To submit the report of the Leader (attached).
Submitted - the Leader's report inviting the Council to adopt the Gwynedd Council Plan 2018-23 (2019/20 Review).
During the discussion the following matters were raised by individual members:
· The plan was welcomed, and it was noted that it appeared that the Council was attempting to deliver for the people of Gwynedd, during a period of financial austerity.
· In response to a question regarding setting a new direction for the tackling poverty field, the Leader explained that it was intended to create a People's Well-being Board, including representation from the children, youth services, etc. to look at the field of poverty and supporting families across all Council work. It was hoped that this would set a new direction and emphasis for the Council in this important field, especially in a place that suffered from poverty that was not being acknowledged nationally.
· It was noted that approximately 38% of the Council's funding was spent outside the county, and it was asked what work was in the pipeline to attempt to maximise the percentage spent locally. In response, the Leader noted that this was one of the Council's main priorities, and he believed that Gwynedd was at the forefront in terms of procurement locally.
· In response to a question regarding the Leader's vision for post-16 education, details were given on the collaboration between this Council, Anglesey Council and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, with the aim of bringing various options forward in due course.
· In response to a question regarding how to attract more women to become Council members, the Leader noted that he was fully aware of the problem, as well as the problem of attracting young people, employed people, people from ethnic minorities and people from other backgrounds onto the Council. He had voiced his opinion to the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales, that was also very aware of the problem. He added that the workload of Councillors, especially Cabinet Members and Scrutiny Chairs, had increased significantly over the years, so that it was now more or less a full-time job, and it was very difficult for members to maintain a career and fulfil the role of a Councillor at the same time. He believed that the solution partly involved the job terms, but he did not anticipate any major change in that direction without merging councils and significantly reducing Councillor numbers. He emphasised that it was important that members with care responsibilities took advantage of the support available to them in order to strengthen the democratic representation. He also noted that there would be a campaign at the time of every election to attempt to attract people of all backgrounds to stand for election.
· In response to a question, the Leader confirmed that the Council had committed to the apprenticeships scheme and that there were very good opportunities in each service. Although the Council had lost £70m (25%) of its budget over the past 10 years, there were excellent examples of young people kick-starting their careers with the Council as apprentices, and progressing to high level posts.
· In response to an observation regarding empty shops and bushiness closing in the towns, the Leader noted that he was very aware of the pressure on the rural economy, and the pressure that he would face in the near future if the UK left the European Union. He emphasised that the economy was a high priority for him personally, and that he was working with the leaders of other northern counties on the North Wales Economic Ambition Board. He was also a co-Chair of the Welsh Local Government Association Rural Forum, that pressed on Welsh Government to address specific problems in rural areas when developing the economy. He confirmed that he would fight hard to secure high quality jobs for people in rural Gwynedd.
· The funding for Bangor was welcomed, and having an excellent regional centre in the city was an exciting prospect.
· It was noted that there was no reference in the plan to the autistic population of Gwynedd, and it was asked what provision the Council had for people with autism. In response, the Leader noted that this should be part of the Council's day-to-day work, but if there were any projects within the autism field that should be escalated this could be looked at for when the plan was next reviewed.
· The purpose of the plan if there was no funding available to realise the objectives was queried. For example, under the Gwynedd People Housing Strategy, would it not be more realistic to state that the Council 'wished' or was 'seeking methods' of finding suitable homes for the people of Gwynedd, rather than saying that it would 'ensure' this? In response, the Leader noted that the report identified the housing field as a field that needed to be addressed. It was intended to submit the Housing Strategy to the Cabinet soon, and the Council was in discussions with the housing associations regarding the best way to meet the existing need. He added that, despite the restrictions, it was important to prioritise these matters by using the available funding to its full potential to address some of the need.
RESOLVED to adopt the Council Plan 2019-23 (2019/20 Review)