The Auditor General for Wales has today published a new report on City and County of Swansea Council looking at how well the Council is improving its services.
The Auditor General for Wales set out some important messages on how the City and County of Swansea Council is planning to improve its services in his 2009-10 Annual Improvement Report. The report is the first of its kind, following new legislation in April 2010, which requires councils to make arrangements to improve their services and the way that they work. This first year has been a period of adjustment, and this report is a starting point for the Auditor General to make much fuller assessments of how councils are performing in future years.
The report's main message was that there has been improvement in the very significant area of Child and Family Services with a range of future challenges as the Council seeks to secure savings on a much greater scale than previously experienced. The Council will have to make tough and timely decisions about what services to deliver and what services may have to be stopped.
The Council has some arrangements in place that will help it deliver future improvement but there are also shortcomings that need to be addressed. Partnerships, project management and some aspects of resource management are strengths, but there are weaknesses, in governance, business planning and risk management.
The Council published its improvement objectives in its Corporate Plan in June 2010. This plan connects the improvement objectives with the Council's overall aims. The Council involves local people in planning services and reports accurately on how it is improving.
Overall improvement in Child and Family Services led the Deputy Minister for Social Services to announce in October 2010 that the Intervention Board that was set up to oversee improvement to the services was no longer needed. The Council is fully aware that it needs to sustain this overall improvement. Swansea has nearly 560 children in care, which is the largest number in Wales and currently there about 20 per cent of children in Swansea who are living in poverty.
The Council is clear that these vulnerable children and young people will have fewer opportunities and should be an area for improvement. In 2009, performance in Key Stage 4 (Year 11) continued to be above or close to the Wales average. However, other indicators including the percentage of learners leaving full-time education without a recognised qualification is among the lowest in Wales and the Council recognises that this needs to improve. As part of its improvement objectives, the Council plans to target support for low achieving pupils and adults to improve basic skills, especially reading and will also strive to improve school attendance. Further support to identified pupils in the 14-16 age range will help to guarantee them a place in education, training or employment.
The public have indicated that they want a cleaner and safer environment, and a nicer place to live and visit. They want the Council to focus on this. In 2008-09, the Council was awarded a silver clean city award and is building on this achievement through the development of area service teams to deliver neighbourhood services focused on need. Survey results also show that the public think that the Council is successful at minimising waste and increasing recycling. However only 35 per cent of household waste was recycled or composted and food waste recycling uptake is low; more people need to participate if the Council is going to make progress.
The Council's accounting statements present a true and fair view of the Council's financial transactions.