IRVINE, 13 May 2008 - At a meeting of The Executive of North Ayrshire Council at 2.00 p.m.
David O'Neill, John Reid, Tom Barr, John Bell, Peter McNamara and Margaret McDougall.
I. Snodgrass, Chief Executive; C. Kirk, Corporate Director and M. McLarty, Manager (Culture and Lifelong Learning) (Educational Services); T. Orr, Corporate Director and R. Small, Head of Roads and Transportation (Property Services); I. T. Mackay, Assistant Chief Executive (Legal and Protective); A. Herbert, Assistant Chief Executive (Finance); G. Lawson, Corporate Support Manager, M. McKeown, Corporate Support Officer, and A. Wattie, Communications Officer (Chief Executive's).
Councillor O'Neill in the Chair.
1. Irvine Royal Academy Window Replacement
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Property Services) on the outcome of negotiations with Thermashield Ltd for a second phase of window replacement at Irvine Royal Academy.
At its meeting held on 1 April 2008, the Executive agreed that the Corporate Director (Property Services) negotiate terms with Thermashield Ltd., for Phase 2 of the window replacement project at Irvine Royal Academy, and report back to a future meeting. Negotiations have been concluded with Thermashield Ltd., for the proposed works at a negotiated price which is considered fair and reasonable.
The Executive agreed that the Corporate Director (Property Services) accept the negotiated offer from Thermashield Ltd., in the sum of £431,770.62.
2. SCOTS Roads Asset Management Project
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Property Services) on the progress of the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) Roads Asset Management Project.
In March 2007, the former Corporate Policy Committee agreed to approve the continued participation of Roads and Transportation Services in the SCOTS Roads Asset Management Project. Since then, SCOTS has made steady progress towards implementing the project. Glasgow City Council has been appointed by SCOTS as the lead authority to manage the project and, in July, published a contract notice in the Official Journal of the European Union inviting applications from consultants for the SCOTS Road Asset Management Project. Six tenders were returned and after assessment the contract was awarded to Scott Wilson Scotland Limited, who are utilising Exp Consulting as a specialist sub-consultant.
All 32 local authorities have signed legal agreements committing themselves to the project and SCOTS have set up a Steering Group consisting of eight representatives from local authorities. The Steering Group, which includes representation from North Ayrshire Council, will act as the main contact between SCOTS and the consultants to oversee the delivery of the project. The consultants have prepared a Project Inception Report, which details the work to be carried out by each local authority in the first year of the project and will assist them to deliver their Common Framework document by February 2009. This work includes developing Asset Management Practice skills in the five key areas of People, Processes, Data, Systems and Finance, and developing Asset Management Plans in a consistent style and content.
The development of the Common Framework document will be delivered through Training Workshops between April 2008 and January 2009, covering all aspects of Asset Management Practice and Plans. On completion of Common Framework, all 32 local authorities will begin developing individual Road Asset Management Plans (RAMPs). The RAMP development work will be undertaken over a further three year period and is to be completed by February 2012.
The Executive agreed to (a) note progress made to date; and (b) receive further progress reports at future meetings as appropriate.
3. Irvine: 2B Bridgegate: Shop Premises
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Property Services) on the proposed lease of the shop premises at 2B Bridgegate, Irvine.
The shop premises at 2B Bridgegate, Irvine, have been advertised on the basis of a 3 year lease being available. Tender packs were issued to 6 parties who had previously expressed interest. By the closing date, only 1 offer, from Smallworld Media Limited, had been received.
The offer on behalf of Smallworld Media Limited is for a 3 year lease of the premises on a full repairing and insuring basis at a rental of £35,000 per annum, with a 6 month rent free period to be phased over the first year to partially offset fitting out costs. The company will operate the premises under the name "Below Stores Ltd.", for the sale of toiletries, perfume etc., and anticipates spending approximately £50,000 fitting out the premises. A small part of the shop will be used as a town centre office base, and 10 jobs will be created. The lease will produce significant rental income and relieve the Council of substantial empty property rates and utilities standing charges.
The Executive agreed to grant a lease to Smallworld Media Limited/Below Stores Limited for a period of 3 years, at a gross annual rental of £35,000, and on other terms to be agreed, as set out in the report.
4. Verification of Work on Buildings in which the Council has an Interest/Establishment of Consortia and Peer Group Reviews
Submitted report by the Assistant Chief Executive (Legal and Protective) on the Scottish Ministers' intention to remove the Council's Building Standards "Verification" function in respect of buildings in which local authorities have an interest, and to consider subsequent events which have led to the relevant Minister amending his proposals.
