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MAKING THE BEST OF FUNDING, PARTNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN MONMOUTHSHIRE

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Monmouthshire CC's performance in the fields of funding, partnership and community involvement are described as 'fa...
Monmouthshire CC's performance in the fields of funding, partnership and community involvement are described as 'fair but with uncertain prospects for improvement' in an independent report published today by the Audit Commission in Wales. The inspection looked at the council's review of the way it works with external agencies and communities to attract funding and how effectively this is used.

The Audit Commission in Wales inspection team gave the service one star (out of a possible three) because they found that although there are some good examples of attracting funding from external sources, this work is not fully co-ordinated to maximise opportunities for the county. The independent report says that there is room for improvement and that a common understanding of the aims of this service area needs to be developed.

Anne Delaney, acting director, Audit Commission inspection service, Wales, said;

'Building effective partnerships can play a vital role in attracting much needed funding for a variety of projects that can have a truly beneficial effect on local communities. In this regard, Monmouthshire's performance in this field is the source of some disappointment and the authority now needs to respond positively to the recommendations in our inspection report.

Whilst there are some good examples, there is clearly a great deal of work to do in improving the way the council co-ordinates its work around funding applications, and developing partnerships with external organisations.'

The inspection report highlights some positive features:

-- The aims of this particular function are clear and customer facing;

-- Some examples of information on grants available from the council is clear, informative and colourful;

-- There are some good examples of where the council has drawn down funding from external sources;

-- There are pockets of good partnership working with some projects.

However, inspectors also found areas that the council still needs to address, including:

-- The awarding or attracting of funding is not fully co-ordinated to maximise opportunities for the county;

-- There is no real understanding of local needs to ensure that gaps are met;

-- Customers are not clear about the council's aims in relation to funding, partnership and community involvement;

-- The county compares poorly in relation to other areas in Wales in attracting funding to the area.

Inspectors believe that this cross cutting activity of the council's work has uncertain prospects for improvement because:

-- There are serious concerns about the way in which the Council manages its performance;

-- The inspection raised doubts about whether the Council has the capacity to deliver improvement in this area as many staff involved are already heavily committed;

-- Inspectors were unconvinced of the Council's ability to deliver the management and direction needed to implement fundamental changes;

-- Some key partners are not fully on board in implementing an Improvement Plan.

Recommendations to help the council improve its work in this area include:

-- Adopting a consistency of approach that everyone understands;

-- Centrally co-ordinating funding activity throughout the Council;

-- Improving information gathering and dissemination in this field;

-- Ensuring that key partners play an integral part in developing a way forward;

-- Identifying clear and measurable targets for improvement;

-- Providing greater direction on performance management in this area of work.

The Audit Commission inspection service inspected Monmouthshire CC's activities in the fields of funding, partnership and community involvement as part the government's best value initiative. This includes the use of grant funding awarded by the council, co-ordination of funding bids (within the council and with others) and the council's involvement with joint ventures and communities.

The full report can be found on the Audit Commission website: www.audit-commission.gov.uk

NOTES:

1. The service was inspected as part of the government's best value initiative, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible.

2. The inspection involved interviews with council staff and members, and members of the public using the service.

3. The Audit Commission inspection service was established to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council. Inspection reports judge how well a service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.

4. The government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to improve local services over the next five years. Councils must report annually on their performance (best value performance plans) and review all of their services over the next five years in order to identify and achieve continual improvements in local services.

5. Further details about the role of the Audit Commission can be obtained from - http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk

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