A council has saved almost £9.5m from its revenue budget during the last financial year – around 4.5 per cent of the total.

Denbighshire council’s audit and governance committee received the figures as part of the organisation’s annual performance review at its meeting on Wednesday.

It revealed the authority had underspent by more than £7m on schools, around £1.9m on corporate budgets and more than £800,000 on service budgets.

However the council received almost £400,000 less than expected from council tax and balances.

It spent a net figure of £13.85m on servicing existing loans used to finance capital projects such as Rhyl’s Queens Buildings development.

Capital expenditure totalled £47.247m, including more than £24.5m on highways, roads and facilities and council reserves currently stand at £7.135m.

The report said: “We are proud to say the council continues to make good progress with its priorities, having for the most part recovered timescales impacted by Covid-19, or adapted delivery to continue to secure the benefits we want for our communities.”

Among the report it assessed performance in key areas against the corporate plan. The five-year plan ends in March 2022.

Below are some the highlights from each section according to the council’s strategic planning team.

Housing: Everyone is supported to live in homes that meet their needs

At the end of March the number of people registered on the housing waiting list (SARTH) in the county was 2,139 and rising.

The number of people housed from the waiting in the financial year to March 2021 was 219.

The authority has committed to building 170 new council homes by 2022 and work on 26 of them started this year.

This equates to 10 built in 2020-21 and the same number completed in 2019-20.

The report said it will not be able to hits target of building 170 homes by March 2022 “because of the social distancing measures that have been imposed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic”.

However 435 additional homes were provided in Denbighshire during the last financial year by private developers, including 165 affordable dwellings.

So far 379 additional affordable homes have been provided in the first four years of the corporate plan, already beating the five-year target of 260.

An ambition to bring more than 500 empty properties back into use by 2022 has also been met with 148 brought into circulation during 2020-21, meaning 659 homes have been revived during the plan’s first four years.

Work has started on Awel y Dyffryn extra care housing scheme in Denbigh after being delayed due to the pandemic.

Pre-demolition works have started on the extra care scheme in Ruthin but finding a builder has run into snags because of the high specification for the work.

The report said: “(The tender) has now been re-advertised with a slightly lower specification in the hope that more interest will be received.”

Data for those prevented from homelessness or relieved from homelessness should be available this month and both measures have been given a “priority for improvement” rating.

The internal assessment of the overall housing measures taken by the council: good

The internal assessment of the overall housing projects undertaken by the council: good

Connected Communities: Communities are connected and have access to goods and services locally, online and through good transport links

Denbighshire continues to suffer from broadband connectivity issues in rural areas, with 92.23 per cent of the county achieving broadband speeds of 30mbps or greater, compared to the all-Wales figure of 95.40 per cent.

The percentage of the county’s premises achieving speeds of just 10mbps or less is 4.45 per cent well above the all-Wales figure of 2.45 per cent.

As of December 2020 you could get a 4G phone signal on around half of Denbighshire’s A and B roads (49.8 per cent) – below the council’s target of 60 per cent.

One hundred and seventy-three damaged roads and pavements were reported to the council during 2020-21.

One hundred and fifty-one were made safe during seven working days (87 per cent), which is 2 per cent down on the previous year.

Condition data for A and B roads is expected this month but the condition scores for 2019-20 showed an increase in those ranked as “poor”.

The report said: “We are proposing to develop a ‘Sustainable Transport Plan’.

“The Plan will set a long-term vision for sustainable transport in Denbighshire and will probably include a range of existing and new interventions to encourage greater use of greener and healthier forms of transport, including reducing the need to travel wherever possible.”

The internal assessment of the overall connected communities measures taken by the council: priority for improvement

The internal assessment of the overall connected communities projects undertaken by the council: good

Resilient Communities: The council works with people and communities to build independence and resilience

Domestic crime has increased in North Wales by 5.8 per cent in 2020-21, with the number of repeat victims in Denbighshire rising by 7.6 per cent to 555.

The number or offenders who have committed domestic abuse on three or more occasions within a 12-month period increased by 11.3 per cent during the same period, to 108 people.

Across the whole of North Wales the number of repeat domestic abusers decreased by 2.2 per cent.

The number of carer assessments reduced from 1,224 the previous year to 878 last year.

The authority said it is also working towards being a dementia friendly council in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Society.

Memory bags, containing books, poems, artefacts and smells designed to stimulate the senses and promote reminiscence and discussion, are being offered by the county’s libraries for people living with dementia.

