The Auditor General for Wales has today published a new report on Monmouthshire County Council looking at how well the Council is improving its services.
The Auditor General for Wales set out some important messages on how Monmouthshire County Council (the 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 the Council is responding to the recession and developing plans to help local people. Delivery of these plans needs to be well-managed in order to achieve all the things the Council wants and needs to do. A summary of the key conclusions is set out below.
The Council provided good services in the past but did not always consider how to improve them. Now, the Council is looking at ways of saving money and providing better services for local people by changing how it works and what it does. The Council must manage these changes well if local people are going to benefit.
The Council has good leadership and is making important changes. It works well with other local agencies such as the Health Board and Police. The Council is improving how it works with other public sector bodies and stakeholders and looking at how to make best use of its staff and buildings to deliver services.
The Council's budget has been well-managed in recent years and it has a good track record of spending within available resources. However, because of the reduction in money available for public services it needs to make £16 million savings by 2014-15. The Council is developing specific options and plans for reducing what it spends by transforming how it provides its services.
The Council develops plans for the future reasonably well but the measures the Council is proposing to use to judge whether it is successful in delivering its priorities are not always comprehensive and need improving. The Council has set improvement objectives, as required by the Welsh Assembly Government and has chosen to focus particularly on delivering improvement in key areas, linked to local priorities. We have assessed the Council's improvement objectives to judge whether it is clear how people will benefit. We concluded that broadly the measures of success are not well defined and it is not always obvious what benefits will result in the future. As such, the Council will be unable to make fair and accurate assessments of progress towards the objectives and how things have improved for local people. Thus it will remain difficult for the Council's contribution to broad local objectives like increasing employment opportunities to be measured. The Council needs to improve on how it proposes to measure its impact.
Traditionally, performance information has looked at how much the Council does rather than whether what it does makes a difference to people. Because the Council is not always able to show how much of an impact its services have had on individuals and communities it cannot always know whether or not it is delivering real value for money in all its services.
The Council's accounting statements present a true and fair view of the Council's financial transactions.