Agenda item

Annual Improvement Report and the Corporate Assessment Report of the Auditor General for Wales for Flintshire


That the Annual Improvement Report be accepted and the Council’s response endorsed as a comprehensive response of assurance.


The Chief Executive invited Mr. Huw Lloyd Jones of the Wales Audit Office (WAO) to present the Council’s Annual Improvement Report published by the Auditor General for Wales.  The report contained the Annual Audit Letter, which had been reported to the previous meeting of the Committee, and the findings of the Corporate Assessment carried out in September 2014.  This work by WAO had continued beyond this date to ensure that information was updated.  In line with the usual practice, the Council’s Executive response was presented for endorsement.


The Chief Executive explained that the report had been presented to Cabinet and would be submitted to the Corporate Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee the following month.  He went on to clarify the role of the Audit Committee in determining whether the report was proportionate.


Mr. Lloyd Jones explained the arrangements for Corporate Assessments to be undertaken on a four year cycle across all Welsh Councils.  He added that the outcomes within the report were not solely based on the work in September 2014, but also reflected work prior to and after this period, partly due to the implementation of a new operational model at that time.  He confirmed that, despite this significant change, the Council had engaged fully with WAO representatives on the Corporate Assessment and that prior to recent publication of the full report, verbal feedback had been given to the Council with an action plan currently being progressed.  A summary of the full report, which had been prepared by WAO, was appended to the report and included the key messages.  The Chairman confirmed that the Committee had been provided with copies of the full report in advance of the meeting.


Mr. Lloyd Jones stressed that the Council’s report was mainly positive and gave an overview of the four main headings in respect of improvement issues, as this was the focus of the Committee.  He confirmed that there were no statutory recommendations and detailed the seven advisory proposals for improvements, as set out in the report, which were being progressed by the Council.


The Chief Executive agreed that this was a positive report and agreed with the observations by WAO which gave no cause for major concern.  He provided further detail on the Council’s Executive response, prepared by Cabinet and senior officers, to address the seven proposals for improvement and highlighted the overlap of remit on some matters, for example the review of the Medium Term Financial Plan which would be reported to the Corporate Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee no later than June 2015.  Whilst detailing actions for the proposed improvement on workforce planning, attention was drawn to the national report recently produced by WAO which had identified Local Government in the public sector as the most cost-effective on policies and practices in this area, with all of its recommendations met or exceeded in Flintshire.


In response to a query from Councillor Haydn Bateman, Mr. Lloyd Jones explained that the four main conclusion headings within the report were each supported by lower level sub-headings within the full Annual Improvement Report.


Mr. Paul Williams agreed that this was a largely positive report.  On the need to develop a consistent approach to business planning, he spoke of the importance of linking this with employee appraisals and referred to concerns previously raised on the implementation of the appraisal system and the need for involvement by the relevant Cabinet Member.


The Chief Executive explained that responsibility for appraisals rested with Human Resources along with the Cabinet Member for Corporate Management who was currently on long-term sickness absence and whose portfolio was being covered by the Leader of the Council.  It was anticipated that the new model appraisal programme, based on competencies and linked to the Council’s objectives, would be implemented for managers by April 2015.  This new process had involved contribution from the Corporate Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee whose report was available on the Council’s website.


Mr. Williams said that more succinct committee reports were required so that key performance indicators could be monitored more effectively, and suggested that an assurance mapping process be introduced to show that this was being achieved.  He referred to the preparation process for the Annual Governance Statement and suggested the inclusion of an Audit Committee member at Overview & Scrutiny workshops to give assurance on the level of challenge.  In respect of appraisals, he suggested that the Leader of the Cabinet be made aware of the concerns to seek assurance that these would be addressed in the new process.


On the first point, the Chief Executive said that there was a complex system of reporting with room for improvement, however the way in which information was presented could influence the level of challenge.  On the latter point, he explained that arrangements were already in place for the Corporate Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee to consider a report on the outcomes from the first phase of managerial appraisals.  In response to concerns raised by Mr. Williams on ensuring the relevant skills set on committees to interpret the information being presented, the Chief Executive referred to the full report on risks and progress with the Improvement Plan which had been well received at the previous meeting of the Corporate Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee.  The Democracy & Governance Manager gave a reminder of the intention to review the Member Development programme with assistance from the Welsh Local Government Association.




That the Annual Improvement Report be accepted and the Council’s response endorsed as a comprehensive response of assurance.

Supporting documents: