Conwy Council generally well managed and governed

27 May 2014 - 10:59am

The Council has a track record of steady improvement but it has much to do to realise necessary future savings.

A report published today by the Auditor General for Wales on Conwy County Borough Council concludes that the Council is generally well managed and governed and that it has a track record of steady improvement, but it has much to do to achieve the savings that will be necessary in future.

The report concludes that the Council is maintaining its track record of steady progress in relation to most aspects of its improvement objectives. For example, the Council is working effectively with partners to promote Conwy as a tourist destination and to promote the local economy, and the Council takes pride in maintaining a clean environment for citizens and visitors. Outcomes in secondary schools compare favourably to similar schools elsewhere in Wales and there have been positive and well-informed changes in social services provision.

Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas, said today:

Conwy Council is, like all local authorities in Wales, facing significant financial challenges in the coming years. The Council is providing services that meet the needs of citizens, but it needs to develop a longer-term corporate approach to planning and strengthen some areas of it governance arrangements and partnership working in order to meet these challenges.

As might be expected, there are areas for improvement in some areas of performance. The Council has been slower than it had planned in reducing carbon emissions, for example, and in taking forward sustainable technological change. The primary school system is costly and is not performing as well as it should and, despite the positive changes in social services provision, there remain areas for improvement.

One of the Council’s key strengths is that it has a good, balanced understanding of how well it is performing and how effectively its governance arrangements are working. It understands the risks it faces and manages them systematically. Most aspects of the Council’s governance and the way it manages its performance contribute positively to improving services, and the Council has a clear vision that is founded on the needs of service users. 

A strong team ethos among and between staff and councillors supports the Council’s work, and the culture and governance arrangements have ensured an efficient approach to making decisions based on consensus. However, there is scope to strengthen a few aspects of the way committees function and to simplify aspects of partnership working.

The report finds that the Council has used its resources well to date in order to maintain services at a reasonable cost. However, the increasingly austere financial climate now demands a longer-term approach to the planning of resources that considers in a more integrated way than before how the Council might best use its workforce, its buildings and technology to help it to identify the further savings that will be needed in future.

There are no statutory recommendations in the report, but it includes some proposals for improvement. These include proposals that the Council should:

  • work with its schools and with the regional school improvement consortium, GwE, to improve the value for money of the primary school system;
  • improve some aspects of the ways its committees work;
  • develop longer-term plans that co-ordinate resources and include realistic timescales for implementing any transformation programmes; and
  • work more closely with its partners to improve the Local Service Board’s ability to monitor and manage its performance.