A new Building Standards system under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 came into force on 1 May 2005. At that time Scottish Ministers issued a Direction appointing Local Authorities as sole "Verifiers" for the area for which they have geographical responsibility. The principal role of the verifier is to grant building warrants once they are satisfied that the design will satisfy the standards introduced by the Act. This Direction expires on 30 April 2011.
A second Direction issued by Scottish Ministers at the same time, allowed a Local Authority to be a Verifier in respect of accepting, processing and determining Building Warrants and Certificates of Completion where the Local Authority itself has an interest in the building. This second Direction expires on 30 April 2008 and, on 28 March 2007, the Scottish Building Standards Agency (SBSA) wrote to all Local Authorities advising them that Scottish Ministers did not intend to renew the Direction. As a consequence, from 30 April 2008, Councils would not be permitted to administer the verification role in any building in which they had an interest. This action would have meant that the verification role in respect of any work being carried out on a building in which North Ayrshire Council had an interest, would require to be carried out by another Local Authority.
Concerns and representations were made to the relevant Minister by numerous Local Authorities and professional bodies but the Minister initially reconfirmed his decision that the Direction would not be extended as he wished to ensure that there would be third party checking and transparency of all Building Warrants processes where Councils had an interest.
A meeting has since taken place between Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport Infrastructure and Climate Change, and representatives of the Scottish Association for Building Standards Managers (SABSM) on 24 October 2007. The Minister was made aware of the potential problems that the proposed partial loss of the verification function would create. He accepted that it would be advisable to find a simpler means of achieving third party checking and transparency of work on buildings in which a Local Authority had an interest. The Minister indicated that he would consider alternatives to the removal of self-verification, provided his aims and objectives were still maintained. SABSM agreed to explore alternatives.
The Minister has now agreed in principle to an alternative Framework put forward by SABSM, supported by the Scottish Building Standards Agency (SBSA), whereby consortia will be established across Scotland to bring Local Authorities together to carry out "Peer Group Reviews" of the Building Warrant process in respect of buildings in which Local Authorities have an interest. Details of how the Peer Group Reviews will operate were set out in the report. North Ayrshire Council has taken part in discussions with the other two Ayrshire Councils and Dumfries and Galloway Council to establish a West of Scotland Building Standards Consortium.
The Executive agreed to (a) approve the Council's participation in the West of Scotland Building Standards Consortium, as set out in the report; and (b) homologate the actions of the Chief Building Standards Officer in writing to the Scottish Building Standards Agency confirming that the Council will take part in Consortia and Peer Group Reviews, and requesting that the Council's Direction be extended to 30 April 2011 on that basis.
5. Ayrshire Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) Modification
Submitted report by the Assistant Chief Executive (Legal and Protective) on the outcome of consultations on a draft modification to the Ayrshire Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP).
On 29 January 2008, the Executive received a report on the background to a modification to the Ayrshire LBAP entitled "The Conservation and Enhancement of Ayrshire's Biodiversity: Ayrshire Biodiversity Action Plan", and agreed to a public consultation thereon.
The consultation drew responses from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and Historic Scotland, who were in general satisfied with the details of the LBAP and the environmental report contained therein. SNH asked for a recognition of the potential harm from invasive non-native species and this has been included within the introduction to the LBAP. There were only two additional comments, one requesting that reference be made to opportunities that are available from the Scottish Rural Development Contract scheme for funding the actions within the LBAP and the other a comment that perhaps too much consideration was given to Scottish and UK national indicator sets when selecting the priority actions. These latter comments will be addressed within the post Adoption Statement required under the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005, but do not require an amendment to the draft LBAP.
The LBAP contains two core action plans, two habitat action plans and two species action plans, as set out in the appendix to the report. Overall, the LBAP will be implemented, reported, and monitored, as a core theme action plan through the LBAP Management Group. It is envisaged that coordination will occur through the Ayrshire Joint Structure Plan and Transport Unit, who are identified as plan leader.
The Executive agreed to approve the modification to the LBAP and the Action Plan Priorities, as set out in the report.
6. Review of Public Library Services
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Educational Services) on the implications of the Public Library Review Group proposals for capital and revenue budgets.
At its meeting on 11 March 2008, the Executive approved in principle the recommendations of the Public Library Review Group and requested a further report detailing the capital and revenue implications of the proposals.
