But it needs to strengthen aspects of its arrangements
Flintshire County Council’s track record suggests it is likely to respond positively to the internal and significant external challenges it faces, and is likely to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement for 2015-16. This is the conclusion of a corporate assessment and annual improvement report published by the Auditor General today.
Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas said today:
Flintshire Council has made significant progress in the last year to develop and improve its services, but it needs to strengthen its decision-making processes and some of its governance arrangements if it is to meet the internal and external challenges it faces, and continue to deliver its services effectively in the face of further financial challenges.
The report concludes that the Council has made progress over the last year in a number of difficult areas, and although the Council needs to strengthen arrangements in certain aspects, it is well placed to continue to deliver its priorities in the face of further financial challenges.
Significant developments have been made in the way the Council uses its resources, however, it does need to co-ordinate the elements more systematically. In both Human Resources and ICT, improvements have been made, There have been improvements in the use of staff and in the use of technology, with the Human Resources (HR) team completing the Council’s single status agreement and equal pay review, and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) team helping to contribute to improved efficiency and providing a wider range of. ways for customers to access services. However, the high level of demand on HR and ICT has meant that they have are having to deal with competing priorities, which has impacted on the delivery of other work.
Despite advancements in a number of areas, there remain aspects of the Council’s arrangements which are not fully supporting decision-making and the delivery of the Council’s agreed priorities. Sound governance structures are in place in most areas, but whilst the Council has a clearly stated set of priorities, and corporate planning and reporting of performance have improved, service-level plans are inconsistent in quality.
The report found that the Council has made good overall progress against its improvement priorities, with evidence of strong performance across several service areas, although its performance against certain national indicators has declined slightly. Schools in Flintshire are providing good value for money and the Council is seeking further efficiency within the education system. Good progress is being made to help mitigate the impact of cuts to welfare benefits and to reduce fuel poverty, and in adult social services performance has continued to improve but progress in children’s services has been less consistent because of an increase in demand.
There are no statutory recommendations in the report, but the report includes some proposals for improvement from the Auditor General. These include proposals that the Council should:
- develop a consistent approach to business planning that promotes the ownership by staff of key objectives and targets,
- implement revised strategies for people, ICT and asset management that consider the financial implications and feed into the medium-term financial plan,
- use the review of scrutiny structures at the council to ensure that overview and scrutiny committees can add value to decision-making by aligning agendas with the Council’s priorities and risks; and
- adopt a consistent approach to managing risk, and apply this approach to its future savings plan.