Auditor General publishes his Annual Improvement Report 2012-13 on Caerphilly County Borough Council

10 Sep 2013 - 12:00am

Some services are improving but serious weaknesses in governance are a major concern and prompt a corporate governance inspection.

The Auditor General for Wales has today published his Annual Improvement Report on Caerphilly County Borough Council, and said: "Whilst there are weaknesses in its self-evaluation arrangements, and the pace of improvement is slow in some key priority areas, the Council has made some service improvements. However, since I concluded, in September 2012, that the Council was likely to comply with the requirement to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement during 2012-13, providing it increased the pace of improvement, we have found significant failings in its governance arrangements, and I will therefore undertake a special corporate governance inspection of the Council later this year."

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The Auditor General for Wales has today published his Annual Improvement Report on Caerphilly County Borough Council.

The Auditor General for Wales has today published his Annual Improvement Report on Caerphilly County Borough Council, and said: 'Whilst there are weaknesses in its self-evaluation arrangements, and the pace of improvement is slow in some key priority areas, the Council has made some service improvements. However, since I concluded, in September 2012, that the Council was likely to comply with the requirement to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement during 2012-13, providing it increased the pace of improvement, we have found significant failings in its governance arrangements, and I will therefore undertake a special corporate governance inspection of the Council later this year.

The Council's Appointed Auditor issued a Report in the Public Interest in March 2013 on failures in governance arrangements and inadequacies in the processes followed by the Council to set the pay of chief officers. The Appointed Auditor concluded that the Council 'acted unlawfully with regards to this pay-setting process', and made five recommendations. The Council is undertaking its own disciplinary investigation as a result of the report, but this is on hold pending an investigation by Avon and Somerset Police.

The Auditor General also concluded that, whilst the Council has discharged its improvement planning duties under the Local Government Measure in 2012-13 and acted in accordance with Welsh Government guidance, it has failed to discharge some of its improvement planning duties for 2013-14. The Council's progress against regulators' recommendations is mixed and often slow. Encouragingly it has accepted that accountability arrangements to manage and deliver the findings from audit and inspection work need to be strengthened, but these arrangements have not yet been put in place.

Although the Council has to date responded to the financial challenges it has faced and secured savings in advance of need, it does not have a rigorous approach to developing business cases or to setting, delivering, monitoring and evaluating savings in order to meet future demands and challenges.

The Council's performance in improving services in 2011-12 has been mixed and it has been slow to address some key priority areas. The Council with its partners has continued to make good progress in making Caerphilly county borough a safer place to live in. Education services for children and young people are adequate with adequate prospects for improvement, and a new Education Achievement Service for South East Wales has been created and is focussing on improving attainment within schools. Whilst the Council provides citizens with a range of channels to access its services, it has been slow to progress improvements to the way it engages citizens. The Council's efforts to regenerate and support the economy have had a mixed impact as has its performance in relation to health and social care. There are also key weaknesses in the way the Council manages its people, information and assets.

The Council has embedded performance management arrangements and has effective arrangements in place to collect, record and monitor performance information. However, it needs to address weaknesses in its approach to self evaluation and challenge, and report and account for its performance in a more balanced and transparent way.

As a result of his findings, the Auditor General makes four statutory recommendations to the Council to which it must respond within 30 days. These are:

  1. Address the five recommendations made by the Appointed Auditor in his Report in the Public Interest dated March 2013.
  2. Address the outstanding proposals for improvement identified in the Auditor General's work to date.
  3. Address the three recommendations made in the Auditor General's report Evaluation of Social Services Contributions to the Medium Term Financial Plan, dated July 2013.
  4. Put in place arrangements that enable the Council to formulate, scrutinise and approve its improvement objectives in a timely way to meet its statutory obligations under the Measure.

The Auditor General has also decided as a result of the findings of the Appointed Auditor, and the wider governance issues highlighted in his Annual Improvement Report, to undertake a special inspection of the Council. The inspection will focus on the Council's governance and decision-making arrangements, and will assess the progress it has made in addressing the recommendations made in his Appointed Auditor's Report in the Public Interest issued in March 2013.