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Agenda Item No. 5

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Democratic Services Committee: 19th October, 2016

 

Report of the Head of Democratic Services

 

Wales Audit Office Corporate Assessment Report 2016: Scrutiny Feedback

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To inform Members of the specific comments of the Wales Audit Office (WAO) in respect of the Council's scrutiny arrangements (as set out in the overall Corporate Assessment report).

Recommendations

  1. That the Scrutiny Feedback contained in the Wales Audit Office Corporate Assessment Report 2016 be noted.
  2. That the actions taken to date and / or proposed be noted and welcomed and an update be included as a standard item on the agenda for the remaining meetings of the Democratic Services Committee in 2016/17.

Reason for the Recommendations

1&2.    To apprise Members of the specific Scrutiny Feedback within the WAO Corporate Assessment Report and the actions taken to date / proposed by the Council in response.

Background

  1. In 2013-14, the WAO commenced a four year cycle of Corporate Assessments of Authorities in Wales, this being in addition to an annual programme of improvement studies and audits of Council activity. The Corporate Assessment of this Council was carried out during the early part of this year and the report was published on 25th August, 2016. The purpose of the Corporate Assessment, as described by the WAO, is to provide a position statement of an Authority's capacity and capability to deliver continuous improvement. The assessment process considers an Authority's track record of performance and the key arrangements in place to deliver continuous improvement. The focus is on the extent to which arrangements contribute to delivering improved performance and service outcomes for citizens.
  2. Members will recall that fieldwork (visit to site) was undertaken during March 2016. Auditors from the WAO carried out a range of one to one interviews with staff and Members, focus groups with Members and officers and gathered evidence to inform the outcome of the assessment process. This fieldwork was preceded by considerable research.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The full Corporate Assessment Report has already been circulated to Members, having been considered at meetings of both Cabinet and Full Council. Steve Barry, Audit Manager Local Government, (WAO) attended and addressed both meetings. Similarly, copies of a WAO press release and a press release issued by Mark Drakeford, Local Government Secretary, both of which contained extremely positive messages as far as the Council was concerned, have been reported to Cabinet and Council.
  2. Following a Corporate Assessment, the WAO can take one of four steps. Where it has concerns, it can ask Welsh Government to intervene, conduct a special investigation, or make formal recommendations for improvement. In this particular case, none of these measures are required. It is however common and expected that the WAO make "Proposals for Improvement". These are suggestions of areas in which the Council could be doing more and five such proposals were contained in the WAO report. These relate to: performance management and implementing proposed changes to the performance management framework; providing more information as part of financial reporting; completing work that is already underway on developing a vision and objectives for the ICT service; and accelerating the gathering of data and necessary training in relation to buildings compliance. It is for the Council to implement the proposals.
  3. Members are asked to note that the WAO report contained no "Proposals for Improvement" as far as the Council's scrutiny arrangements are concerned. However, various observations of the WAO are contained within the report and are brought together as part of a two page "Scrutiny Feedback" section, which is reproduced as Appendix A to this report.
  4. The WAO's observations fall into the following broad areas:
  • The recent introduction of the Council's new Performance Management Framework and the associated scrutiny arrangements which are being developed;
  • Whilst acknowledging the development by the Council of a Scrutiny and Cabinet Roles and Responsibility Protocol, the WAO have commented that the above revised Performance Management Framework and the scrutiny arrangements related to that are not reflected within the current Protocol;
  • The level, and type, of questioning observed at Scrutiny Committees from Members during the Corporate Assessment process;
  • The concept of pre-meetings (i.e. of the whole Committee);
  • The format of budget monitoring reports and the amount of detail contained therein;
  • The alignment of financial and performance information in the context of Performance Management;
  • An acknowledgement of the development of a more co-ordinated / aligned Cabinet and Scrutiny Committee work programme process;
  • The importance of Scrutiny Committees playing a role in the Council's Reshaping Services programme;
  • The need to develop joint scrutiny arrangements in respect of the Shared Regulatory Service;
  • An acknowledgment of the introduction by the Council of the ability for members of the public to register to speak on any item on the agenda at a Scrutiny Committee (as well as the introduction of webcasting).
  1. The WAO concluded by stating "Overall, the changes the Council is in the process of implementing represent an opportunity to ensure scrutiny activity has maximum impact by:
  • aligning forward work programmes to focus on key issues;
  • freeing up agenda time to focus on a more limited number of items in-depth, thereby increasing efficiency as well as impact; and
  • improving the information scrutiny received by aligning financial and performance information with other important information, such as the citizen view, and increasing the focus on outcomes, and supporting consideration of value for money."
  1. The above observations from the WAO are also set out as Appendix B, with an update for Members as to any action taken to date and / or proposed. Obviously, Members' comments will be taken into account as part of the ongoing process (particularly in terms of embedding any changes to procedures prior to the May 2017 election).

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. There are no direct implications as a result of this report. However, Members will note that a key element of the Corporate Assessment process involved an assessment of the Council's approach to financial management and people management.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. None as a direct result of this report, although the Corporate Assessment process does consider the way in which the Council manages its assets.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. This report links to the performance and reputation of the Council in terms of its capability and capacity to deliver quality services to citizens and to deliver its vision of 'Strong Communities with a Bright Future' as well as all corporate outcomes and related objectives.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. Any significant changes proposed, particularly those involving any amendment to the Council's Constitution, would need to be considered by Cabinet, Scrutiny Committees and / or Full Council as appropriate.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. As this report is not Ward specific, no consultation has been undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. All

Background Papers

WAO Corporate Assessment Report 2016 (incorporating the Annual Improvement Report 2015-16)

WAO Press release: 25th August 2016

Press release from Mark Drakeford, Local Government Secretary: 25th August 2016

Contact Officer

Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services

Officers Consulted

Managing Director

Head of Performance and Development

Responsible Officer:

Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services