Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Conference Room 1A, County Hall, Ruthin

Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Merfyn Parry, Huw Williams, Tina Jones, Rachel Flynn and Cheryl Williams.

 

 

2.

DECLARATION OF INTERESTS pdf icon PDF 116 KB

Members to declare any personal or prejudicial interests in any business identified to be considered at this meeting.

Minutes:

Councillors Graham Timms, Glenn Swingler, Meirick Lloyd Davies, Brian Blakeley, Anton Sampson together with David Lloyd all declared a personal interest in item 5 as they were all School Governors.

 

 

3.

URGENT MATTERS AS AGREED BY THE CHAIR

Notice of items which, in the opinion of the Chair, should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Minutes:

No urgent matters were raised.

 

 

4.

MINUTES pdf icon PDF 410 KB

To receive the minutes of the Communities Scrutiny Committee held on 14 March 2019 (copy enclosed).

 

Minutes:

The minutes of the Communities Scrutiny meeting held on 14 March 2019 were submitted.

 

Matters Arising –

 

·         Page 8 – Item 5 – School Meal Debt Policy – members were concerned that the revised School Meal Debt Policy seemed to have been circulated to schools prior to it being circulated to councillors under the Delegated Decision process.  Members wanted reassurances that their recommended amendments had been incorporated into the final policy.  Officers undertook to enquire if this had happened and whether the Delegated Decision in relation to it had been published.

 

·         Page 11 – Item 6 - Gypsy and Traveller Site Provision – Both sites had been taken to Cabinet, the permanent residential site would be pursued, whilst the transit site would not be pursued at the same location and that another location would be sought for the transit site during the development of the new LDP.

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the Communities Scrutiny meeting held on 14 March, 2019 be received and approved as a correct record.

 

 

5.

DENBIGHSHIRE'S LEARNER TRANSPORT POLICY pdf icon PDF 213 KB

To consider a report by the Education Resources and Planning Manager (copy enclosed) which seeks the Committee to discuss potential steps for the Council to consider in relation to the non-statutory transport which it presently provides 

 

10.05am – 10.45am

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Lead Member for Education, Children and Young People introduced the Education and Resources Manager’s report and appendices (previously circulated) which provided details of the non-statutory elements within Denbighshire County Council’s Learner Transport Policy 2018.

 

During his introduction the Lead Member explained that the county’s current Learner Transport Policy came into effect in September 2018, following a consultation exercise with all stakeholders the previous year.  The policy represented how the Council discharged its duties under the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008.  Whilst reviewing the policy in 2017 a number of anomalies had come to light i.e. hazardous routes, feeder schools and the importance of their relationships with the secondary schools to whom they were affiliated etc.  These anomalies were rectified in the revised policy.  This policy review along with changes in policy relating to transport provision for pupils attending special schools and transport providers passing on inflationary costs had resulted in the cost of school transport in the county during 2018/19 increasing by approximately £350K.  Such an increase would be unsustainable in the long-term.  The Lead Member confirmed that the school transport budget was held by the Highways and Environment Service, but it was the Education Service who determined a pupil’s eligibility to receive free transport.  Whilst this may seem strange, it worked well as Education officers were familiar with the relevant pieces of legislation which governed educational and learner transport eligibility, but the expertise in tendering and procuring transport and knowledge of public transport availability was located in the transport team in the Highways and Environment Service. 

 

Members were advised by the Lead Member that the provision of transport for pupils to access non-statutory elements of education was an extremely contentious issue, which had resulted in a number of local authorities who had proposed or even explored the potential of withdrawing free transport or levying a charge for transport i.e. to faith based or Welsh medium provision, being subject to adverse press/media coverage and even legal challenge.    Whilst withdrawing or levying a charge for the provision of transport to enable pupils to access non-statutory education had the potential to realise some substantial savings for the Council, it would be important that the impact of any change on the education of the county’s pupils and supporting them to gain the knowledge and skills required by employers was assessed.  This was particularly important in relation to post-16 education.  The Council currently spent circa £1m annually on transporting students to post-16 education provision. 

 

Responding to members questions the Lead Member for Education, Children and Young People; the Lead Member Finance, Performance and Strategic Assets; and the Head of Education and Children’s Services:

·         confirmed that the Authority had a legislative duty to comply with the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure alongside other legislative requirements relating to the provision of education

·         advised that any proposal to withdraw free transport to non-statutory education provision would most likely attract negative media coverage.  The least contentious element would most probably be transport for post 16 students.  Nevertheless, this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

IMPACT OF THE CLOSURE OF YSGOL RHEWL pdf icon PDF 206 KB

To consider a report by the Principal Manager – Education Support (copy enclosed) which outlines the support provided to Ysgol Rhewl during the closure process and the feedback from stakeholders on the support received

 

10.45am – 11.15am

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Lead Member for Education, Children and Young People introduced the Principal Manager:  Modernising Education’s report (previously circulated) which outlined the support provided to Ysgol Rhewl during the process undertaken to close the school.  Attached to the report were appendices summarising the responses received from parents to the questionnaires issued to them, comments received from the schools receiving the remaining pupils along with the observations received from the Acting Headteacher at Ysgol Rhewl at the time of the closure.  The Lead Member informed the Committee that only two parents had responded to the questionnaire issued, and of the seven schools that had received pupils from Rhewl five had responded.  Some of the feedback received was also contradictory. 

