TheSprout has teamed up with the Cardiff Partnership for a series of interviews with the leaders of Cardiff’s main institutions. Simdude101 interviewed the Leader of Cardiff Council, Phil Bale.
Why shut recycling centres when they are busy and people need them?
Clearly councils across the country are facing very difficult budget decisions at the moment with the cuts in funding from central government, as part of the budget process we’ve been looking at the way we provide recycling centres across the city and there was a decision in the budget to go down from four to two, and we’ve now had a decision around Wedal road in the city, and really the reason for that is that we’ve been able to show that if you have fewer centres, but bigger centres, more efficient centres then you actually get better use out of those facilities and you can offer more services, so we’re hoping to also look at providing a re-use facility around the Wedal road area if we can, so that people can bring some of their recycling down, potentially in partnership with another organisation to try and fill those gaps were we’re not able to provide our own recycling centres elsewhere in the city.
Why are you charging disabled tenants bedroom tax when in David Cameron’s speech he said that all disabled tenants are exempt?
Well as far as the council’s concerned we have to do our upmost to make sure all tenants are impacted by the bedroom tax and are as fairly treated as possible, we’ve tried through financial packages that are available to make the best situation of a very difficult, challenging situation that we face on that policy, but it isn’t correct to say that they are exempt, you know people across the divide are being impacted by the bedroom tax as a policy and what the council has always sought to do is try to use the resources, the limited resources it has at its disposal to minimise the impact on the most vulnerable including the disabled.
Why re-vamp Victoria Park, spending such a vast amount of money on something that does not need it? So much for cuts and saving money!
Victoria Park , the scheme there is actually a combination of the council’s own capital, but predominantly it?s being funded through section 106 developer contributions, so that means that when big housing schemes or other developments take place in the city, a contribution is made towards community facilities to compensate for the extra development and the extra people that will live in an area and in this case we are consulting with people in that area about a new splash park, that will also have benefits in terms of disabled children being able to more easily access the facilities and there’s also a lot of engagement and consultation going on with the local schools to make sure that the facility that is provided absolutely is shaped by local children in the area.
What is the rationale behind the Victoria Park development? It’s really popular with families across the rest of Cardiff so why mess with it?
I think we, well I’d go back to the financial picture the council faces, we have to make something like ?170 million pounds of further cuts over the next three years, we have seen paddling pools close elsewhere across the country, we’re trying to come up with new ways of keeping these facilities going but that does mean we have to look at different options and not necessarily provide the same facilities as they have been provided in the past, so this investment will allow us to provide quite an exciting facility for children in that area, but it’ll also have a lower running cost of the council as well.
Is it time for Cardiff to set an agenda for the Greater Cardiff area, including how you would transform Barry?
I think this is a really exciting area for Cardiff and also the surrounding valley areas for us to be able to work close together now, there are ten councils in total in South-East Wales, and we are working more closely together to provide more job opportunities and more inward investment as well in the future, one of the big discussions that I’m having at the moment is around a city deal which would be with the Welsh Government and the UK Government, looking to provide more money, more funding to invest in skills, to invest in more technology as well, broadband for example, to ensure that younger people, when they grow up in Cardiff and the wider region have got as many opportunities as possible and that includes areas like Barry as well as other parts of the region so we are working as much as possible as a council with other neighbouring authorities to get the best deal possible for residents across the region.
Why were you Phil, and the Council, unable to open a new Welsh language school in Grangetown?
Well I’m happy to say that we are working towards opening a new Welsh language school, not just for Grangetown but for some of the surrounding wards as well. Theres currently a consultation that’s going on at the moment, so I’d obviously encourage people to respond to that consultation so that we get the best possible solution, I think currently we’re looking at a number of options, one is involving the channel view leisure centre site, the other one is the old Hamadryad hospital site as well in the area, so there are developments and there are plans in place to deliver a Welsh medium school for that area, and we’re committed to delivering as a council.
Does the council have a ten year arts and culture strategy, would such an idea be considered if not?
