Agenda item

Annual Improvement Report 2013-14 by the Auditor General for Wales


That the Wales Audit Office Annual Improvement Report and the Council’s response be noted.


The Policy & Performance Manager introduced Mr. Paul Goodlad, Performance Audit Lead of the Wales Audit Office (WAO) and invited him to present the Council’s Annual Improvement Report 2013-14 published by the Auditor General for Wales.


Mr. Goodlad echoed comments previously made that this was the most positive Annual Improvement Plan presented to the Council to date, with no new proposals for improvement or statutory recommendations.  He said that this reflected the largely positive nature of the report and confidence in the Council’s plans for continuous improvement in 2014-15, and that the WAO would continue to work to support the Council throughout the scale of challenges ahead.


It was noted that good progress had been made against the Improvement Priorities and that overall performance against the national indicators had improved.  Whilst the Council had taken action to strengthen its approach to performance evaluation, further work was needed to harmonise its improvement planning and performance reporting arrangements, as previously reported to the Committee in the WAO Improvement Assessment Letter of December 2013.  However, it was acknowledged that subsequent changes to the 2013/14 Improvement Plan would reflect more positively on performance evaluation later in the year.  Following the Auditor General’s Letter of September 2013, positive steps had been taken to strengthen arrangements for planning and supporting improvement by linking to the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP), with the recognition of further work to be done to tackle the challenges ahead.  In response to previous concerns on slippage, such as the delayed implementation of Single Status, significant progress had been achieved through the delivery of the People Strategy and MTFP.  On the Organisational Redesign programme to generate efficiency savings, it was noted that risks had been well managed so far, with significant progress made in a short time period.


The Policy & Performance Manager gave a brief summary of the Council’s response which was appended to the report.


In relation to improvements on the MTFP, Mr. Paul Williams asked about the Council’s progress in comparison with other Authorities.  Mr. Goodlad referred to the changing status of the MTFP and the need for it to take account of the current position and challenges ahead, noting the progress which had been made to track efficiencies.


Mr. John Herniman of WAO said that concerns over recent years had been around progress made on the MTFP process rather than the Plan itself.  In noting the progress which had been made, he acknowledged that further work could be done in comparison to some other Councils.


Mr. Williams sought guidance on how the Committee could help to progress this.  Mr. Herniman said that this linked with the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) and governance risks and was aware of examples in other Authorities where the Audit Committees had sought clarity from the Cabinet on the process for developing, implementing and reviewing the MTFP including efficiencies tracking and questioning milestones.  He added that the Committee should gain assurance from the comments made by WAO in the report as the Council was progressing in the right direction.


The Corporate Finance Manager said that the Cabinet received regular update reports on the MTFP which took into account external advice and best practice.


The Head of Legal & Democratic Services referred to late notification of the Local Government Final Settlement which presented challenges in predicting outcomes within the MTFP.  He agreed to liaise with the Chief Executive and Cabinet on the level of information which could be shared with the Committee at this stage of the process, noting that situations would evolve over time.


Mr. Williams emphasised the importance of establishing a process to enable the Committee to monitor progress and timelines on the MTFP.


The Leader of the Council, who was present in the public gallery, agreed it was proper that the Committee understood the process and key milestones within the year.


In relation to paragraph 73 of the Annual Improvement Report, Ms. Amanda Hughes of WAO spoke of the importance of seeking future efficiencies as well as those in-year, and said that this process should be an area of particular focus for the Committee.


Mr. Williams remarked upon the extensive remit of the Committee which was evident through this discussion.


Councillor Glyn Banks pointed out the amount of efficiencies already achieved and offered his congratulations to all concerned, whilst acknowledging the need to sustain this position.




That the Wales Audit Office Annual Improvement Report and the Council’s response be noted.

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