Phases 1 and 2 of the proposals put forward by the Review Group involve the relocation of the Library Headquarters from Ardrossan Library to Greenwood Teachers' Centre in Irvine, and the refurbishment of Saltcoats Library. Technical Services has costed Phase 1 at £879,820 and Phase 2 at £106,071. These costs can be met from the Library and Information Service's 2008/09 capital budget of £1,075,000. An additional capital budget of £81,885 for refurbishment works can also be targeted to the proposals if required. Phase 3 involves the proposed relocation of Ardrossan Library. This cannot be fully costed until a site has been identified and approved. There is currently no provision in the Educational Services capital budget for the building of a new Ardrossan Library and, whilst a new build is not the preferred option, funds would need to be identified should this be required.
The revenue implications arising from the proposals can be met from existing budgets and from savings arising.
The Executive agreed to (a) note the financial implications of the recommendations of the Public Library Review Group as detailed in the report; (b) approve the implementation of Phase 1, being the relocation of Library Administrative HQ to extended accommodation at Greenwood Teachers' Centre; (c) approve the implementation of Phase 2, being the refurbishment of Saltcoats Library; (d) continue discussions to identify a suitable site for the relocation of Ardrossan Library and to the eventual closure of the Ardrossan Library and HQ building; and (e) approve the extension of opening hours in Irvine, Largs and Saltcoats libraries on Wednesday mornings.
7. Kinship Care
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Social Services) on preparation for the implementation of a kinship care strategy for North Ayrshire Council.
The strategy "Getting it Right for Every Child in Kinship and Foster Care", which was launched by the Scottish Government in December 2007, recommends that "kinship carers" or "relative carers" should from 1 April 2008 be paid at the same rate as foster carers minus child benefit. Payments will be made only to those caring for children who are "Looked After and Accommodated Children". For most children this means that a child will either require to be placed under Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and be in the care of the local authority, or be placed on compulsory measures of care through the Children's Hearing System under Section 70 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 with a condition of residence.
Where children are "looked after and accommodated" there are certain statutory obligations which require to be met. They require to have a care plan which is reviewed on a regular basis and formal review meetings are held with the social worker, education and sometimes health staff present along with the carers of the child. If the child is also subject to a supervision requirement, the care plan will be reviewed through the Children's Hearing System. This involves a lay panel of three people along with the social worker and the carers, considering and determining the plan for the child on at least an annual basis.
The Scottish Government has set up four task groups to develop guidance for the implementation of the strategy. One task group will develop guidance for assessing and approving kinship carers and will look at initial proposals for their training. The group will also look at models of practice for kinship carers who do not require approval as they do not care for children who are looked after and accommodated and who will not receive an allowance but may be given discretionary payments. The kinship care group is not due to report until the summer of 2008.
Linked to the launch of "Getting it Right for Every Child in Kinship and Foster Care" is the launch of consultation draft Regulations "The Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations", responses to which were due by the end of March 2008. These Regulations will apply to all looked after children and their carers including "relative carers", and will deal with the content of care plans and the review of these plans, the approval of relative carers, written agreement with relative carers, the yearly review of relative carers, and the payment of allowances to those relative carers. The new Regulations will not come into effect until the autumn of 2008. The new kinship care service will be a regulated service subject to inspection by the Care Commission in the same way as the fostering service.
North Ayrshire Council currently has arrangements for children who are looked after and accommodated and placed with relatives or friends known as kinship carers as an alternative to placing children with foster carers or in residential establishments. These arrangements keep children with people who already know them and in many cases children are able to maintain links with their schools and community. There are currently 36 kinship carers in North Ayrshire caring for 48 children. Allowances are made available on the basis of the age of the child. These allowances are less than those paid to foster carers. The total yearly cost for these placements is £269,000. If those currently approved as kinship carers were paid at foster carer rates, the cost would be £487,177. It was proposed that North Ayrshire Council should maintain existing arrangements for kinship carers at present. Once the new guidance and Regulations are in place, the full implications, including financial implications, of adapting the current arrangements to meet the new requirements be reported to the Executive.
The Executive agree to (a) approve the steps being taken to develop a Kinship Care Strategy; and (b) receive a further report at a future meeting once national guidance and new Regulations are in place.
