Agenda item

Improvement Plan 2015/16


That the Improvement Plan 2015/16 be adopted.


The Chief Officer (Organisational Change) introduced the report to seek adoption and publication of the Improvement Plan 2015/16, which was a statutory requirement of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.  He explained that the Plan was about sustaining performance in the current challenging climate and demonstrated a clear performance framework, whilst meeting criteria from regulators such as the Wales Audit Office (WAO).  This was better integrated with financial planning, linked to other corporate plans such as the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), Council Governance Framework and the Corporate Resources Plan.


A presentation was delivered, covering the main points:


·         How we built up the Plan

·         Choosing in-year priorities

·         Member consultation

·         Benefits of this approach thus far

·         Plan for 2014/15

·         Plan for 2015/16

·         Priorities for Living Well, Skills & Learning and Modern & Efficient Council

·         Using the Plan

·         Positive feedback from the WAO Corporate Assessment 2015

·         Next steps


The consultation process involving a Member workshop and discussion at the Corporate Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee had resulted in a number of agreed changes and that later in the year, suggestions would be sought from Overview & Scrutiny on sub-priorities for next year’s Plan.


As part of an overview of the 2014/15 Plan, the Policy & Performance Manager reported generally positive outcomes and outlined the key highlights in respect of housing, education, extra care facilities and job creation.  Out of the 22 sub-priorities, 68% had made good progress in achieving outcomes which the Council had set out to deliver whilst 32% had made satisfactory progress.


The Plan for 2015/16 retained the eight priorities, with a structure of 17 sub-priorities up to 2017, including some new emerging issues and some which had been carried over from the previous year for continued focus.  Other sub-priorities had been broadened or merged, or removed as they were time limited.  Once the Plan was published, the second appendix detailing how achievements would be measured would be accessible through a hyperlink and used by Overview & Scrutiny to review progress throughout the year.


The Chief Officer (Social Services) detailed the objectives of the sub-priority on safeguarding vulnerable people and children.  These involved the creation of a single safeguarding unit under one manager and preparations for the full implementation of the Social Services & Well-being Act which would equip councils with new powers on safeguarding.


On the sub-priority for apprenticeships and training, the Chief Officer (Education & Youth) thanked all those involved in helping the Council to secure the highest level of 16 year olds in education, employment or training last year: this was the highest ever achieved by the Council and across Wales.  Many of those individuals not included in this group had more complex needs, and work would be undertaken at an earlier stage to help them through the provision of skilled mentors and maximising access to employment or training opportunities.


On the sub-priority for developing communities, the Chief Officer (Organisational Change) explained the emphasis on supporting communities to become more resilient and continued support for the development of social enterprise, linked to a forthcoming Member workshop on alternative delivery models.


In moving the report, Councillor Aaron Shotton thanked officers and highlighted the importance of the ambitions and priorities within the Plan in view of diminishing resources.  He stressed the need for clarity on priorities to demonstrate where the Council could contribute to key issues such as employment and housing which would remain in the Plan, and for the priorities to be viewed and understood by all.  In reflecting on concerns raised previously by external auditors, he referred to the comments in the WAO Corporate Assessment which welcomed the Council’s clarity on priorities and demonstrated a clear commitment to continuous improvement.  Feedback from the consultation process had been taken on board, including the suggestion by Councillor Andy Dunbobbin to reinforce the Council’s commitment to the Armed Forces Community Covenant.


In response to comments about publicising the Plan, the Policy & Performance Manager explained that this would be highlighted to the workforce on the Council’s Infonet and would be shared with managers at the Change Exchange meeting for cascading at team meetings and appraisals.


Councillor Carolyn Thomas welcomed the inclusion of tourism in the Plan which she felt had been overlooked in the past.  She thanked officers for working with the Flintshire Tourism Association and felt that a joint approach could help to improve tourism in the area.


Councillor Richard Jones thanked officers, in particular the Policy & Performance Manager and Performance Team Leader, for their work and highlighted the need for Members to scrutinise the Plan.  He said that the document should inform the Medium Term Financial Plan and that any failures would have a consequence.  He also commented on reference to the rollout of broadband on which he said the Council would have no influence.


Councillor Jones pointing out the number of references to Deeside within the Plan, saying that services should be supported equally and without bias and that it should not be assumed that other areas of the county would benefit from investment in Deeside.  On this basis, he said that he was unable to support the Plan.


Councillor Mike Peers raised issues on the presentation of the draft document in respect of page numbering and wording on the number of priorities at the start of the document.  He said that clarity was needed on which were the shared priorities with partners and that the priority for ‘improving the choice and quality of local housing’ was referred to later in the report as an ‘impact’.  On the sub-priority for appropriate and affordable homes, he referred to the action to ‘stimulate the growth of affordable housing’ being linked to Section 106 Agreements and that the sub-priority on business sector growth should clarify the categories of jobs to be created.  On community safety, he commented on the loss of funding with local partners for CCTV provision.


A small number of copies of the coloured printed version of the Plan were circulated at the meeting to demonstrate how the final document would be presented.  The Policy & Performance Manager explained that the draft version was due to be finalised following the meeting and would be proof-read and page numbers cross-referenced prior to publication.


In response to comments on the sub-priority for town and rural regeneration, the Economic Development Manager provided explanation on the £6.024m grant funding through the Vibrant and Viable Places Programme in which the bidding process had to include a specific case for the regeneration of Deeside.  He agreed to respond separately on the provision of match-funding, of which the largest element was drawn from the existing funding for Deeside for the Welsh Housing Quality Standard.


Following a request by Councillor Jones for details and locations of the four solar farms, the Chief Officer (Streetscene & Transportation) agreed to clarify this.  He advised that approval had been granted by Cabinet to the general principle of investing in solar farms as a mechanism for future sustainable energy.  Each example was being reported to Cabinet for approval prior to submitting a business case and Cabinet had recently given outline approval to the next stage business case for two landfill sites in Buckley (Brookhill and Standard).  The Chief Officer (Governance) agreed to establish the cost details of the five community asset transfers planned for 2015/16 and provide a response.


On the sub-priority for sustainable development and environmental management, Councillor Clive Carver remarked on the future action to secure planning approval for the four solar farms.  The Policy & Performance Manager said that this was one of the actions that the Council intended to do to develop large scale renewable energy schemes, as set out in Appendix 2 to the report.  The Chief Officer (Governance) said that if the Council failed to secure planning consent, this would be a fail on that indicator.


On business sector growth, Councillor Carver referred to improving access to broadband and said that no mention had been made of the Welsh Government (WG) fibre-speed service currently operating in Hawarden.  He suggested that businesses based in Manor Lane, Hawarden - which were not well served by broadband - could be encouraged to access the fibre-speed broadband.


The Enterprise Manager provided information on different workstreams to support the wider implementation of superfast broadband and to promote this in the Deeside Enterprise Zone.  Following comments from Councillor Carver on the differences between fibre-speed and superfast broadband, the Chief Officer (Organisational Change) said that officers would liaise with him outside the meeting.


In response to Councillor Jones’ closing comments, Councillor Aaron Shotton said that the Improvement Plan set out the ambitions for job creation in the Deeside Enterprise Zone and that this investment would benefit the whole of the county.  He pointed out that the document included a number of issues relating to other areas of Flintshire including investment in housing across the county.


On being put to the vote, the proposal was carried.




That the Improvement Plan 2015/16 be adopted.

Supporting documents: