Audit Wales Work Programme: Council Progress Update.
The Performance Analyst presented an update of the Council’s progress against the Audit Wales Work Programme. Following the report, Members asked questions:
A Member suggested that the People Strategy and Asset Management Plan should be considered separately. The Head of Policy, Performance and Scrutiny explained that the People Strategy and Asset Management Plan were conflated as they were in the same Audit Wales study and several common points were raised. Additionally, there are a series of enabling strategies sitting beneath the Community and Corporate Plan. For now, there is a high degree of commonality in both plans but as they develop, there will be more divergence. It was agreed to separate these strategies in future updates.
A further question asked how value for money is systematically assessed by the Council and Audit Wales quoting the example of some temporary traffic lights. The Officer explained there is a range of means to ensure value for money including the role of the Governance and Audit Committee, a published list of all expenditure over £500; risk-based reviews are conducted, and regular budget reports are presented to Performance and Overview Scrutiny Committee. When issues are identified, they can be added to the risk register. Members were uncertain that elected members or members of the public would know where to find the expenditure list.
Members requested more assurance about systematic assessment of value for money and the Officer provided information about contract standing orders. Officers procuring goods and services outside of the contract standing orders must contact the Chief Internal Auditor for an exemption; a list of exemptions is reported to Governance and Audit Committee. Audit Wales’s local work looks at the Council’s arrangements for value for money and has made recommendations in the Springing Forward Report to ensure reporting mechanisms and the means for measuring progress against strategies enable scrutiny committees to assess value for money.
Noting concerns that a Member had to make a Freedom of Information request to gather information the Officer emphasised the importance of the Council’s publication scheme and its responsibility to ensure the information is in the public domain and accessible. The Council is developing more open data, so it is more easily accessible by commonly used search engines.
A comment that the language in the report would benefit from being more concise and include some timelines will be considered for future reports.
The Head of Policy, Performance and Scrutiny will respond in writing to a question regarding social enterprise (slippage of nearly a decade Wales-wide).
A Member referred to the Councils duty to encourage social enterprise and measure its impact. It was confirmed there is no register but there is a piece of work looking at the various partnerships and joint services where we fund or enable social enterprise. Engagement can be formal or informal through town centre work and clustering and the partnership and community development team.
A Member referred to examples of innovative community driven social care partnerships and asked if this could be explored. The Officer thought Monmouthshire Housing is working on this aspect to encourage a co-operative of care workers. Also work progresses on Micro-caring.
The paper was noted. Members scrutinised the council’s response to the Audit Wales work programme and sought assurance that adequate progress is being made.
Members noted the ability to refer any issues contained within Audit Wales national studies to other committees for consideration where they identify there are findings of particular relevance to the council that need further scrutiny.