Minutes of a meeting held on 21st December, 2011.


Present:  Councillor A.C. Williams (Chairman); Councillors K. Hatton, N. Moore and C.L. Osborne.





These were received from Councillors J. Clifford, Mrs. P. Drake and J.F. Fraser.



750     MINUTES -


RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 19th September, 2011 be approved as a correct record.





No declarations were received.





Cabinet, on 29th November 2011, were advised of the results of the assessment by the Auditor General for Wales of the Council's arrangements to secure continuous improvement. 


The Auditor General for Wales has a duty under the Local Government (Wales) Measure (2009) to make two assessments of all improvement authorities in Wales:

  • A Corporate Assessment - an assessment of an authorities arrangements to secure the continuous improvement, and
  • A Performance Assessment - an assessment of whether an authority has achieved its planned improvements.

The Auditor General's Improvement Assessment Letter was attached at Appendix 1 to the report, and summarised:

  • the Council's compliance with its statutory obligations to make arrangements for continuous improvement
  • the Council's progress on areas for improvement and recommendations identified in the 2010 improvement assessment
  • a brief commentary on any relevant issues that have emerged since the last report including comments on how the Council is addressing financial challenges
  • updates to the work plan and timetable for delivering improvement assessment work.

Matters of note include the following:

  • the Council has discharged its minimum duties for setting improvement objectives under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 although there was scope to improve the way it communicates relevant information to citizens
  • the Council was well placed to address its financial challenges and demonstrated strong and accountable financial leadership
  • limited progress had been made in two out of four proposals for improvement made in the 2010 assessment.  These related to the development of service plans to consistently include outcome measures and improving performance reporting so that the Council was able to clearly demonstrate the outcome of its activities for the community and service users.

The report made one recommendation:

  • establish a transparent programme for the development of outcome focussed measures moving from reporting arrangements that focussed primarily on performance indicators and on the completion, or otherwise, of an action.

The development of outcome focussed measures had been identified as an area for improvement in most Welsh Councils and represented a significant challenge in the current financial climate.  The Council had recently commissioned the Local Government Data Unit to work with three service areas to develop outcome focussed performance measures as a pilot.  This work would inform a Council-wide approach which would thereafter be rolled out to all service plan areas.  There would be WAO involvement in the process to inform the corporate approach.  Appendix 2 to the report detailed a draft action plan which was currently subject to consultation with the Local Government Data Unit, Wales Audit Office and relevant Chief Officers. 


A significant amount of work had been undertaken in addressing the proposals for improvement made in the Council's 2010 assessment, and these were detailed in Appendix 3 to the report.


Cabinet had




(1)       T H A T the contents of the report be noted.


(2)       T H A T the report be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) and the Audit Committee.


Having considered the Auditor General's Improvement Assessment letter, it was


RECOMMENDED - T H A T the contents of the letter be noted.


Reason for recommendation


Having regard to the contents of the letter.





Committee received an updated 2011/12 Forward Work Programme. 


Set out at Appendix A to the report was information in relation to all aspects of the Committee’s core functions including progress made to date on each activity detailed in the Programme.


RECOMMENDED - T H A T the updated 2011/12 Forward Work Programme be noted.


Reason for recommendation


To keep the Audit Committee informed.





Committee were informed of the outcome of the Wales Audit Office review of Grants Management in Wales. 


The Wales Audit Office (WAO) identified, through analysis, that Wales used specific grant funding more heavily than other parts of the United Kingdom, with a relatively high number of schemes and consequently relatively high administration costs.  Whilst the WAO were unclear as to how many grants were currently being made to or by Welsh public bodies, in September 2011 they were aware of over 500 different schemes, collectively worth some £2 billion per year. 


It was clearly important that grants were well planned and managed.  Funders wanted the maximum possible resources directed to project delivery, and they also wanted to be sure that those resources were delivered in a way that achieved real value for money and, more importantly, the public must be confident that this funding was being administered and spent in a fair and transparent way.


The Auditor General for Wales had presented a report on Grant Management in Wales to the National Assembly for Wales.  The purpose of the report was to answer the question “Are Welsh public sector grants well managed”. 


The overall conclusion from the Auditor General for Wales was that many grants were poorly managed, with funders and recipients failing to learn from past mistakes.  However, it was also concluded that there was clear evidence of a desire to improve and the WAO was well placed to continue supporting funders and recipients to do so, in part by the publication of the Auditor General for Wales’ report which was attached to the report before Committee.


Contained within the body of the report, was the statement “there is significant variation in the quality of grants management at local authority level”.  This was further demonstrated on page 25 of the report by Exhibit 8 - Percentage of grant claims adjusted or qualified for 2009-10, by Council.  It could be seen from the report that the Vale of Glamorgan was performing exceptionally well, with a qualification rate of less than 10% with only two other Councils performing slightly better.  


It was pleasing to note that the Vale of Glamorgan Council had a special mention within the Auditor General for Wales’ report along with Ceredigion and Wrexham because the WAO had recognised the improvements the Council had made to its grant management arrangements.


RECOMMENDED - T H A T the contents of the report be noted.


Reason for recommendation


To facilitate monitoring of the audit function.





Committee were informed of actual Internal Audit performance against the 2011/12 Plan for the period 1st April to 31st October 2011. 


The actual position for the seven months compared against the Plan was detailed at Appendix A to the report. 


The figures showed that 1,100 actual productive days had been achieved, which equated to 101% of the overall planned productive time available for the seven month period.  This was considered to be an incredible achievement when taking into account the fact that staff had been relocated during the period to Bridgend and had had to embrace new working practices such as agile working and hot desking. 


With the two sections now together, it was envisaged that staff would work alongside one another to ensure that both Councils’ Audit Plans were achieved in line with risk.


A summary of audits completed during the period April to October 2011 was attached at Appendix B to the report.  This provided the Committee with details of the reviews completed, together with an overall Audit Opinion, and this would support the annual audit opinion at the end of the financial year. 


Detailed reports were issued to the relevant service managers on the results of individual audits, and where significant weaknesses had been identified, these would be followed up to ensure high priority recommendations were implemented.


Overall, the reviews completed during the seven months of the financial year had not identified any significant weaknesses in the system of financial control.  However, two reviews had resulted in an overall opinion of limited assurance due to the weaknesses identified in the internal control environment.  These reviews would be subject to follow up work during the year.


RECOMMENDED - T H A T the report on actual internal audit performance during the seven months of the Financial Year be noted.


Reason for recommendation


To facilitate monitoring of the audit function.