Posted: Sat 22nd Jun 2024

Flintshire Council criticised for neglecting residents’ views

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Flintshire County Council’s cabinet has been slammed by opposition councillors for ignoring residents, following a critical report from Audit Wales.

The report highlights significant shortcomings in the council’s ability to provide senior leaders with sufficient information on ‘service users’ during decision making processes.

The audit, conducted during the 2022-23 financial year, found that Flintshire’s senior leaders receive limited performance information, making it challenging to gauge how well services and policies meet the needs of service users.

The Audit report states: “The Council has drafted a document ‘How Achievements will be Measured’ to accompany its 2023-28 Council Plan. However, only one of the 154 measures within this document relates to the service user perspective.”

“This indicates that the limited insight could continue into the new reporting arrangements for the Council’s latest well-being objectives.”

“Overall, the information the Council provides to senior leaders about the service user perspective is limited. It is, therefore, difficult to see how senior leaders would be able to understand from this information how well services and policies are meeting the needs of service users.”

Audit Wales noted that only one of the 154 performance measures in the Council’s recent plan related to service user perspectives, indicating a need for substantial improvement in future reporting.

Audit Wales’ document reference 3976A2023 outlines the scope of their investigation, which did not encompass a full review of the council’s performance management or data quality but focused specifically on the information provided to senior leaders regarding service user perspectives and outcomes.

Key findings from the report highlight that performance data mainly centres on activities rather than the outcomes, limiting leaders’ ability to understand the impact of council actions.

There are inadequate arrangements to ensure the data’s accuracy, risking decisions and resource allocations based on potentially flawed information.

Due to limited data on outcomes and user perspectives, the council’s ability to use this information to achieve its objectives is restricted.

Flintshire People’s Voice councillor, Alasdair Ibbotson, expressed his dismay at the findings: “This report shows quite clearly that the cabinet has failed to listen to residents, it’s there in black and white. When asked to apologise, the cabinet member has refused, despite admitting she hadn’t even read the report. Residents have a right to expect better, a right to expect the cabinet to listen to them, and frankly they owe residents an apology.”

During a heated council meeting earlier this week, Cllr Ibbotson questioned Cllr Linda Thomas, the cabinet member for Corporate Services, about whether she had read the Audit Wales report.

Cllr Thomas admitted, “Unfortunately, councillor, no, I haven’t.” Despite this admission, she maintained that the cabinet adequately considered residents’ views and did not believe the report was damning of Flintshire’s processes. When pressed on whether she would apologise to residents, Cllr Thomas responded, “Not at the moment, no.”

Audit Wales has made three recommendations to address the issues it found:

Strengthen User Perspective Information: The council should enhance the information provided to senior leaders to better understand how well services and policies meet user needs.

Enhance Outcomes Information: Senior leaders need more comprehensive data to evaluate whether the council is delivering on its objectives and achieving intended outcomes.

Ensure Data Accuracy: The council must establish robust procedures to verify the quality and accuracy of data related to service user perspectives and outcomes.

At the subsequent cabinet meeting, where the decision to adopt two of Audit Wales’ recommendations was made, Cllr Thomas briefly addressed the report, stating, “The recommendations of Audit Wales will be taken on board. I will work closely with the officers to consider any improvements which have been mentioned in the report, and I will ensure that any improvements can be implemented subject to any financial implications.” No other cabinet members commented on the matter.

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