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Ceredigion needs ‘21st century service’ from council

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COUNCIL leader Ellen ap Gwynn stressed the importance of communication within our communities while delivering the Corporate Strategy 2017-2022 at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (Oct 17).

The purpose of the report was to present the draft Corporate Strategy 2017-2022, including Well-being and Improvement Objectives 2018-19 which is currently out for consultation.

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader and responsibility for Corporate Services, Improvement and Performance Management, said the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 introduced new arrangements for securing continuous improvement in delivery of public services in Wales.

The County Council is under a general duty to ‘make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the exercise of functions’. The Duty, ‘making arrangements’ to improve, means putting in place arrangements which allow us to understand local needs and priorities, and to make best use of resources to meet these needs.

The duty refers to continuous improvement to ensure that the Improvement Objectives remain relevant; that the best arrangements are in place for delivering improvements and that we are able to understand the impact and the outcomes for citizens.

In discharging its duty, the Authority must each year prepare an Improvement Plan, which outlines high level objectives for the Authority that it seeks to make towards progressing the Council’s Corporate Strategy and other improvement priorities.

Cllr ap Gwynn stated that it is through having plans that the Council can demonstrate it has appropriate arrangements in place to secure improvement across the range of its functions. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 introduced new governance arrangements for the delivery of public Services in Wales and the Council has a duty to set and publish Well-being objectives that are designed to maximise our contribution to achieving seven National Well-being Goals.

The council must take all reasonable steps towards achieving these Wellbeing Objectives and must publish an annual report outlining our progress in meeting those objectives.

The Act requires public bodies in Wales to carry out sustainable development. Sustainable Development is defined as a process of improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural Well-being of Wales.

This needs to be done by taking action in accordance with the Sustainable Development Principle so that the Well-being Goals are achieved.

The Sustainable Development Principle is made up of five ways of working that are about looking ‘long term’, integrating our approaches with other public or voluntary sector bodies, involving others in decision making, collaborating on shared solutions and a focus on preventing issues by working to understand the root causes.

The Act directs that Public Bodies should not treat the requirement to set well-being objectives as separate from the objectives that guide and steer the actions and decisions of the organisation. Therefore application of the well-being duty should be through a single integrated corporate approach and the setting of well-being objectives could and should be included as part of a Corporate Plan or other similar document.

Following the local elections in May, the Council has prepared a new Corporate Strategy 2017- 2022 setting out its Priorities for the next five years.

The proposed priorities are boosting the economy, investing in people’s Future, enabling Individual and Family Resilience, promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

Cllr ap Gwynn added in accordance with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 for each priority area the Council has identified a set of Well-being and Improvement Objectives 2018-19 that will enable the Council to deliver its Priorities as well as maximise the contribution that can be made to the seven well-being goals and seek to provide continuous improvement for the citizens of Ceredigion.

The Corporate Strategy 2017-2022 including Well-being and Improvement Objectives 2018-19 includes an action plan detailing the actions that will be necessary to deliver each of the objectives and therefore the Priorities. The Strategy went out for consultation between the August 14, 2017 and the September 29, 2017.

The consultation documents included the Corporate Strategy 2017-2022 and a summary document detailing the Well-being and Improvement Objectives 2018-19.

Cllr ap Gwynn concluded by saying any impact that the responses have had on the Strategy and/or the well-being objectives will be incorporated into the final document.

The final Corporate Strategy 2017-2022 including Well-being and Improvement Objectives 2018-19 will be presented to Council on October 26, 2017 for approval.

Addressing the cabinet members, Cllr ap Gwynn said that the council needs to provide a service that is fit for the 21st century and communication with communities is important.

Cllr ap Gwynn concluded the report by thanking those involved for their input, and it was agreed that the report will go before the council for confirmation.

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£1 billion deal set to solve poor mobile coverage

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BEN LAKE MP has worked with cross-party MPs in recent months on a campaign calling for a Shared Rural Network to extend mobile rural coverage to hard-to-reach areas.

On Friday, 25 October, a £1bn plan between the UK’s four main mobile phone companies and the UK Government was unveiled with the aim of banishing these signal dead zones. The proposed deal – which includes EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – promises to get 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025.

The new plans for all operators to share phone masts to improve UK coverage is a world first. It will mean EE, O2, Three and Vodafone will invest £530 million in a network of new and existing phone masts they would all share and which any mobile user can access, and which would be supported by £500 million investment from the UK Government.

