Audit Options for Sedgefield Borough Council
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Audit Options for Sedgefield Borough Council


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BVPP 2001/2002Best Value Audit ReportPlymouth City CouncilINSIDE THIS REPORTPAGE 2• Purpose of report• Overall conclusions• Main recommendationsPAGE 3• The Best Value Performance Plan 2001/2002• Implementing Best ValuePAGE 5• Performance managementPAGE 6• Service improvementPAGE 7• Responding to challenge• AcknowledgementAPPENDIX 1• Statutory audit certificate and opinion Alun Williams – District AuditorA uthor Date: 28 June 2001 Plymouth City CouncilBVPP 2001/2002In taking decisions on the implementation of BVRKEY MESSAGES recommendations, the Council will need todemonstrate that it has acted reasonably. Thismay lead to conflict where the recommendationsPurpose of reportare inconsistent with Council policy. However,The purpose of this report is to inform Members where a recommendation, based on a soundand Chief Officers of the key issues arising from review, shows the policy to be inconsistent withthe audit of the Council’s second Best Value achieving Best Value, the Council should bePerformance Plan (BVPP). prepared to review its policies in the light of thisfurther information becoming available.This year’s audit of the Council’s BVPP hasincluded: This statutory audit report which was issued on28 June 2001:• a detailed follow-up of progress againstrecommendations made last year • includes an unqualified opinion• an assessment of the Council’s overall • contains ...



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Best Value Audit Report
Plymouth City Council
P A G E2 Purpose of report Overall conclusions Main recommendations
P A G E3 The Best Value Performance Plan 2001/2002 Implementing Best Value
P A G E5 Performance management
P A G E6 Service improvement
P A G E7 Responding to challenge Acknowledgement
A P P E N D I X1 Statutory audit certificate and opinion
Author Date:
Alun Williams – District Auditor
28 June 2001
 PlymouthCity Council
Purpose of report The purpose of this report is to inform Members and Chief Officers of the key issues arising from the audit of the Council’s second Best Value Performance Plan (BVPP). This year’s audit of the Council’s BVPP has included: a detailed followup of progress against recommendations made last year an assessment of the Council’s overall progress in relation to Best Value an assessment of the adequacy of the Council’s performance management system.
Overall conclusions
The Council has produced a Best Value Performance Plan, which is compliant with statutory requirements. Both the Plan and the summary we commend for the clarity and comprehensive information and the innovative way the summary engages stakeholders and consults with the wider community.
Good progress has been made in integrating Best Value into Council business and there is evidence of strong support from Members. However, there are a number of areas where the Council now needs to move its Best Value agenda forward. In particular, the completion of the corporate performance management framework, and monitoring the implementation of all Best Value Review Action Plans. It is the Action Plan rather than the BVR itself which is critical to achieving significant improvements in service performance. We note in particular that the recommendations of the Residential Care review, completed in March, have yet to be progressed.
Best Value Audit Report– 2001/2002
In taking decisions on the implementation of BVR recommendations, the Council will need to demonstrate that it has acted reasonably. This may lead to conflict where the recommendations are inconsistent with Council policy. However, where a recommendation, based on a sound review, shows the policy to be inconsistent with achieving Best Value, the Council should be prepared to review its policies in the light of this further information becoming available. This statutory audit report which was issued on 28 June 2001: includes an unqualified opinion contains recommendations which require a formal Council response does not recommend that the Audit Commission should carry out a Best Value inspection or that the Secretary of State give a direction.
Main recommendations Key issues for the Council include the need to: !complete the corporate performance management framework which: is integrated with financial planning ensures there is a process to enable Officers and Members to monitor and review performance aligns with service plans and other significant plans / strategies develops a process to cascade objectives to teams and individuals !implement Best Value Review Action Plans, which should be formally monitored to ensure plans are driving improvements and meeting objectives !establish a process with clear criteria for reviewing and revising the Best Value review timetable.
DA final report 2001– Page2
The Best Value Performance Plan 2001/2002
 PlymouthCity Council
The Council’s Plan complies with the statutory requirements in all significant respects and the summary plan should provide stakeholders with a useful perspective of the Council’s performance.
Compliance The Plan is compliant with the legislation in all significant respects. The Council accepts, however, that it could be further enhanced by providing a clear link between the Authority’s objectives and its medium term financial strategy (see Section 3). The Council also needs to provide clear explanations for reasons for change and revision to its five year programme. As set out in Section 4, we identified at least one area where the suspension of a review has not been followed up with appropriate action.
The Council worked closely with other Best Value authorities serving its area to produce and distribute a joint summary BVPP. We commend the Council’s initiative in this area.
There were no significant problems in terms of coverage or timeliness of distribution.
Impact The Plan is well designed, readable and communicates the main messages simply with a useful focus on front line public services. It covers significant changes occurring within the Council, linking with partners and the wider modernising agenda.There is a useful description of all service areas explaining their aims, objectives and what they do.
