Later this morning at a scrutiny committee meeting, BCBC officers will discuss collaboration between BCBC and town & community councils (pdf).
The Welsh Government recently commissioned an independent review of town and community councils. There are currently 735 across Wales, covering 85% of the population and annually raising around £35million in precepts (council tax top-up).
Bridgend is one of the few counties in the south which has a town or community council for every district. There are 20 town & community councils in Bridgend county, raising £2.5million in precepts for 2018-19. Town and community council seats are also relatively well-contested, with Bridgend having the lowest proportion of uncontested seats in Wales at 28%.
The independent review recommended that not only should there be a boundary review for town & community councils, but “place-based services” – those services which help the social, cultural, economic or environmental/physical wellbeing of a community – should generally be transferred down to town & community councils wherever possible.
The key method of transferring responsibility is Community Asset Transfer (CAT) – more details on that here.
There are also a number of examples given in the report of close-working between BCBC and town & community councils, including regeneration work in Porthcawl, the proposed de-pedestrianisation of Bridgend town centre, enhancements to Craig-y-Parcau woods opposite Newbridge Fields and a number of rural development projects in the Garw & Ogmore valleys.
As for the future, the report says:
“….there is further potential for this very local level of local government to become more proactive in supporting the Council’s work on community connectors, addressing acute need through the tackling of isolation and loneliness, supporting debt and poverty, youth provision, etc. T&CCs can play a far greater role and support the Council with emergency planning / civil contingency, e.g. they could have better information on persons living alone, and persons who are vulnerable, during times such as extreme weather conditions.”
However, it was said engagement between BCBC and the community councils was “patchy”. The Town & Community Council Forum wasn’t seen as effective as it could be either with attendance by community councils averaging just 35%. The level of precepts collected per council was also relatively low, with 7 community councils raising £40,000 or less – far below the “effective” figure of £200,000.