Cardiff’s got a great tradition of hosting big sporting and cultural events and it’s something that we see now with the Rugby World Cup (RWC), that there’s a great opportunity for us to showcase Cardiff and Wales to a wider audience, when we embrace sport and we embrace culture. What we are doing now not just in Cardiff itself, is working closely with other arts organisations to develop a strategy in light of the fact that we’ve got less money, but we’re also talking to other big cities in the UK, and the arts councils in England and Scotland and Wales, to see how we can work together across the UK as cities, to make sure we’ve got a good cultural strategy for not just Cardiff, but actually for big cities across the UK at the moment. So it’s and area that we are committed to and also want to develop more, in partnership with other organisations.
Why are you giving council officers large pay rises, whilst we are living in austerity? It does not make sense!
We’re not giving large pay rises to council officers, we did have a re-structuring of our senior management team recently where we reduced 4 posts from our senior management team that saved the council tax payers around ?650,000 a year. So we’re acutely aware that there are concerns around the cost of senior management, when councils have less money to spend, but we are proactively trying to reduce the cost of senior management, which is part of the councils on-going financial situation.
Why are you penalising people who already recycle everything they can, by making black bins smaller, leaving less space for things that cannot be put into the recycling, such as pet waste?
We have very strict targets now from the Welsh Government in terms of recycling. We need to work towards a 70% target for recycling. One of they ways we are seeking to do that is reducing the size, as you say, of our black bins. Evidence elsewhere, whether it’s Merthyr or further afield, is that when your reduce the size of black bins, more people think about what they can put into their green recycling bags, so recycling rates go up. If we don’t do that, the councils at risk of significant fines, financial penalties from the Government, if we don’t hit the targets that they’ve set, so it’s really firstly about us trying to encourage people to recycle more, but also to avoid a potential financial penalty by not hitting the targets that we’ve been set by Central Government.
What are your plans for the near future, so where do you aim to take this city?
We’ve got an important role as the driver, not just of Cardiff as a capital city, but of the whole of the wider region. So Cardiff and the surrounding area accounts for half of the Welsh economy, and we want to make sure that as Cardiff grows, we’re the fastest growing city in the UK at the moment, that we maintain the quality of life that we’ve got in Cardiff. We’ve got a strategy now around creating one of Europe’s great liveable cities, one of Europe’s great quality of life cities, and we’re committed to delivering on That. We’re also committed to improving the standards of public services that we provide in Cardiff, so education for young people is a key priority for us, we’ve seen some really big improvements in GCSE and A level results in the city over the last couple of years, that’s really a great tribute to the work of teachers to parents and pupils, and it’s really important that we support schools across the city to make sure that we develop that agenda for further forward and that’s what we?re looking to do.
On renewing the Arriva Trains Wales franchise, will you be able to lobby for a zoning type ticketing system to travel around Cardiff, similar to the London Tube?
We don’t have responsibility as a council for the provision of the all Wales franchise, but we are working with other partners to look at developing new technology, into better integrated ticketing, so it is something that we’re looking at, in terms of encouraging the Welsh Government and others.
Why are there no Welsh Speaking clubs in Cardiff English medium schools?
I think for us, it’s a case of demand, so where there’s demand for these school classes, we’ll obviously look to support them, but that’s certainly something that schools themselves will take forward.
Finally, what is going to replace the closed youth clubs in Cardiff, so that young people have somewhere to go?
So one of the strategies that we’ve been doing in terms of youth provision is to create six youth activity centres across Cardiff, where we will invest in new technology, state-of-the-art equipment that young people say they want in those centres. Around that we’ll still be maintaining outreach youth provision, we’ll also be working with schools as well, as we have been doing in the past, and we’ve also just launched an innovation grant scheme that young people across Cardiff have helped to choose successful partners on, in my own ward for example, in Llanishen, we’ve now got a partnership with Cardiff city football foundation, and their providing a weekly free sports coaching session in Llanishen high school for youngsters, so there are different ways now that we’re looking at providing youth services across the city, which reflect what young people themselves want to se in a youth service, not necessarily what adults have been saying a youth service should be for them.
Did Councillor Bale answer your questions well? What do you think of the answers he gave? Let us know in the comments below!