 

It had initially been anticipated that the majority of pupils would transfer to the new schools in Ruthin, however this had not happened.   A number of the children had transferred to schools in other areas of the county, some because they lived closer to those schools and others due to parental choice.  The Lead Member acknowledged that it was never a pleasant experience to close a school, but it was however pleasing to report that the former pupils had settled well into their new schools.  Members were informed by the Principal Manager:  Modernising Education that officers from the Council’s Education Service had worked closely with the Acting Headteacher at Ysgol Rhewl throughout the whole closure and transfer process.  He also advised that the Acting Headteacher had worked diligently with pupils and parents under very difficult circumstances.  As well as providing support to parents (including one to one and group meetings), pupils, and the governing body the Council had also provided support, either directly or indirectly, via Careers Wales, to school staff affected by the closure - a fact reflected in the Acting Headteacher’s comments.  The Head of Education and Children’s Services requested it be noted that despite the fact that the Council was undertaking a disappointing  and unpleasant experience for them personally the school community at Ysgol Rhewl had conducted themselves impeccably and always been professional, polite, respectful and courteous towards Education Service officers 

 

Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member and officers:

·         acknowledged that communities valued their school buildings and advised that the Council did initially offer the local community the option to buy redundant school buildings.  Where no community facilities existed this had the potential to provide the community with an opportunity to acquire an amenity.  Rhewl already had a well-equipped and well used Sports Pavilion, therefore there was no community interest in purchasing the school building which was in a poor state of repair;

·         advised that officers had done their utmost to engage with parents, pupils and the school community and to support them through the process, there would always be lessons to be learnt for the future;

·         advised that it was important that support etc. was available when parents and stakeholders were ready to engage.  Due to the sensitiveness of school closure proposals not all those affected were ready  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT pdf icon PDF 148 KB

To consider a report by the Contracts and Performance Project Manager – Finance (copy enclosed) which outlines the impact to date of Universal Credit (UC) on Council services and the county’s residents.  The report also assesses the effectiveness of mitigation measures to date and outlines plans for future impact mitigation measures

 

11.30am – 12.15pm

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Lead Member for Finance, Performance and Strategic Assets introduced the Contracts and Performance Project Manager - Finance’s report (previously circulated) which summarised the impact to date of the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) on the County’s residents, the effectiveness of mitigation measures, and outlined the plans in place to mitigate the effects on services and residents of the migration of current benefit recipients on to UC in due course.  He welcomed the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Denbighshire (CAD) to the meeting as one of the Council’s key partners for delivering support in relation to UC in the county.  He explained that the report was being presented to the Committee at members’ request following consideration of a report last year on preparations the Council and its partners were making in readiness for the initial rollout of UC to the majority of the county.

 

During his introduction the Lead Member advised that the latest information received from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) indicated that ‘managed migration’ of current benefit recipients on to UC should commence in Denbighshire in late 2020.  He outlined the membership of the multi-disciplinary Universal Credit Board which the Council had established in a bid to mitigate the risk to the Council and residents of the introduction of UC.  Denbighshire’s approach in establishing a multi-disciplinary team, which included representatives from the DWP and Citizens Advice Denbighshire (CAD), differed from that of other local authorities the majority of whom seemed to have established Finance or Revenues & Benefits based boards.  Since UC had been rolled-out in Denbighshire new legislation had been introduced relating to housing benefits and free schools meals etc.  this had necessitated additional work for staff dealing with those areas and with UC claims.  The Council and its partners’ approach to co-locate staff within Rhyl Job Centre had proved extremely useful in dealing with the changes, drawing potential entitlement to benefit claimants’ attention and providing intervention services in a timely manner to avert a crisis situation occurring.  Appendix 2 to the report detailed specific measures taken by individual services and the results achieved, whilst Appendix 3 provided anonymous case studies to illustrate the effectiveness of the approach taken by the Council and its partners.

 

Responding to members’ questions the Lead Member for Finance, Performance and Strategic Assets; the Chief Executive of CAD; the Contracts and Performance Manager - Finance; and the Contracts and Performance Project Manager - Finance:

·         advised that up until 31 March 2019 UC had been a passport benefit for Free School Meals (FSMs).  From 1 April 2019 an income threshold of £7,400 had been introduced for FSM.  However anyone entitled to FSMs on 31 March 2019 had been passported over to FSMs under the new Scheme.  To facilitate this work the Welsh Government (WG) had commissioned a company called Atkins to support Local Authorities in Wales to undertake the work;  

·         agreed that homelessness in the under 35 age group was a growing concern.  Homelessness was not solely due to UC, there were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

SCRUTINY WORK PROGRAMME pdf icon PDF 136 KB

To consider a report by the Scrutiny Coordinator (copy enclosed) seeking a review of the committee’s forward work programme and updating members on relevant issues.

 

12.15pm – 12.25pm

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Coordinator introduced the report (previously circulated) seeking members’ review of the Committee’s work programme and provided an update on relevant issues.

 

Members were advised that the meeting on the 4 July had 5 substantial items. It was agreed that the draft report on the Llantysilio Mountain Fire should be discussed at a special private meeting of the Committee prior to the 4 July, prior to being circulated to partner organisations for consultation in readiness for publication ahead of September’s meeting.

 

Members were reminded that the next meeting would be its first meeting of the new municipal year, therefore the Committee would be asked to elect its Vice-Chair for 2019/20.  Members interested in being appointed to this role were requested to send their CVs to the Scrutiny Co-ordinator by the 30 June.

 

RESOLVED that, subject to the above, the forward work programme as detailed in Appendix 1 to the report be approved.

 

 

9.

FEEDBACK FROM COMMITTEE REPRESENTATIVES

To receive any updates from Committee representatives on various Council Boards and Groups

 

12.25pm – 12.30pm

Minutes:

None.

 

The meeting concluded at 1.06 p.m

 

 

 

 
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