, building on the increasingly impressive array of visitor attractions such as the Botanic Gardens, FfosLas racecourse, the Millennium Coastal Park, the magnificent scenery of the rural areas and the increasingly attractive facilities available in our town centres.

Education

We believe that education needs to be one of the highest priorities for the council, equipping our young people with the skills and qualifications which will enable them to secure well paid jobs. This is partly about modernising the buildings in which young people are educated, and we will continue with the Modernising Education Programme which is investing 270million in our schools. But it is also about raising standards and the quality of teaching, increasing attainment levels and ensuring that the type of education available is appropriate for all our learners.

We will continue to rationalise the schools system as set out in our Modernising Education Programme, through investment where appropriate, ensuring that all schools are educationally sustainable and resource efficient as an essential means of raising standards of achievement for all learners.

We will maintain the pace of development of new and improved schools as part of the Modernising Education Programme (MEP).

We will endeavour to protect school budgets and increase the delegation of education budgets to schools.

We will work with other local authorities in West Wales to introduce the new collaborative schools improvement service, supporting schools and teachers to improve results.

We will continue to focus on minimising the number of young people not in education, employment or training, including the provision of a comprehensive range of school and community based youth support services.

We will be inviting the Education and Children’s scrutiny Committee to work with the Executive Board with a further review of the future needs of Welsh in Education.


Children and Families


Ensuring that children are safe and free from harm and neglect is one of our highest priorities. Despite increasing numbers of children having to become subject to the care of the local authority over recent years we have invested to ensure that every child and young person is nurtured and offered an optimistic future. We will continue to develop and deploy a range of integrated family support services in conjunction with partner agencies as a key contribution to addressing child poverty. Family support services will increasing be developed to prepare young children for entry into the formal education system.

We will sustain an effective, well resourced, children’s social service to protect children from harm and neglect and together with partner agencies we will deal robustly with those who threaten the safety and welfare of children and young people.

We will maintain, expand and develop new innovative support services for vulnerable families through the Families First, Flying Start, Integrated Family Support Services, Communties First and other programmes, working in integrated ways with a range of partners to secure improving outcomes for children and families;

We will continue to care for the most vulnerable children and young people across our communities, offering high standards and frequency of respite care to families in need of support;

We will continue to operate the cross-party Corporate Parenting Panel to govern the Council’s responsibilities for looked after children;

We will continue to recruit and support foster carers and place children for adoption where this will enhance their life opportunities.

Leisure

Leisure facilities are important in helping people to maintain healthy lifestyles and as a major component in providing a high quality of life and wellbeing for our residents. In many cases the council is a provider of leisure services and we will continue to invest and modernise facilities such as with the new swimming pool and leisure centre in Carmarthen. In other cases we will work with private sector or voluntary sector providers to introduce new facilities such as the new multi screen cinema in Carmarthen and the similar facility which will open shortly in Llanelli.

We will work with partners to improve leisure opportunities across the County.

We will develop plans to replace the Llanelli Leisure Centre with a new modern leisure centre at Old Castle Works.

We will review leisure provision in the Amman Valley.

Housing

There is a major housing crisis in the country and Carmarthenshire is not immune. House prices have reached a point where most young families cannot afford to get on the first step of the ladder. Decades of selling council houses, with no replacement programme, has created a shortage of affordable homes to rent as well as to purchase. Recent changes to reduce Housing Benefit can only make the situation even worse. The council lets around 800 properties each year but has a waiting list of over 6000 people. Helping to tackle this problem is a high priority of the new coalition. We will do this as a direct provider of housing, as the local planning authority and as an enabler through working with other social landlords and the private sector.

We will reaffirm our commitment to retaining management of our housing portfolio within the council, which is what tenants have told us they want. We will invest a further 75million in our housing stock to complete the upgrading of our 9000 homes to meet the Carmarthenshire Homes Standard.

We will seek to increase the number of affordable homes built for rent, purchase and shared ownership through use of the planning system and by making surplus council land available for partnership schemes with social landlords and the private sector.

We will build new socially owned bungalows for elderly people, the first new build of social housing undertaken directly by the council for decades.

We will introduce a new mortgage guarantee support scheme to assist those with difficulty in securing mortgages because they do not have a sufficient deposit.

Environment

We believe that everyone has a responsibility to protect our environment for future generations and we want Carmarthenshire County Council to be recognised as a role model and a leader in this field. We want to lead the way in protecting and promoting access to the countryside; we will strive to have the cleanest streets and neighbourhoods; we will continue to increase recycling rates and reduce the proportion of waste that goes into landfill; and we will reduce our carbon footprint and deliver our climate change strategy.

We will continue to increase recycling rates and reduce the proportion of waste going into landfill by encouraging participation in our kerbside recycling schemes which already reach 99% of all properties.

We will work with partners to ensure quality accessible pest control services to all that need them.

We will review refuse collection arrangements to ensure we have a cost effective and efficient service.

