The Auditor General for Wales has today published a new report on Carmarthenshire County Council looking at how well the Council is improving its services.
The Auditor General for Wales set out some important messages on how Carmarthenshire County Council is doing in his 2009-10 Annual Improvement Report. The report's main message was that the Council has a strong drive and focus on improvement and is preparing well for the difficult times ahead. But, it has to be realistic about what it can do and focus on the effects of its work on local people. A summary of the key conclusions is set out below.
While the Council is making improvements in its arrangements to help it improve, there are challenges ahead. The Council will see a reduction of around £3.1 million (1.3 per cent) in the revenue funding it gets from the Assembly Government for 2011-12 and estimates it will need to save some £29 million over the next three years. The Council's budget has been well managed in recent years and has a track record of making sure its services are delivered with the resources it has available. The Council's accounting statements present a true and fair view of the Council's financial transactions.
The Council published its improvement objectives in July 2010 as part of its Improvement Plan for 2010-11, the first plan published under new arrangements. While the Council's improvement objectives are appropriate to local circumstances they, and supporting information on performance, could be presented more clearly in the Plan. This will enable the Council to demonstrate improvement in services to local people.
With pockets of deprivation, high levels of homelessness and a shortage of affordable housing, there is a relatively high level of need in Carmarthenshire. The Council is recognised for improving housing quality. It is also making progress in supporting older people and promoting their independence, although managing the changes needed in this respect, will be a financial challenge. Adult mental health services and other aspects of adult services are improving and the Council recognises the need to sustain these improvements. Delays to transfers of care remain high. A significant number of older people, including vulnerable people, were waiting to be assessed and adult protection procedures were inconsistently applied. In children's services, the picture is much more positive, with the service providing good information and a consistent, timely response to referrals.
Overall, the Council's performance in education is mixed. Although attainment at the externally assessed key stage four is above the Welsh average, other key stage results fall below it and A level grades have seen a slight decline. Estyn in 2009 judged that the Council's education services included good features in all the areas that were inspected, which outweighed shortcomings, and its prospects for improvement were good. Surplus school places and the quality of buildings were seen as weaknesses although the Council has since had some success in tackling these issues.
The Council's waste services are efficient, well liked by residents and help to make Carmarthenshire a more pleasant place and the Council is prioritising further carbon reduction as well as tackling issues related to coastal protection. It is working to support businesses and has a well-established and positive approach to regeneration. Carmarthenshire is one of the safest counties in Wales and the Council is working well with the Police and other partners.