Newport council has 'potential to improve' - watchdog
3:50pm Thursday 19th September 2013 in News
Newport council is addressing longstanding weaknesses but issues remain in how the authority is governed, according to an auditors’ report.
The Wales Audit Office says that chief executive Will Godfrey, who was appointed at the start of 2013, is beginning to create the culture and conditions to deliver the council’s vision for Newport.
But the report aired criticism of the Labour administration's changes to full council meetings – saying councillors and officers felt that new written questions may be stifling debates.
The auditor general Huw Vaughan Thomas’ findings say the council has the potential to achieve the scale and pace of changes required.
It explains that the council is becoming more self-aware of the problems and challenges it faces, and that the council is now at a "pivotal point".
Mr Thomas said: “After a period of instability within the leadership team, it is encouraging to see a new management structure at Newport City Council that recognises the pace and urgency with which it must act in order to improve.”
However the Corporate Assessment report argues that the authority had been slow to address weaknesses in its arrangements for how it is governed.
It is felt by some councillors and officers that new written questions, with pre-prepared answers, to the leader and cabinet at full council do not enable them to be held to account effectively and may be stifling open debates, the report said.
The council is also not achieving everything it has set out to do in some key services, according to the WAO, although its education service is mostly performs at above or at expected levels.
Newport’s relative performance in children’s social services is mostly declining when compared with the rest of Wales, as are key performance measures in housing and in the street scene department
Auditors made a raft of recommendations, saying the authority should address weaknesses in how it manages its staff.
Newport council stressed that the report is not a judgment of the performance of the council but is an assessment of whether the authority is likely to comply with Welsh Government requirements for councils to improve.
A spokeswoman said the authority has already strengthened its capacity and governance arrangements.
Council leader Bob Bright welcomed the report, saying: “The council has not shied away from taking bold steps and this report provides constructive recommendations about how we can continue to take the organisation forward.”
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