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COUNCIL SERVICES IMROVING SAYS WATCHDOG

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Council services are improving according to the Wales Audit Office's annual report* on the Wales Programme for Impr...
Council services are improving according to the Wales Audit Office's annual report* on the Wales Programme for Improvement.

Russell Roberts, WLGA improvement spokesperson said:

'This report highlights a positive picture of local public services in Wales and is clear evidence of councils' commitment to improvement.

'We recognise that there are some areas where performance needs to improve and the WLGA has made ambitious statements of intent about the need to consistently attain higher standards across the board.

'We are already discussing with the Welsh Assembly Government the potential of establishing minimum standards so that citizens, wherever they live in Wales, could expect a certain standard of provision from their local public services. We are also providing much more sophisticated support to struggling services or councils, such as the newly established Social Services Improvement Agency within the WLGA.'

Whilst the report highlights risks facing local authorities it is positive to note that the auditor general has found the number of service risks are reducing and that there has been significant improvement in all areas.

Mr Roberts added:

'Many of the risks identified are only emerging because councils are prepared to push boundaries and are exploring innovative approaches to service improvement and efficiency, such as collaboration between councils. These risks are a result of positive action and councils are carrying out thorough risk assessments ahead of these new ventures.

'Many of the risks the auditor general has raised as concerns are well-documented and have been highlighted in councils' own risk assessments. The principle reason for many of these is an issue of capacity and historical underinvestment, such as the condition of housing stock and the need to meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard by 2012. Some risks are the result of new challenges laid down by new legislation, such as ambitious waste management targets, which means that many authorities need to bridge significant gaps.'

* The WAO office report is available here

Responding to the auditor general's comments about the need to improve the Wales Programme for Improvement, particularly the introduction of comparability, Mr Roberts added:

'The annual report indicates that the Wales Programme for improvement has settled well and is delivering improvement in performance and local public services. England is changing its approach to improvement with recognition that there is much to learn from our approach in Wales.

'The Wales Programme for Improvement was designed to drive improvement, not to compare authorities, and on that basis it has been successful. Performance can be compared in many ways through currently published information or comparative studies. We do however recognise the benefits of comparison and have already made such recommendations with Jeremy Beecham as part of his review of local public services.'

For copies of the Wales Programme for Improvement Annual Report visit www.wao.gov.uk

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