72 cross party MPs, including Ben Lake, wrote to the then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright MP asking him to support a Shared Rural Network which would significantly improve rural coverage and enhance economic, educational and leisure opportunities in rural areas.

Mr Lake said “This is fantastic news. It will make a huge difference to so many people in my constituency where, in some areas, there is no mobile coverage at all. It will put an end to the frustration felt by thousands of people who currently feel cut off and mean people will get good mobile signal on the go wherever they live, work or travel and it will have a big impact on the local economy.

“I was glad to have the opportunity to meet with the Secretary of State to press the case for allowing newly constructed Home Office masts to be utilised as part of this new programme, something that would expedite progress in areas such as Ceredigion.”

The current Digital Secretary, Nicky Morgan said “We are determined to make sure no part of the country is left behind when it comes to mobile connectivity. We are closing in on a deal with the mobile network operators so those living in rural areas will be able to get the fast and reliable mobile coverage they need and deserve. Brokering an agreement for mast sharing between networks alongside new investment in mobile infrastructure will mean people get good 4G signal no matter where they are or which provider they’re with.”

A final agreement between UK Government and the mobile industry is expected early next year.

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Successful first year for the Childcare offer

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PARENTS of 400 Ceredigion children have taken advantage of the Childcare Offer in its first year. The scheme has been running in Ceredigion since September 2018 and has saved parents almost £850,000 in childcare costs so far.

The Childcare Offer for Wales is a Welsh Government funded scheme, which provides 3 and 4 year olds with a combination of 30 hours of Foundation Phase Nursery education and childcare. The offer is available to working parents of three and four year olds for up to 48 weeks of the year.

To be eligible, a child must be aged three or four and the parent or guardian must earn the equivalent of at least 16 hours at national living wage or national minimum wage; or receive specific caring benefits.

Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said, “It’s great to see that the Childcare Offer is having such an impact across Ceredigion in the first year. The Childcare Offer is not only a fantastic opportunity for parents, but it is also an opportunity to provide better sustainability for childcare providers.”

A dedicated team of staff has been developed within the Ceredigion County Council to administer the offer in the county and on behalf of Carmarthenshire, Powys and Pembrokeshire county councils. Ceredigion County Council is the delivery authority which processes all parent applications and deal with payments to childcare providers.

The cost of childcare can be a significant burden for working parents. A scheme like this has really made a difference to families’ financial situation. One parent who has taken advantage of the offer said, “It’s helped us quite a bit. There was a bit of work to do to set it up and find the paperwork, but once that was all done, it was really easy. All you have to do is take the child to the childcare setting each day and pick them up at the end of the day!”

“The Childcare Offer has meant that the money we’ve saved through the offer has enabled us to give our children other experiences.”

The application form for parents and carers to apply for the Childcare Offer is available on the Ceredigion County Council website: https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/children-young-people-services/childcare/childcare-offer-for-wales/childcare-offer-application-form/

Childcare Offer applications for children born between 1 September 2016 and 31 December 2016 can be submitted from 4 November 2019.
As part of the application process, parents/carers will need to provide the following evidence:

· Copy of child’s birth certificate
· Proof of address (latest Council Tax Bill or an utility bill dated within the last 3 months
· Last three months’ payslips for all applicants,
· Or, if self-employed a copy of your most recent self-assessment tax return form. Alternatively, if you are relatively new self-employed person provide proof of your Unique Tax Reference number from HMRC.

Parents or childcare providers in Ceredigion who require further information should contact the Ceredigion Childcare Unit on 01545 570881

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Environmentally friendly electric sweepers replace old diesel models

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL has replaced old diesel street sweepers with new electric powered models.

The new electric sweepers replace diesel ones which have been in use for many years and had come to the end of their useful life. The new sweepers will mainly be used in Ceredigion’s town centres to help keep the streets clean. The electric sweepers will be better for the environment and will be cheaper to operate.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards, is the Cabinet Member responsible for Highways and Environmental Services together with Housing. He said: “These new sweepers will be of great benefit in supporting the efforts of our Street Cleaning Team to keep Ceredigion’s towns clean. As part of Caru Ceredigion everyone can play their part in this by dealing with their waste including litter, cigarette ends and dog waste responsibly and legally. This would be a huge help in keeping Ceredigion clean and ensuring it remains a great place to visit, live and work as well as maintaining the positive profile it deserves.”

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