Newport Council showing improvement in some key areas

29 May 2015 - 12:09pm

But needs to address weaknesses in its governance arrangements

Newport City Council has made improvements in some aspects of its arrangements but has not achieved the scale and pace of change required and longstanding weaknesses in its governance remain. This is the conclusion of a corporate assessment follow up report published by the Auditor General today.

Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas said:

Newport Council has made progress in some key areas since our Corporate Assessment in 2013 but it must consider the recommendations of this report and further strengthen its governance arrangements. Decision-making processes in particular are pivotal to ensuring that the leadership and governance of the Council support the delivery of effective services during difficult financial times. I would urge the Council’s members and officers to work together to improve these arrangements and strengthen the level of scrutiny of key decisions.
 

The report concludes that the Council has made progress in areas such as financial management, people management, ICT and performance management arrangements but there are still weaknesses in governance and a lack of effective collective leadership between members and officers to drive improvement.

Improvements in financial management arrangements include the strengthening of the Councils strategic planning and the monitoring and reporting of financial savings. There has also been progress in people management arrangements with the development of a three-year People Plan and improvements in the way training and development is delivered across the Council. ICT arrangements have also improved with a good record of reporting information security breaches, but there are weaknesses in some governance arrangements and uncertainties in plans for business continuity should an unforeseen event occur. Performance management arrangements have improved but are not consistently applied across services and weaknesses remain in data quality systems and scrutiny of performance.

Despite improvements in some areas, there remain aspects of the Council’s arrangements which are not fully supporting effective decision-making and improvement. This includes the need for safeguards to be in place for occasions where professional advice and political direction conflicts, enabling elected members to consider the full range of options and information available to enable when taking or scrutinising decisions and ensuring that decisions are recorded and reported transparently.

The report also found that some key Council decisions have been considered outside of cabinet meetings and not always subject to the formal decision making process or appearing on public record.

Of the six statutory recommendations made in the Auditor General’s 2013 Corporate Assessment, two are still applicable while four others have updated to reflect progress made by the Council. In addition, two new recommendations are made in this follow-up report. The new recommendations urge the Council to:

  • Improve its collective leadership and delivery by agreeing clear accountability and monitoring arrangements for the implementation of recommendations and proposals for improvement; and
  • Ensure that all National Strategic Indicator data is collected and published in accordance with the Welsh Government definitions.