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Agenda Item No. 6

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Democratic Services Committee: 15th April, 2015

 

Report of the Head of Democratic Services

 

'Good Scrutiny? Good Question!': Auditor General for Wales Improvement Study: Scrutiny in Local Government

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To facilitate consideration of a draft Action Plan prepared by officers in response to the specific recommendations and various other elements of the Wales Audit Office Scrutiny Improvement Study.

Recommendation

1.         That the Committee's views on the draft Action Plan be invited and the Action Plan be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

Reason for the Recommendation

(1) To take account of the Auditor General's report and to enable the Council to react to the specific recommendations contained in the report as appropriate.

 

Background

2.         As previously reported to the Committee, in 2012, the Auditor General committed to the Wales Audit Office (WAO) undertaking an All-Wales Scrutiny Improvement Study.  As part of the Council’s participation in that Study, a group of Officers and Members undertook a self-evaluation of the Council’s existing scrutiny arrangements, took part in peer review exercises and attended workshops.  As part of the peer review exercise, two meetings of our Scrutiny Committees were observed by a group from Neath and Port Talbot Council and the Council’s own Peer Review Group observed Scrutiny Committee proceedings at Swansea Council.

3.         The WAO Outcome Report from the above Study was only issued in the Summer of 2014 and has been the subject of reports to the Committee in July and October 2014. At the October meeting, it was resolved that officers prepare an Action Plan for consideration at this meeting.  The draft Action Plan, which has also been considered by the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group, is attached as Appendix A.  The  headings "Outcomes"  and "Related Characteristics" relate to the Key Characteristics of Effective Overview and Scrutiny, which, in turn, led to the development of an agreed set of outcomes and characteristics, developed by the Wales Scrutiny Officers' Network, supported by the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS).

4.         Given the various elements of the draft Plan that relate to the interaction between Scrutiny and Cabinet, the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group have suggested the possibility of a joint "workshop" with Cabinet Members prior to its formal consideration by Cabinet.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         The 9 specific recommendations of the Auditor General have been reported previously and each will need to be considered by a combination (as appropriate) of Councils, Welsh Government, the Welsh Local Government Association, the WAO and other regulators such as CSSIW and Estyn.

6.         As previously advised, the report, by its very nature, is generic and reflects practices and procedures observed by the various Peer Review Groups throughout Wales (each of which was accompanied by a representative from the WAO) and the WAO itself.  Many of the areas touched upon in the report do not form part of the 9 specific recommendations but, nevertheless, need to be considered in the light of the Council's existing scrutiny processes and the overall background to the report. 

7.         It can be seen that the draft Action Plan has yet to include timescales, but the intention is that work will be completed during the remainder of the current calendar year.  Timescales would be inserted prior to consideration by Cabinet.  The report (and timescales) to Cabinet will also look to take account of the outcome of a recent piece of work undertaken by the WAO, which included looking at the Council's Scrutiny arrangements.  The WAO's findings are expected shortly.  It is also considered that consideration of the issues covered will assist the Council in preparing for a future Corporate Assessment by the WAO.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

8.         There are no direct implications arising from this report.  However, dependent on consideration by the Committee, Cabinet and Council as appropriate of the draft Action Plan, resource implications will need to be monitored.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

10.      Whilst the Auditor General's report is not a statutory document, the nature of the Study undertaken requires the Council to give comprehensive consideration to its content, particularly the nine specific recommendations set out in the report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

13.      The Council is committed to developing/increasing public engagement and participation at meetings.

Policy Framework and Budget

14.      Any future changes proposed would need to be considered by the Cabinet and/or Council as appropriate.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

15.      No consultation has been necessary.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

16.      Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

'Good Scrutiny? Good Question!': Auditor General for Wales Improvement Study: Scrutiny in Local Government

Reports to Democratic Services Committee - 16th July and 8th October, 2014

Reports to Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group - 30th April, 2014 and 24th February, 2015.

 

Contact Officer

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

 

Officers Consulte

None

 

Responsible Officer:

Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services