A new community food garden is being developed in West Rhyl. The report said: “This garden will offer communities opportunity to grow their own food, and to use new fixtures to sit, relax and socialise.

“The Garden will be fully accessible and will be used at no cost to residents who are part of the West Rhyl Community Champions initiative.”

The internal assessment of the overall resilient communities measures taken by the council: acceptable

The internal assessment of the overall resilient communities projects undertaken by the council: good

Environment: Attractive and protected, supporting well-being and economic prosperity

The report said: “The latest published figures (2019) for the indicator for STEAM (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor) showed strong growth in the economic impact of tourism, with a 6.6 per cent increase on the previous year’s (2018) figure from £509 million to £552 million.

“Unfortunately, a very different picture will apply to 2020 to 2021 should data be released for this year.”

The percentage of council housing stock with EPC (Energy) rating of C or above rose from 40 per cent to 46 per cent in 2020-21 and the authority still believes it can reach 70 per cent by next March.

Despite Covid-19, the council managed to plant slightly more trees during 2020-21 than the previous year.

It planted 4,400 compared to 4,300 in 2019-20 which exceeded

the target for the year – with 14,500 being planted over the last four years.

Almost 60 per cent of the budget for the East Rhyl coastal defence scheme has now been spent and work continues.

A helicopter is being used to transport heather brash and seeds to repopulate fire damaged areas of Llantysilio mountain.

There are now 272 allotment spaces available in Denbighshire, up 30 on the previous year.

The internal assessment of environment measures taken by the council: good

The internal assessment of the environment projects undertaken by the council: excellent

Young People: A place where younger people will want to live and work and have the skills to do so

Attainment and attendance measures for school children were suspended because of the pandemic.

Almost a third of children between the ages of four and five years old were classified as overweight, the second worst result in Wales.

The percentage of 18-24 year olds claiming work-related benefits is a “significant area of concern” the report said.

It doubled from 6.9 per cent to 13.9 per cent, well behind the Wales average of 8.7 per cent.

Band B of the council’s new schools programme was approved by Welsh Government in November meaning it can move ahead with the next phase of modernising educational facilities.

A new Welsh language centre in St Asaph should see some use from the summer term after being hampered because of the pandemic restrictions.

Six schools and 12 members of staff were recruited the council’s schools nutrition project during 2020-21 and a new online platform for sharing best practise has been developed.

The council used £312,000 of funding through the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government to create office accommodation at the semi-derelict Costigan’s building on Bodfor Street,


Work initiatives have been hit during the pandemic but 24 placements under the working Start scheme saw 12 people recruited to new jobs so far.

The study added: “The building will support new businesses, create jobs and grow the local economy.

“There is room to accommodate around 20 start-up business in flexible accommodation, with space to host events and a coffee shop on site.”

A “One Stop Shop” has been created for volunteering opportunities to go along with the authority’s new policy approved in March  this year.

The internal assessment of measures taken for young by the council: priority for improvement

The internal assessment of projects undertaken on behalf of young people by the council: good

Corporate Health: The council is efficient, well-managed and environmentally sustainable

Overall satisfaction rates for the council among residents was 40 per cent in 2018 and a new survey will be conducted in the autumn.

The number of negative news stories about the council rose from 4 per cent to 11 per cent in the last financial year, with 44 written between January and March 2021.

Woman are paid more per hour on average than men but 79 per cent of the lowest paid jobs are still occupied by women.

Member attendance at meetings has gone up by 10 per cent during the pandemic – to 89 per cent, with fewer reasons not to attend because meetings were being held virtually using video technology.

Of all contracts awarded by the council 34 per cent went to local suppliers and 12 per cent of contracts between £25,000 and £1m contained some form of community benefit.

Out of 47 external complaints received 27 (57 per cent) were upheld but average staff absences reduced from eight days to 6.47 days over the course of the pandemic.

With regard to staff performance only 45 per cent of the council’s staff received three one-to-one meetings, as per the authority’s targets.

Elsewhere the authority’s chief executive left her post at the end of the financial year and a number of “project milestones” couldn’t be achieved because of the effects of the pandemic.

The new local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 will put further duties on the council and make it more accountable to the public.

There are 11 corporate risks the study labels as “inconsistent with our risk appetite”, including assessing the county’s ash tree population because of ash dieback disease and the effects of Brexit.

The report mentioned areas for corporate improvement. It said: “Four areas of work have been given a low assurance rating by Internal Audit, and improvement plans are in place to address identified risks. The four reports were:

Provision of Homeless Accommodation

Queen’s Buildings

Children’s Direct Payments

Contract Management