Best Value Audit Report– 2001/2002
Value The Plan should be valuable to stakeholders in enabling a wider understanding of the Council’s business, business plans and issues facing the Council. There is a sufficient focus on performance and performance information to enable stakeholders to monitor progress and make the Council accountable.
Provide clear exlanations for reasons for makin changes to the Council’s five year programme.
Implementing Best Value
A good framework for Best Value is in place, with strong project management and rigorous challenge and quality assurance. Important supporting elements have recently been developed. There is now a need to ensure that the framework is applied rigorously and consistently and the new elements are kept under review.
Best Value Review process
The Council has established a Corporate Support Unit to centralise and coordinate Best Value and its supporting management processes. The Best Value review process is set out in the toolkit, which we commended last year. The toolkit has been updated to take account of Year 1 reviews and covers each of the 4 Cs. A survey of everyone involved in Year 1 reviews has been carried out to ascertain strengths and weaknesses and identify improvements.
As part of this year’s audit, we surveyed all Heads of Service and invited Directors to establish their level of satisfaction regarding performance management, the Best Value Review Programme, application of the 4 Cs carrying out Best Value Reviews and Communications. The chart overleaf illustrates the overall satisfaction level of Officers within these areas.
DA final report 2001– Page3
8 0 %
7 0 %
6 0 %
5 0 %
4 0 %
3 0 %
2 0 %
1 0 %
0 % P e r f o r m a n c eM g t
 PlymouthCity Council
O ff i c er Sa ti s f ac t io n
B VR e v ie wF o u rC 'sC a r r y in go u tB V P r o g r a m m er e v i e w s T o t a lS a t i s f ie dT o t a lU n s a t is f i e dT o t a lD / K
The survey highlights the general dissatisfaction towards the existing performance management arrangements, which the Council is corporately addressing as outlined in this report. The Best Value programme and carrying out reviews have been seen as positive although application of the 4 Cs could be improved. The Council has revised its review processes to address this. Communication to the heads of service has been seen as satisfactory although it is recognised this is patchy across the Council and a move towards IIP will help further enhance internal communications.
The Council has introduced a robust Challenge Panel, which assesses each review at key stages and includes external representatives.
The Best Value Inspectorate highlighted the toolkit as being a ‘sound’ tool for guiding review teams that suggests a range of creative and proactive techniques.However, it was also identified that the toolkit could be strengthened to provide additional guidance on delivering Action Plans. The toolkit has now been revised to tighten up the framework for delivering Action Plans.
Best Value Audit Report– 2001/2002
C o m m u n ic a t i o n s
The Council has continued to apply and develop its good record of consultation and has produced a strategy to create clearer guidance, quality control and coordination. The strategy is now being implemented and should have an impact on year two reviews. The Best Value Inspectorate identified that consultation in the Dog Warden review was limited, did not involve all stakeholders and was not recognised as a key driver for improvement. The revised toolkit and the implementation of consultation strategy has helped address these issues.
A procurement strategy has also been produced and the toolkit has been updated, requiring all milestone three reports to include a statement of competition. This must clearly state how the review team has considered competition and how competitive the service is. There is still, however, a need to develop practical guidance and a robust process to give effect to the links between this strategy and the corporate plan.
External representation on Best Value Reviews and the quality assurance role of the Challenge Panel have been effective in promoting rigorous challenge.
DA final report 2001– Page4
 PlymouthCity Council
Review teams have encountered two key problems that have slowed progress. These are inadequacies in: management information about the service availability of similar information about others services, with which to compare. Given the time required to obtain this information, there is a need to make sure it produces direct benefits. Some information may be valuable for managing and improving a service, but not necessarily vital to the review process. In such cases, consideration should be given to obtaining it as part of the service improvement plan, rather than the review itself, provided this does not dilute the rigour of the review process.
Im lementthe rocurementstrate ,with a robust rocess to ensure overall coordination and consistency.
Monitor the imlementation of the Consultation Strateto ensure it is adhered to and is achieving the intended results.
Ensure that effort to obtain manaement and erformance information focuses on that which is re uiredfor riorous review, with additional information needs beinaddressed in service improvement plans.
Performance management
The Council has made good progress towards a corporate performance management framework, which will be implemented by April 2002. A comprehensive corporate strategy has been produced and work is underway to align financial planning. Existing performance management is patchy across the Council and is awaiting the implementation of the corporate framework.
Best Value Audit Report– 2001/2002
The Council has divided the corporate framework into three phases. Phase 1, to produce a corporate strategy, is complete and will undergo public consultation throughout the summer to inform the final version. This covers leadership and management and all significant services identifying key objectives, linkages, baseline information, performance measures and targets. Phase 2, aligning the budget with corporate objectives, is now underway. Phase 3 will set the budget, amend the strategy and be implemented in April 2002.