We will invest an additional 12m over the next three years improving our highway network and bridges. We will maintain our commitment to the Aman Gwendraeth link road, which has significant impact on our economic regeneration programme for that part of the county.

We will continue to develop and lobby for funding for other road improvement schemes such as the Llandeilo by-pass and the second phase of the Amman Valley link road.

We will work with partners to maintain Fair Trade status for the county and we will work to increase the use of fair trade produce in council establishments and we will work with partners to raise awareness of fair trade products among the wider community.

We will also be inviting the relevant Scrutiny Committee to work with the Executive Board in looking at the future of subsidised bus routes and the most effective means of obtaining the best choice of routes to serve the needs of the county.

Community Safety

Carmarthenshire has the second lowest crime levels in Wales and has experienced a further 9% reduction in crime over the past year. Nevertheless there are localised problems of crime and, in particular, anti-social behaviour which we will seek to tackle. Local people regularly identify littering, dog fouling and speeding as particular problems and these will be among our priority areas for action.

We will support local communities who wish to tackle speeding in their areas by providing speed monitoring equipment and involving local people in the process.

We will increase litter enforcement resources and the use of enforcement notices and fines to tackle littering and dog fouling.

We will retain our network of 70 CCTV cameras and ensure that they help to deter and detect crimes in our town centres and those communities most affected by crime and anti social behaviour.

We will continue to work closely with the police and other partners through the Community Safety Partnership in an effort to continue to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, and will seek to reduce people’s fear of crime by building on initiatives such as the Welsh Government’s additional funding for more Police Community Support Officers in the county.

Resources

Carmarthenshire County Council is the biggest employer in the county and the largest provider of public services, with an annual spend in excess of 500million per annum. We are committed to providing value for money in the way we provide our services and we will strive to concentrate as much of our spending as possible on front line services, reducing all unnecessary administration and bureaucracy. We will continue the drive to reduce management costs wherever prudent to do so. We realise how difficult it is for ordinary people having to cope with the cost of living increases, whilst wage rises are at their lowest for decades and household incomes are under severe pressure. We will aim to maintain public services, especially for the most vulnerable in our communities, while at the same time keeping council tax increases to the minimum.

We will appoint an Executive Board Member with specific responsibility to direct our efficiency and priority based budgeting programme and to work with managers across the Council to look at how we can even more efficient whilst modernising front line services.

We will continue to review all spending annually as part of an efficiency programme so as to prioritise resources where they are most needed and to minimise rises in Council Tax.

We will continue to review our portfolio of land and buildings, as part of our Asset Management Strategy, to reduce unnecessary costs and generate capital receipts to contribute to our investment programmes in education, housing and elsewhere.

Equality and Social Justice

We are strongly committed to equality and value every single member of our community. We want to promote a fair and tolerant Carmarthenshire free of prejudice. Where there may be barriers to people fulfilling their full potential within the community or accessing council services, such as through disability, we will endeavour to support them and review the way we provide those services. We believe that the Welsh language is a vital part of our culture and heritage and will continue to ensure that our customers can use the language of their choice when contacting the council. We will also continue to support the increased development of the Welsh language through education, support for adult learners and community based activities such as after school clubs and social events.

We will work closely with and regularly consult with the Carmarthenshire Disability Coalition, which represents around 50 member organisations.

We will work with partners, especially the police, to encourage the reporting of all hate crimes and to fully investigate and prosecute where appropriate.

We will complete our programme of adaptations to our public buildings to ensure that they comply with requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act and are fully accessible.

We will work with our partners in the Advice and Support Carmarthenshire network to provide help and advice to those who are entitled to benefits, and to provide counselling and advocacy on debt.

Carmarthenshire rural communities and rural economy

We will continue to support the regeneration of rural areas of Carmarthenshire and ensure that they remain vibrant and prosperous. It is important to increase access to basic services and facilities in rural communities and to tackle rural access and social exclusion. Rural parts of the county must offer people an excellent quality of life with access to affordable housing, public services and most importantly quality employment opportunities. We will seek to ensure that they are sustained by reliable and effective infrastructure in terms of broadband connectivity, public transport (such as the County’s much lauded Bwcabus scheme), educational facilities and public utilities.

We will identify an Executive Board Member whose responsibilities will include rural affairs.

We will seek to ensure that farmers have the opportunity and support required to diversify and broaden the economic base of rural parts of the county. Particular emphasis will be placed on retaining young people in the farming industry by helping them to develop alternative sources of income and alternative employment opportunities.

Broadband is a particularly important lifeline in the modern world and nowhere is this more so than in the more rural areas. We will work with BT and other partners to continue to press for the extension of high speed communications networks to all parts of the county.

Transport is of particular importance in rural areas. The council already provides considerable financial support to maintain many rural bus services and we have had great success in developing the innovative and award winning Bwcabus service. We will examine ways to build on these initiatives to protect and where possible improve rural bus services.