Posted: Fri 8th Mar 2024

Gwent Council to Spend £1.7m on Children’s Home

news.wales / newyddion.cymru

A GWENT council will spend up to £1.7 million to buy and refurbish a four-bedroom house for use as a children’s home. 
The house in Monmouth will be the first such facility to be owned and operated by Monmouthshire County Council after its Labour-led cabinet approved the plan which cannot be reviewed under the usual process. 
The cabinet agreed the purchase at its March 6 meeting and as an “urgent decision” it wouldn’t be subject to a call-in, by which three councillors can request a decision is reviewed by a scrutiny committee, as “any delay would likely “seriously prejudice the council’s or other public interests”. 
The cabinet was told a Welsh Government grant of £875,000 to buy the house has been approved, but not yet signed off, and it seeking a further £300,000 towards the refurbishment. 
If the grants aren’t approved the cabinet has also agreed it can use up to £1.7m of borrowing to fund the purchase and restoration. 
Councillor Ian Chandler, the Green Party cabinet member who has responsibility for social care, said: “You may ask why this property and why are we spending to much on it?  
“The requirements for a children’s residential home are not the same as a modest family home, it needs four bedrooms for children and regulations require each bedroom is at least 12 square metres and accommodation is also required for staff so options are limited. 
“It is designed to create a homely environment for up to four well matched children, who will be closer to their families, and will greatly improve expected outcomes for the children and will also be value for money.” 
Cllr Chandler said the refurbishment cost would be better described as “repurposing” as adaptations will have to be made but said there is no requirement for change of use planning permission. 
At present, the council must purchase places in residential accommodation for children, which can often be out of the county. The cabinet member said the cost of placing four children over a year would be £1.6m. 
If the home is fully occupied for 12 months  it is estimated it will save the council £300,000 a year and it would be cost neutral on a “cautious” 75 per cent occupancy rate.  Spare rooms they could also be let to other Gwent authorities. 
Conservative opposition councillor Paul Pavia asked if the council was confident it had the experience to operate a children’s home and also asked why the council had chosen the area when considering value for money. 
He also asked why the value of the property hadn’t been disclosed and why the decision wasn’t put before a scrutiny committee. 
Cllr Chandler said the decision would be presented to a committee for post decision scrutiny and said the value hasn’t yet been made public as it relates to an individual’s personal circumstances. 
The councillor also said: “Children shouldn’t be excluded from living in a community because of socio-economic factors beyond their control.” 
Social services chief Jane Rodgers said there is experience of running older people’s homes in the service, and some similarity in regulations, and it could also lean on other authorities in Gwent that run their own children’s homes.
The report for the cabinet stated an independent market valuation found the property was valued at £35,000 less than the offer that has been accepted, and that could now be challenged.  
It stated the house is in Monmouth and its proximity to the town centre the children placed there will have “good access to community-based resources and local amenities”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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