Posted: Sat 20th Apr 2024

Assurances Given by Powys County Council Chiefs Following Troubling Audit Wales Report /

ASSURANCES have been given by Powys County Council chiefs that “enormous advances” have been made following a critical and “troubling” Audit Wales report.
Earlier this month Audit Wales published a report which said senior Powys council council chiefs did not understand how its services and policies affect residents.
Audit Wales set out three recommendations for the council after they found that the performance information provided to senior leaders does not enable them to have a “comprehensive understanding of the service user perspective and outcomes.”
“This restricts their ability to understand the impact of the council’s services and policies,” said Audit Wales,
The report was discussed at a meeting of the council’s Governance and Audit committee meeting on Thursday, April 18.
Martin Gibson of Audit Wales said that all 22 local authorities in Wales would be subject to the same report.
An overarching summary report would be produced this summer to show a national picture.
Head of transformation and corporate services, Catherine James put forward a defence for the senior staff and cabinet.
Ms James pointed out that the work was done in Powys by Audit Wales between May and July last year.
Ms James said: “It’s really important to note that the evidence for the audit was based on our previous corporate strategic and improvement plan known as Vision 2025.
“We now have a new corporate plan called Stronger, Fairer, Greener and a new performance approach implemented in April last year.”
“We do ensure the voice of the user is understood and forms a basis for our wellbeing assessment and our corporate and equality strategic plan.”
Mr Gibson said: “We’re not satisfied that the recommendations we have made in our report have been properly considered, and we intend following up the recommendations in future audit work.”
Liberal Democrat, Cllr William Powell said: “It is quite a troubling report and it’s reassuring to hear that Audit Wales will be retaining a focus on improvement this area.
“It’s timely that we have a refreshed team of directors now and a renewed sense of focus and purpose.”
He asked whether any “patterns” had been identified in the same report across other local authorities.
Mr Gibson: “Council’s generally have really struggled with this.
“It’s a really basic concept of being clear what you’re trying to achieve and having the correct information to assess that.”
Cabinet member for finance, Labour’s Cllr David Thomas said he wanted to give the committee “reassurance” that things are getting better.
Cllr Thomas said: “Since this audit was completed, we’ve made enormous advances.
“The cabinet is well informed, there is room for improvement – that goes without saying.
“What residents want or don’t want is what sustainable Powys is all about.
“We all know we have a diminishing financial envelope, and we want to deliver excellent services within that envelope.
“But to do that we’ll have to change.
“There’s a very comprehensive programme of public engagement around this so we can identify what the public want and we’ll find some way of delivering those services.”
According to the council this engagement around “sustainable” Powys has already included talks with Town and Community Councils over 140 community groups and 100 secondary school pupils.
Chief executive, Emma Palmer said: “I welcome the report as it’s about getting to a better place from an organisational perspective.”
The committee now look forward to seeing the national report to see if good practice can be shared on this issue. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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