Independent auditors give Plaid-led council a positive verdict


Senior councillors in Caerphilly County Borough Council have given a warm welcome to the findings of a report by independent auditors on the running of the authority.

The general thrust of the annual improvement audit report from the Wales Audit Office is very positive with auditors making it clear they were pleased with the council’s approach to delivering better outcomes, leading to improvements in most areas.

Councillor Colin Mann,Deputy Leader & Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance, Procurement & Sustainability added: “I am very pleased the auditors have recognised our sound financial planning and management are delivering savings and balance d budgets. We are conscious that all public sector bodies across Wales continue to face challenging financial times but we are confident this council is well placed to meet these challenges. We can provide good examples of efficiencies already in place which are making a positive contribution to overall ability to deliver projects such as our 21st Century School business plan with the new Welsh medium School on St Ilan site starting work this spring. "

Council leader Allan Pritchard said: “I agree the report in general is very encouraging but we must not lose sight of the continual need to improve. We are identifying some key areas for consolidation one of which will be important to families, as this county borough still has a high level of the number of days pupils lose due to exclusions. We are one of only five councils that recorded an increase in the number of NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training). In comparative terms, of the 22 councils in Wales, 17 recorded a reduction or stood still in 2010. This obviously needs further investigation to assess our position.”

Councillor Ron Davies, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning commented on the report highlighting the council’s poor position in Wales with number of benefits claimants aged 16 to 24.

He said “It must be recognised we been working extremely hard to ensure the deprivation factors are recognised in our economic regeneration planning. Bringing forward schemes like Morrisons in Bargoed, developing the former post office in Caerphilly and the sports centre of excellence in Ystrad Mynach are key components in creating a more vibrant economy."

Councillor Colin Hobbs, Independent Cabinet Member for Performance Property & Asset Management, said: “The report recognises our prudent and effective medium term financial planning has allowed us to focusing on our priorities. It also has paid tribute to our collaborative agenda for working with other councils to provide more efficient services. Most recently we have seen this in the procurement provision between ourselves and Merthyr. We are at the cutting edge of providing a merged social services, other authorities around Wales are watching this activity closely as we work with Blaenau Gwent on developing an efficient and effective single social service management system.”

The council is creating 150 apprentice and training places over the next three years and more than 100 have already started with the authority.

Concluding Councillor Pritchard added: “I am obviously concerned to see the county borough having the fourth highest rate in Wales for the number of people unemployed and claiming Job Seekers Allowance. We take it very seriously when we see this has significantly increased at the end of November 2011 when 5,728.people were claiming.

“Our new budget has brought forward a number of capital projects which we hope will bring real jobs into the area both through construction and following completion. We will continue to work closely with all our partners to bring about a more lasting change in the employment prospects for the county borough."