We think local business matters more than the state of council buildings

Our Deputy Leader, Councillor Bob Greenland, said this week that focussing on a thriving local economy is more important than improving council premises, after statistics seemed to put too much emphasis on areas which are not important to local people.

Our council has three clear priorities:

  • economic prosperity
  • education
  • protection of vulnerable people

Councillor Greenland wants people to judge the council for its success in these areas.

Every year Welsh Government releases the annual National Performance Measurement Framework – this is data about all councils in Wales that measure how the council is performing and where improvement is needed.

He said:

“We know that performance will decline in some areas as we focus more attention and spending on three clear priorities: education, the protection of vulnerable people and promoting enterprise and job creation.

“As an organisation we are operating in a difficult financial climate and have to make some tough decisions about our spending priorities.  Our council remains committed to improving key services and delivering better outcomes for the people of our county.

“In some cases we have had to reduce spending on services.  This is either because they are not priorities or because we recognise we can deliver a good service for less money.”

“All Welsh local authorities use the National Performance Measurement Framework to assess their overall performance.   This helps public accountability but there are limitations to this approach.  It is overly focused on measuring process rather than outcomes for people or satisfaction levels.

“It can also put too much emphasis on areas that aren’t important to local people, for example there are separate measures about to the condition of council buildings but none that measure economic development, which is one of our three priorities.”

The data shows areas where we excel:

  • The best primary school attendance rates in Wales at 94.5%, secondary school pupils have the second best attendance.
  • Primary school pupils have been assessed amongst the top performers in Wales for results at key stage 2 and key stage 3.
  • Supporting vulnerable older people to live in their own homes wherever possible. The lowest number of older people placed into residential and nursing care.  More than 88% of the older people supported are able to live independently.
  • All child protection reviews were carried out on time.  All measures of the timeliness of our child protection procedures show us to be either the best or second best performer.
  • We have one of the top rated combined composting and recycling rates, 48.3% compared to a Wales average of 43.6%.  We’ve also reduced the amount of waste we send to landfill by 4000 tonnes.  This has financial as well as environmental benefits as we have to pay £56 in tax alone for each tonne of waste that we bury.

There areas that are not as good as they should be.  Some of the measures against which the framework shows us to be underperforming:

  • Monmouthshire has some of the highest property prices in Wales. A lack of affordable accommodation in the county makes it hard to look after homeless people.
  • We have the second lowest number of pupils being assessed at Key Stage 2 with Welsh as their first language.
  • The data indicates carers are among the lowest performers in Wales, although we are doing a lot of work with people which is not always captured within these measures.
  • We’ve improved the time it takes us to pay creditors, from 71% to 77% being paid within 30 days, but we are still one of the slowest councils in Wales to make payments.
  • We are amongst the slowest councils in Wales at making decisions on planning applications..  However, we’ve now carried out wholesale changes to planning processes and expect to see big improvements in the months ahead.

The Wales Audit Office, have recognised that our council has a strong commitment to change.  This ambition was highlighted when the council was the only Welsh authority shortlisted for a new Creative Councils award run by NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

More information on how well we performed in 2010/11 will be contained in our improvement plan which will be published on our main website at http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/improvement at the end of October.

Here are some graphs showing performance in priority areas (taken from the council’s draft improvement plan)

The complete dataset is available on the Data Unit website.

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