Labour’s Committee Collapse & More

 

Here’s another round-up of some of the main items on the agenda of this week’s Bridgend Council (BCBC) cabinet and full council meetings.


Bridgend Labour’s Committee Seats Slashed

I start with big changes to the make-up of Bridgend Council’s committees following the recent mass resignation of several Labour councillors (pdf).

The full list of resignations/defections from Labour (since 2012) is, AFAIK:

  • Cllr. Wyn Davies (Ind, Caerau)
  • Cllr. Keith Edwards (Ind, Maesteg East)
  • Cllr. Luke Ellis (Ind, Pyle)
  • Cllr. Edith Hughes (Ind, Oldcastle)
  • Cllr. Phil John (Ind, Caerau)
  • Cllr. Haydn Morgan (Ind, Morfa)
  • Cllr. Ross Thomas (Ind, Maesteg West)

In nearly all cases it’s a simple matter of the newly-Independent councillors retaining their existing seats on committees. However, it does mean Labour have – as a result of a situtation entirely of their own making – lost a staggering eighteen committee seats (15% of their total) in one swoop.

Labour still control all of the council committees and retain a majority on Bridgend Council at 33 seats. However, assuming all of these councillors ran again in May and retained their seats, to lose overall control of the council Labour would only need to lose an additional six – which is doable.It’s been reported in this week’s Glamorgan Gazette (originally in the Western Mail) a senior member of Welsh Young Labour, Mark Lewis Jones, has been appointed as a paid campaign co-ordinator in Bridgend – a move described by former Council Leader, Jeff Jones, as “unprecedented”.

Bridgend was recently left off the list of authorities Labour expected a “bad night” in come May.It might be worth reconsidering that in light of this news and a pretty poor poll for them recently – one of their worst since devolution.I doubt I’m the only person who can hear knives being sharpened for Carwyn’s back in north east Wales, and a bad night on his own patch, in addition to poor results elsewhere, may prove to be a catalyst for a Welsh Labour leadership challenge.

Budget Consultation Results

Towards the end of 2016, BCBC launched their annual “Shaping Bridgend’s Future” consultation on proposed budget priorities/cuts (pdf). 2,533 people took part this year.

BCBC are expecting to make £34million in savings between now and 2020-21. The budget is usually announced every February and, as usual, I’ll be around to cover that as and when it’s ready.

As for the findings:

  • 86% of people support further collaboration with neighbouring local authorities, while 85% agreed with a review of cultural, arts and libraries services.
  • Slightly more people disagreed (44%) than agreed (42%) with automating certain council services, with particular opposition from older age groups.
  • The most popular options when it came to protecting services were those for older people (86% agreed) as well as schools and social services (81%) and waste/recycling (64%).
  • In terms of cuts, 48% backed cuts to cultural services and libraries, 39% back cuts to sports and recreation and 27% backed cuts to environmental health.
  • Popular ways (I say “popular” but in reality less than 15% of people suggested them) to save money include: a review of wages, streamlining staff and merging authorities at both town/community council level and county level.

So, yet again, it looks like cultural services and libraries in particular (presently run by Awen Cultural Trust) are going to get thumped in the coming budget. It’s hard to tell how much more can be squeezed out of them until they go “pop” or there’s talk of closures.

Mynydd Cynffig Consultation Reports Back
Plans are being put into motion to merge the current (separate site) Mynydd Cynffig infant and junior schools on a new-build site at Cynffig Comprehensive School in Kenfig Hill (pdf). AFAIK it’ll be the fifth new primary school planned in the current wave of modernisation (after Brynmenyn, Pencoed, Bettws and Ysgol Cwm Garw).

The new school – estimated to cost just over £7million – would have a capacity for 420 pupils alongside a 60-place nursery and would open in September 2018. Up to £700,000 of money received for the sale of the existing Mynydd Cynffig sites will go towards road safety improvements.

Part of the current Cynffig Comprehensive will be remodelled (the existing sixth form block) to accommodate the primary-age children alongside new-build.In effect it creates an “all-through” school similar to those being built elsewhere in Wales – with two examples (proposed and built) in Port Talbot. However, it’s expected that primary and secondary school pupils will be separated from each other by a fence.Staff, pupils and parents have been consulted over the last few months. The primary-age pupils support the move by a 13 to 1 margin (with 3 unsure), but the Cynffig pupils raised sensible concerns over bullying, traffic/parking problems and noise from construction work interrupting exam preparations.

Update on “Home Help” Future

BCBC have been pressing ahead with proposed changes to domiciliary care (aka. “home help”) since 2014, and cabinet members were updated on progress this week (pdf).

The total number of people expected to receive home help in the county in 2017 is estimated at 12,700 – an increase of 24% since June 2014. At the same time, the proportion of people receiving home help from BCBC’s in-house service is expected to fall from 43% to 22% over the same period. The rest will receive assistance from private companies.

Following a successful tender exercise, a deal has been agreed with 13 companies to provide home help (to those not receiving it from BCBC) until March 2018, with an option of extending the agreement for another two years. The companies haven’t been named, but are said to include a mix of local, regional and national providers, including some non-profits. No company has more than 25% of the share of services either to spread the risk.

The good news is everyone believes this new delivery model is workable. The bad news is that the providers themselves would prefer longer contracts, but public contracts of this kind are capped at 4 years.

BCBC estimate that since the new model was first pursued in 2014-15, £577,000 has been saved, with the total budget for home help in 2016-17 standing at £5million and expected to increase as the population ages.

 

Owen