Bridgend Council’s annual report was recently released (pdf). It’s an admittedly heavy read and I only glanced through it, but it’s important as it outlines how the council is performing against their own and national benchmarks.
The Good News
- There’ve been improvements in 72% of national indicators during 2012-13, though it’s slightly down on 2011-12.
- Crime rates continue to fall – said to be at an “all-time low” – as well as road accident reductions and moderate improvements to road conditions.
- Every single housing indicator has seen improvement, including a 5% reduction in numbers accepted as homeless, more prevention of homelessness and a 14% increase in affordable homes.
- A big improvement in the number of looked after children who are in education, work or training after leaving care, rising from 29.4% to 73.3%.
- All school performance improvement measures were met or exceeded, though Bridgend still lags behind national figures in some areas.
- Life expectancy, obesity rates and low birth weight rates have all improved.
- All indicators for health and social care were met or exceeded, with significantly more community support than the Welsh average.
- Children raised in workless and low-income households decreased, while there were modest increases in GVA per capita and disposable incomes.
- Carbon emissions have fallen by 5.3%, while BCBC is the best performing council in Wales in terms of sending rubbish to landfill (just 16.7%).
- Citizen satisfaction rates and complaints have seen modest improvements, while a new (controversial) equal-pay and pay-grading system was agreed with trade unions in December 2012.
The Bad News
- Standards have declined in 27% of national indicators – a rise on 21% in 2011-12 – but significantly better than the 43% in 2010-11.
- Looked-after children being moved between placements and changing school increased.
- Smoking rates, and teenage pregnancy rates have increased, with the later significantly above the Welsh average.
- Overall economic inactivity and school-leaver NEET rates have risen, and less than half of all 16-24 y.os are in some form of employment (47.1%).
- Sickness rates at BCBC increased, while the council narrowly missed its efficiency saving targets, saying it’s becoming “increasingly difficult” to find new savings.
The question now is what influence will funding pressures – and things like the “Bedroom Tax” – have on future performance levels?
I’ve covered both the proposed contracting out of home helps (which might affect community care) and proposals to change school transport before. In addition, there are more recent proposals for changes to nursery care (doc).
What was a £24million funding gap when the budget was passed earlier this year, has since become a reported £36million gap, with the latest Welsh Government settlement – as a result of the Draft Budget – cutting BCBC’s budget by 2.8%. That’s the third smallest cut of the 22 local authorities. You could say BCBC have got off lightly, but if even in their own words the council are struggling to find areas to cut, I don’t think it’ll be too long before attention increasingly turns to their biggest expenditure area: staff.
Maesteg Ewenny Road “hole” to be filled?
As revealed by BCBC and the Glamorgan Gazette, it looks as though there’s hope that the derelict former Budelpack/Revlon factory site/eyesore in Maesteg is going to be redeveloped at long last. I’ve covered it before.
Just to give those unfamiliar with the area an impression of how much of a gaping hole it is (if the picture above isn’t evidence enough), using Google Earth, it’s a noticeable white speck from 98km up. You really can see it from space.
A pre-screening application from Pontardawe Coals & Minerals was passed by Bridgend’s Planning Committee, which could eventually see a full planning application for:
- 140 homes.
- A “family pub” and restaurant.
- 1450sqm of retail (including a 550sqm food retail store).
- 5580sqm of business unit space (3250 offices/light industry, 2330 general industrial).
- A landscaped buffer alongside the River Llynfi.
It’s a very – groan – sustainable site as it’s brownfield, has its own railway station and is only a 10-15min walk from Maesteg town centre. My worry would be road access, as the surrounding roads and streets seem a bit cluttered.
With the revamped Maesteg Market recently reopened, if a decent enough proposal comes through this could compliment the existing retail and service offer. You do have to wonder about the demand and viability of the industrial space though, unless the plan is for existing businesses to relocate from Maesteg’s other industrial estates to more modern surroundings.
Bridgend Town Council set for “old” library move?
As you probably know, the new library at the revamped Bridgend Recreation Centre is due to open next Thursday (14thNovember), which means the current library on Wyndham Street will close (though I’m not sure if at exactly the same time).
As I covered back in July, Bridgend Town Council approached BCBC to turn what will soon be the “old library” into a multi-purpose arts and cultural space for Bridgend town centre, as well as a new base for the Town Council themselves.
A planning application was recently submitted on behalf of the Town Council to turn the first floor of the old library into a council chamber and offices, while the ground floor (and part of the first floor) will be turned over to multiple cultural uses including film presentations, galleries/art exhibitions and perhaps museum exhibits.
The design and access statement says there are some unspecified issues to address, while there could also be a new name for the building itself.
The question the move raises is what happens to the Glanogwr building? It’s not a big enough site to be sold off for housing, and it’s not exactly a modern building, so I doubt BCBC will want to remain there either.
Awarding Bridgend’s Retail Stars
If you believe recent media reports, it looks like fortunes – in Bridgend town centre at least – are on the up, with vacancies falling, the prospect of a significant Vibrant & Viable Places bid (update available here), and the regeneration works in the centre of town (ignoring the Nolton Street bombsite) in the final stretch.
I understand Costa Coffee will be moving to the refurbished cafe unit as part of the Elder Mews development, while Carwyn Jones mooted temporary pop-up shops as a possible short-term solution in his Gazette column last week.
To continue the feel-good factor, Bridge FM and BCBC are running a competition to find Bridgend county’s best local retailers. Votes close on November 17th, with an awards ceremony at Porthcawl Pavilion on November 24th. If you want more details or to record your vote, all the stuff you need is available at Bridge FM.
Here’s a full list of the nominees, and web links where applicable:
|Customer Service||Cwtch (Bridgend)||Patel’s Mini Market (Ogmore Vale)||KoKo (Porthcawl)|
|Independent Retailer||Divine (Porthcawl)||Jenkins (Bridgend)||Walters (Porthcawl)|
|Market Stall||Flowers@33 (Bridgend)||The Rugman (Bridgend)||Fruit Fayre (Bridgend)|
|Fab Food||Zia Nina (Bridgend)||Bauhaus (Bridgend)||Peter Woods (Bridgend)|
|Hair & Beauty||Simply Beauty (Bridgend)||Beth Daniel (Bridgend)||Cutter & Co (Bridgend)|
|Professional Services||Bassrock (Pencoed)||Bridge Mentoring (Bridgend)||Integrity Training (Bridgend)|
|Evening Economy||Phoenix (Bridgend)||Malloy’s (Bridgend)||La Strada (Bridgend)|
|Specialist Retailer||Bad Habits (Bridgend)||Brickwall (Bridgend)||Guttridge (Bridgend)|
|Shooting Star||Candy Shack (Bridgend)||Maples (Pyle)||Brackla Booze (Bridgend)|