The Auditor General for Wales has today published a new report on Isle of Anglesey County Council looking at how well the Council is improving its services.
The Auditor General for Wales set out some important messages on how Isle of Anglesey County 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 has responded positively to the serious findings of the Auditor General's 2009 Governance Inspection, which led to Ministerial intervention. But, much work remains to make sure that the problems of the past do not resurface once this intervention is over and that the Council sustains a clear strategic focus on delivering improvement for citizens. A summary of the key conclusions is set out below.
Changes at senior management level are helping to increase the focus on strategic issues and ensure that heads of service are more accountable than before for operational matters. However, the Council continues to navigate its way through changes in political loyalties. There is a significant risk that personality politics and the pursuit of power will once again deflect councillors and senior managers from the real issues that face the Council and the people it serves.
The Appointed Auditor confirmed that the accounting statements present a true and fair view of the Council's financial transactions. However, the auditors identified a number of important issues while auditing the accounts and the accounts were not approved by the Council by 30 September 2010 as required by accounting regulations.
The Council will see a reduction of around £1.6 million (1.7 per cent) in the revenue funding it gets from the Assembly Government for 2011-12. While the Council's medium-term financial planning has developed well in recent months, it has identified that it needs to find savings of about £10 million over three years. Proposals so far identify about £7 million of the necessary savings, and an outline project plan supports each proposal.
The Council published its 34 improvement objectives to its website as part of its Corporate Plan in early July, a significant step forward in improving the transparency of its intentions and accountability for their delivery. Each objective relates to one of five strategic objectives but relatively few focus explicitly on improving outcomes for citizens.
A review by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales found that the Council had effective arrangements and a strong commitment to safeguarding vulnerable adults. Its inspection of children's safeguarding arrangements found that the referral and allocationsystem worked well but identified weaknesses in the management of the volume of referrals, the application of eligibility criteria, case recording, and the timing and quality of assessment.The Council's objective to meet local housing need, while appropriate, is not supported by specific outcomes for citizens or clear plans for achieving those outcomes.
Educational attainment in the Isle of Anglesey is above the Welsh average and improving in most respects. An Estyn and Wales Audit Office joint inspection in November 2009 found that the Council's support for school improvement had good features and no important shortcomings. Both costs per pupil and reserves held by schools are high but, after a period where difficult but necessary decisions were delayed, reorganisation has now begun. In light of below-average employment and comparatively low average incomes, the Council's objective to improve the employment prospects of local people is appropriate. However, the Council needs to be more specific about the outcomes it hopes to achieve and how it will measure its contribution to achieving them.
The safety and cleanliness of the area compare well with the rest of Wales. The Council's waste management service is performing very well. The Council is involved in a number of different partnerships with other authorities in North Wales in order to sustain and improve performance in the longer term.