A new Wales Audit Office four-yearly report – delving into the way the Vale of Glamorgan Council runs itself – has by-and-large given the council a clean bill of health – but in the detailed sections has also highlighted areas where it needs to pull its collective socks up .
In compiling the probing report the Wales Audit Office says it undertook a survey of “all 47 councillors” and “45 senior managers” .
Involving “all 47″ councillors means that amongst those who have contributed their expertise to the survey would have been double-jobbing councillor/MP Chris Elmore and convicted councillor Rob Curtis (prior to his resignation last month).
The Audit Office says the survey results showed that “a significant majority of respondents” had told the Audit Office that they were “clear about what the council was trying to achieve” as were the majority of staff spoken to during the assessment. A breakdown of the actual figures is, however, is not included in the Wales Audit Office report.
Amongst the points made by the Wales Audit Office are the following:-
CONTRACT PROCUREMENT : Apart from staff salaries, a significant proportion of council-tax payers’ money is spent on buying goods and services from suppliers.
The Wales Audit Office report says “In recent years, internal audit reviews have identified some system failures and weaknesses in implementation processes and have made recommendations that have enabled improvement. ” The report says that council has been “strengthening overall contract procurement and management arrangements” but that “While the process for identifying weaknesses in November 2014 worked effectively, and the corporate response in December 2015 has been strong, the service response to findings was slow in this case.”
SCRUTINY: The Vale Council’s internal committee system for checking the performance of its various departments [known as “scrutiny”] did produce “evidence of members challenging and monitoring performance“. However some activity was limited because not enough of staff “scrutiny officers” were available .
On top of that, some councillors appear to be wondering whether the whole ‘scrutiny’ process is really worthwhile. On the so-called Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee, the Wales Audit Office says “28% of the members expressed dissatisfaction with the way topics were selected, – as well as questioning the value added by ‘scrutiny’ in terms of driving service improvement.”
SAVINGS : Given how cash-strapped the Vale of Glamorgan Council claims to be, the report makes the surprising revelation that the so-called ‘cabinet’ of the council [the five-strong junta of senior councillors which actually runs the authority] “only receives a whole-authority report on savings progress on a quarterly basis.”
The Wales Audit Office also found that the council’s internal Scrutiny Budget
Monitoring Reports “lack sufficient detail to enable members to constructively challenge and understand why specific savings cannot be achieved.”
The Audit Office says the Vale Council should be providing councillors with “detailed information that enables them to identify the achievement and non-achievement
of specific savings” – but isn’t.
STAFF SICKNESS LEVELS : The Wales Audit Office makes little mention in its report of a major issue within the council – the large and growing levels of staff “sickness” – which is taken by many as a barometer of staff morale .
The Audit Office report says only “Incidence of stress related sickness absence has increased and since September 2015 a clear plan of action has been put in place to drive levels down” .
There is no evaluation in the report of what the council-tax paying public thinks of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s performance.