Recommendation Ensure theerformance manaement framework is com letedand imlemented effectiveland consistently across the Council, including: involvement of Members torovide clear strategic direction and oversight monitoring performance and progress reviewin erformanceand oliciesin the liht of monitoring information.
Performance information A large number of performance indicators are set out in the service plans. Existing performance management is patchy across the Council with good evidence of performance management in some services, particularly those which are more regulated. Key issues in developing performance information will be: developing performance information for different levels of monitoring targeting performance information appropriately information systems benchmarking. Our audit of the performance information published in the BVPP benefited from the sound PI compilation and validation systems introduced by the Council. A number of errors were identified during the audit, but these were not of such significance as to require a qualification of the audit opinion. We are working with Officers to explore the reasons for apparent errors with a view to further improving the accuracy of indicators in future years.
DA final report 2001– Page5
 PlymouthCity Council
Ensure the develoin erformancemana ement framework rovidesall kestakeholders with the a roriate level of information to reflect their interests.
Service improvement
The Best Value review programme provides a means of effecting significant service improvements. Members need to ensure that it is undertaken rigorously and achieves its full potential and that the programme of reviews is designed to provide maximum benefits.
Service outcomes
We have reviewed the Council’s performance based on the published Best Value Performance Indicators and targets. The overall impression of performance is a mixed one.
Whilst it is a little early to draw too many conclusions from the limited information available to date, it is clearly important that the Council reviews its comparative position in greater detail. It should then set realistic but challenging targets to move towards top quartile performance. This should be an integral part of the evolving performance management framework.
Best Value Review Programme
A process of corporate project management is in place, although there has been some managed slippage in the first year review programme. At 31 March 2001, ten reviews had been completed out of twenty five with a further five planned to be carried out beyond Year 1. The Council needs to ensure there is a clear explanation as to why reviews have been suspended. For example, we have been unable to find clear evidence to show what action has been taken following the suspension of the IT review. There are a further four outstanding reviews, which are due for completion within the next few months. These reviews have been referred back to review teams following the Council’s Challenge Panel where quality assurance has been an issue. The Council is confident this slippage will not effect the overall programme and that the quality assurance role of the Challenge Panel is essential in ensuring rigour.
Best Value Audit Report– 2001/2002
The Best Value Review Programme has been revised to reduce the number of reviews, however, there needs to be a clear process for reviewing and revising the timetable, in support of the corporate strategy.
The Council has learnt from experiences of year one and has revised its toolkit to improve the review process. Attention now needs to be given to the follow up of Best Value reviews and implementing the Action Plans.
Responsibility for implementing and monitoring Action Plans needs to be clearly stated. For example, the Residential Care review was completed in March but the Action Plan has not been implemented or formally approved by Members.
As Action Plans are approved, a mechanism will be needed to ensure their financial implications are fed into the financial planning process. This will require a means of prioritising competing demands for resources or the reallocation of resources freed up.
In taking decisions on the implementation of BVR recommendations, the Council will need to demonstrate that it has acted reasonably. This can lead to conflict where the recommendations are inconsistent with Council policy. However, where a recommendation, based on a sound review, shows the policy to be inconsistent with achieving Best Value, the Council should be prepared to review its policies in the light of further information becoming available.
Throughout the decision making the Council must act in accordance with the ‘Wednesbury’ principles of reasonableness, ie in essence the Council must take into account all relevant considerations and ignore irrelevant considerations. Failure to do so could render that decision unlawful and leave the Council open to challenge.
DA final report 2001– Page6
 PlymouthCity Council
Recommendations Im lement BestValue Review Actionlans, and ensure there is a process to formally monitor them. Ensure anfuture review of the Best Value Review ro rammeis based on clear and consistentl a liedcriteria and alined to the cororate strategy. Review the toolkit torovide uidanceon content and format for Action Plans which: onsibilities,ensures a clear allocation of res timescales, monitoring and frequency. Ensure the resource imlications of Action Plans are clearl identifiedand fed into the financiallannin process, taking full account of Council priorities.
Responding to challenge
The Council has responded to external challenge, but needs to be more rigorous in securing implementation of agreed actions.
The Council has a positive attitude to change and a clear readiness to embrace new initiatives. The response to the Best Value Performance Plan audit report of 2000 has been positive, although some of the timescales were unrealistic and it is evident that the Plan has not been formally monitored. The Council will need to build on this for the future and ensure that it takes an open and responsive approach to external inspections.
Monitor riorousl theim lementationof Action Plans develoed bexternal aencies to ensure that improvement opportunities are realised.
6 Acknowledgement We would like to express our appreciation for the considerable help and support received from all of the Council’s Officers during the course of our audit. We look forward to continuing to work with you over the coming year.
Best Value Audit Report– 2001/2002
DA final report 2001– Page7
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