Welsh minister to take urgent action over Blaenau Gwent
7:46pm Wednesday 2nd October 2013 in News
URGENT action is needed to sort out how Blaenau Gwent council is run according to a Welsh Government minister.
Lesley Griffiths is to exercise her powers to provide the authority with a “package of support” after auditors called for help at the authority.
The Auditor General for Wales Huw Vaughan Thomas said the authority hadn’t taken enough action over worries about how it is managed and led.
“I have not had to exercise these powers before. However, the nature of the recommendation from the Auditor General for Wales is not one I can ignore,” the local government minister told AMs in a statement.
She said it is evident that the situation “needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency” and that she took the recommendations “extremely seriously”.
A new letter from Mr Thomas said that the council’s leadership and decision making remain inconsistent, according to Ms Griffiths.
That’s despite previous critical reports from the auditor’s Wales Audit Office stretching back to 2011.
The letter said the council had not introduced proposals to address its predicted financial pressures and varied service performance with sufficient urgency, Ms Griffiths wrote.
There are also concerns over quality of information being received by councillors to enable them to take “informed and appropriate decisions”.
Mr Thomas made recommendations over the council’s finances, how it makes it decisions and scrutinises them.
But he also called for the minister to provide “short term support to the council in order for it to remedy its problems” as to doesn’t have the capacity to take forward the actions necessary.
Officials are to work with the council on what the package will be.
According to the statement Labour council leader Councillor Hedley McCarthy has formerly requested support to address the council's issues and immediate financial difficulties.
Cllr McCarthy told the Argus: "The Auditor General was looking at a snapshot in time. We have since undergone a Welsh Local Government Association peer review which on August 2 we acted on. We have added capacity to the corporate centre and we believe that we’ve taken decisions which enable us to improve.
“Having said that I welcome the support that the minister has given us today,” he added.
Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies said everyone acknowledges that the Labour administration has made “considerable progress” and hoped the partnership will further strengthen the authority.
"This is a time to pull together and to work together for everyone in the borough," he said.
Since 2011 audits and inspections have raised concerns at weaknesses at how Blaenau Gwent has been run, and had emphasised that until they were addressed it was unlikely the council would be able to improve significantly.
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