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Agenda Item No. 7

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Democratic Services Committee : 21st November, 2012

 

Report of the Head of Democratic Services

 

Wales Audit Office Scrutiny Improvement Study

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To apprise Members of the commencement of the above Wales Audit Office (WAO) Study.

Recommendations

1.             That the undertaking of the Study be noted.

2.             That the outcome of the Study be reported to the Group in due course.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1&2     To ensure Member awareness of the Study and its outcome.

 

Background

2.             The Auditor General in his letter to Chief Executives on 13th March, 2012 stated his intent to conduct a number of all-Wales Improvement Studies each year.  The WAO programme for 2012/13 includes a Scrutiny Improvement Study.  The WAO is looking to work with the local government sector in a way that provides an opportunity for all involved to further improve scrutiny in a sustainable manner.  The Study aims to help achieve this through 'facilitating the gaining of insight, sharing knowledge, developing skills, building and strengthening relationships, and identifying new opportunities for working together with other councils and partners.' 

3.             In addition to the above, it is also intended that the Study will support councils in responding to the Welsh Government's programme for scrutiny over the next three years and to shape proposed Key Characteristics of Effective Overview and Scrutiny.

4.             The Study differs from a traditional audit approach in that it involves real-time shared activity and working together, self evaluation and peer learning exchange opportunities. 

Relevant Issues and Options

5.             The Study is split into a number of phases, which can be summarised as follows:

  • Collaborating Scoping - this has already taken place and comprised discussions between the WAO and local government and key partners.  As a result, a Project Brief was prepared.
  • Initial Self-Evaluation - each council has been asked to complete, and submit to the WAO by 31st October, 2012, a self-evaluation questionnaire. It has been made clear that initial self-evaluation questionnaires are capable of being refined during the course of the Study.  Information will also be shared with other councils during later phases of the Study in order to enable learning, development and continuous improvement.
  • Learning Exchange Team - the Council was also requested to nominate Members/Officers to form a Scrutiny Learning Exchange Team who, in turn, would attend two regional workshops (where information will be presented/shared) and work with a partner council during the Study.  This will include observing the scrutiny process in the partner authority.

The following Members were approached (in the context of their respective positions as shown below):

  • Councillor R.L. Traherne - Chairman, Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) (Conservative)
  • Councillor G. John - Cabinet Member (Llantwit First Independents)
  • Councillor K. Hatton - Chairman, Audit Committee (Plaid Cymru)
  • Councillor Mrs. P. Drake - Vice-Chairman, Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) (Labour).

The Officers involved will be myself and the Principle Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer. 

  • Regional Workshops/Learning - the above participants will attend two regional workshops, with the South Wales event comprising the Vale of Glamorgan Council together with Cardiff, Bridgend, Neath/Port Talbot and Swansea Councils.  Each council will present their initial self-evaluations to Peer Learning Exchange Teams from other councils and then undertake a Learning Exchange Evaluation / Observation of one other council.  As far as the Vale of Glamorgan is concerned, the council to be evaluated / observed will be Swansea, with Neath and Port Talbot undertaking the exercise in respect of this Council's scrutiny arrangements. 

6.             Later phases of the Study will include the holding of a Focus Group and observation of two Scrutiny Committees of the partner council. 

7.             Eventually, the Peer Learning Exchange Teams from each council will attend a second workshop, following which each council's self-evaluation tool will be refined, finalised and submitted to the Wales Audit Office by 30th April, 2013. 

8.             Finally, the WAO will prepare a national summary report, provide local feedback to individual councils and regional groups and provide Good Practice Exchange Case Studies. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

9.             There are no direct implications arising from the report other than an estimated four days commitment per participant between now and the conclusion of the Study.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

10.        There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

11.        There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

12.        There are no direct implications arising from the report

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

13.        There are no direct implications arising from the report

Corporate/Service Objectives

14.        The draft Corporate Plan 2013-17 contains a specific action regarding increasing public engagement and participation at meetings.

Policy Framework and Budget

15.        Not applicable.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

16.        This is an internal matter and, therefore, no consultation has been necessary.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

17.        All.

Background Papers

WAO Project Brief: September 2012.

 

Contact Officer

Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services (tel: 01446 709408)

Officers Consulted

Managing Director

 

Responsible Officer:

Jeff Wyatt

Head of Democratic Services

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