8. Improvement Plan in response to the Performance Inspection of Social Work Services in North Ayrshire by the Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA)
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Social Services) on proposals to implement recommendations in the Improvement Plan arising from the performance inspection of social work services in North Ayrshire undertaken by SWIA.
The Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA) is a Scottish Government Agency tasked by Scottish Ministers with the inspection of all social work services in Scotland. The aim of SWIA's programme of inspections is to drive up standards and improve the quality of social work services in Scotland. SWIA's current programme schedules a performance inspection of all local authority social work services every three years, where appropriate, taking account of findings by other inspection and regulatory organisations such as the Care Commission.
During 2007 SWIA carried out its first performance inspection of social work services at North Ayrshire Council. The inspection covered all aspects of social work services with the exception of criminal justice social work services which were subject to a separate inspection. The inspection was undertaken in a number of phases over the period January to December 2007. SWIA's report on the inspection was published in December 2007 and a presentation of the key findings was made by SWIA to elected Members at this time.
The Performance Inspection considers social work services under ten categories and rates each category using a scale from 1 "unsatisfactory" to 6 "excellent". SWIA evaluated North Ayrshire Council under the ten categories as follows:-
Very Good (Level 5)
Management and support of staff
Good (Level 4)
Impact on people who use Social Services and other stakeholders
Impact on staff
Impact on the community
Leadership and direction
Capacity for improvement
Adequate (Level 3)
Outcomes for people who use Social Services
Delivery of key processes
Policy and service development, planning and performance management
Resources and capacity building
The results place social work services in North Ayrshire in the mid range of authorities inspected by SWIA and reflect the scale of deprivation in North Ayrshire, the resources available to the Council for the delivery of social work services, and the level of maturity of partnership working. SWIA made 15 recommendations for improvement and the Council is required to submit an Improvement Plan which tackles each of the recommendations. A detailed Improvement Plan and Action Plan, a copy of which was appended to the report, has been drawn up to address SWIA's recommendations. The Improvement Plan incorporates both new actions and actions which were already in progress prior to the publication of the SWIA report. Progress against the Improvement Plan will be monitored by a link inspector from SWIA with the first formal monitoring of progress due to take place in December 2008.
A combined Improvement Plan incorporating the recommendations arising from the inspection of social work services, the inspection of criminal justice social work services, the multi-agency inspection of services for people with learning disabilities, and in due course the HMIE inspection of child protection, together with any other improvement actions planned by Social Services, will be developed in due course. This will ensure a more co-ordinated approach to continuous improvement activity undertaken by Social Services and will facilitate reporting of progress against each of the Plans. SWIA will continue to monitor each Plan separately.
The Executive agreed to (a) approve the Improvement Plan as set out in the report; and (b) receive a progress report on the implementation of the Improvement Plan at a future meeting prior to the first formal review by SWIA in December 2008.
9. Economic Development: EU Structural Funding for Business Development Activities 2008-2011
Submitted report by the Chief Executive on the success of North Ayrshire Council in securing offers of further European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding for Business Development support.
The Council's Economic Development Service provides development support for Small/Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) throughout North Ayrshire, including specialist business advice and grant funding where appropriate. Assistance is normally delivered through business growth and skills development programmes which are designed to improve SME competitiveness, efficiencies, and profitability. Typically the companies benefit from support in such areas as workforce training, management development, marketing, e-working, quality accreditation, systems development etc.
Grant and/or loan funding is a significant factor in taking forward these activities. European funding is a key element of this and the Council has been successful in securing European Structural Funding during the six years of the last round of funding which ended in December 2007. Without continued EU funding, the Council's support for business would be severely curtailed to the likely detriment of the North Ayrshire economy. The latest round of European Union funding covers the period 2008-2011. The Council has been successful in securing offers of £278,000 from the European Social Fund and £518,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, to cover business development support purposes over the next 3 years.
The Community Planning Partnership has also been successful in securing EST and ERDF funding to enhance employability measures, including More Choices, More Chances clients, and to support social enterprises and physical regeneration activities.
Further discussions will take place at the CPP Board Meeting in June on how these additional funds will be used and a report brought to a future meeting of the Executive.
The Executive agreed (a) to accept the offers of European Union funding as set out in the report; and (b) that the Council continues to provide appropriate match funding for the support programmes from within existing budget provision for a period of 3 years, subject to satisfactory performance monitoring.
10. Financial Assistance to Outside Bodies
Submitted report by the Chief Executive on applications for financial assistance received from Outside Bodies.
The Executive agreed to make the following awards:-