Annual Self-Assessment 2021-22
Self assessment report - Conclusion
This section concludes the self-assessment and draws together actions for the organisation as a whole as well as summary on progress on our well-being objectives
The current financial outlook is much changed on the 2021-22 year. Estimated service pressures for workforce pay and non-workforce inflation have increased significantly during 2022-23 and there is the potential for the estimated service pressures for contracts, demand and demographics to also increase. This will result in the projected funding gap for 2023-24 and future years increasing significantly, with the revised projected funding gap for 2023-24 estimated to be £24.4m (as at September 2022), with the potential for it to increase further.
The Council has already agreed that delivery of its Corporate Governance Improvement Action Plan 2022-24 are key priorities for delivery. This lists 74 actions across 7 headings that are derived from CIPFA’s Good Governance Principles. This conclusions from this self-assessment do not replace this and instead re-inforce some of the actions already identified in the CGIP (such as Action D1 producing a 5-year corporate strategy and three year corporate plan, set in the context of a vision for the county).
One of the recommendations that has been repeated frequently is the need to define an organisational vision for the next 5 years and to develop a 5 year corporate strategy that integrates political vision with a range of other medium term plans, strategies and initiatives. In some cases (especially for the Strategic Asset Management Plan and Workforce plan) drafts are well-advanced.
- Introduce rolling multi-year financial planning arrangements (3-5 years), aligned to the corporate planning timescales. In order for this to be effective, it needs to link to medium term service planning as well as the medium term financial plan.
- Strengthen the medium-term focus of multi-year plans and rebalance in relation to a predominant focus on immediate priorities and challenges, better reflecting the life cycle of the Programme for the Administration and the Corporate Strategy and the Medium Term financial plan
- Produce a new Strategic Asset Management Plan which clearly sets out the circumstances in which we hold property assets and develops our property portfolio so that it supports the broader improvement journey of the Council. Revise governance structures to monitor delivery of this plan.
- The organisation as a whole develops Workforce plan using the sustainable development principle. The new strategy will put particular focus on career pathways in key professions where we have recruitment and retention issues and will complement service Workforce plans where these have been developed.
- Develop a new procurement strategy within the context of a broader commercial strategy that links to the MTFP, addresses local spend, income/trading and possible duties under the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill.
The outcomes of this work will be much better integration of policy and financial planning with both processes clearly aligned to the ambitions of the Council’s administration. It will also give a holistic view of how all of the Council’s assets, not just money but also its workforce, and land/property can contribute to well-being in Pembrokeshire. A medium term perspective fits better with the other ways of working including more time for involvement and prevention. It also makes it easier to work with other organisations and to develop plans to tackle a broad range of issues.
Given the impact of the current housing crisis on Pembrokeshire, be it the well-being of individual families, the strain it is putting on communities or the financial consequences of dealing with homelessness, there is a need to develop a Housing Strategy for Pembrokeshire, focussing on addressing affordability, involving key partners and to provide the framework for targeting resources available from council tax premium, commuted sums, Social Housing Grant programme, low cost home ownership / rent options. This will also include a robust Council Housing Development Programme and consideration of private developer ‘Package Ready’ schemes. The more immediate homelessness crisis suggests that a Homelessness Strategy is needed with consideration of a Private Rented Sector Leasing scheme and developing a Housing Support Programme Strategy.
Recruitment and retention of staff is a common issue throughout the self-assessment. To a degree this reflects issues across the whole labour force and some are sector specific with difficulties in recruiting across the whole of social care and many professions such as planner and engineers. A workforce plan will set the context, but there is a need continue to expand the use of apprenticeships across the Council and our proven arrangements for ‘growing our own’ in terms of social workers, with opportunities given each year to internal staff to access traineeships to further their careers in social care. Whilst this approach cannot address all the skills shortages that the council faces (especially in the short term), it offers other advantages such as the potential to retain skilled young people within the County.
Using information to become a learning organisation requires a range of actions across the Council, both for members and officers, and is another example of a joined-up corporate approach. Some actions are relatively technical: developing the functionality of our IT systems (including implementation plans for new large-scale systems for housing and social care) or developing data skills across teams and software that can analyse and present data more effectively. Other actions relate more to organisational culture including embedding Business Risk Management into the culture of the Council.
Allied to improving how we make best use of information from customers are actions around participation and encouraging active citizenship. We have made considerable progress in this area and we will continue this through the participation strategy, work with Town and Community Councils and action on diversity in democracy.
Our Corporate Governance Improvement Plan 2022 – 24, which is reviewed by both Governance and Audit Committee, as well as Cabinet, sets out the work planned to address recommendations around Corporate Governance in the external regulator’s reports as well as in the external review and Corporate Peer Challenge which we commissioned. We are confident that this work is on track and is a shorter term rather than a medium term priority.
The following summarises our progress against our well-being objectives for 2021-22.
Education: Recent inspections have shown that the consistency and quality of teaching has improved but we need to do more to demonstrate this progress. We can show good progress on creating learning environments that are appropriate for the twenty-first century, though further investment is planned.
Social care: Our short term priority is tackling the delays in helping people meet their outcomes (e.g. assessment or putting a service in place). This will involve building the market for alternative ways of meeting need and will require an increase staffing resource above the current establishment. Our longer term priorities remain prevention both in order to improve the quality of people’s lives as well as reducing future demand.
Housing: Our priorities are addressing homelessness and the acute shortage of affordable housing especially in rural areas. Improving the energy efficiency both of council housing as well as the wider private sector, will make a significant contribution to decarbonising Pembrokeshire. Whilst we have increased the supply of affordable housing by working with partners or by purchasing properties directly (and our first new build council housing for decades will be let this year) the supply of new affordable accommodation is not keeping pace with demand.
Economy: We have made good progress and will continue to focus on the Pembrokeshire Recovery and Regeneration Strategy with a particular emphasis on work to develop ‘Pembrokeshire as the Green Capital of the UK’ whilst progressing a portfolio of projects to renew our town centres.
Environment and climate change: Our recycling and waste collection services perform very well both compared with Wales and the rest of the UK – or indeed the rest of the world.The challenge is to maintain this performance. We have made a commitment to reach net carbon zero by 2030 and although we are making progress the scale of investment required is difficult to over-estimate.
Transformation. We have made good progress on the technological and cultural aspects of this programme. The future challenge is to progress work on our relationships with communities - putting citizens, communities and businesses at the heart of what we do.
The sustainable development principle means acting in a manner which seeks to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The Well-being of Future Generations Act sets out five ways of working which if followed, greatly increases the chances of complying with the sustainable development principle.
Sustainable development can only be achieved by embedding this thinking into everything that we do. Our Integrated Impact Assessment is used to assess the potential impact of individual decisions taken at Cabinet level. The following looks at the sustainable development implications of what is perhaps the main message from the self-assessment, the need to improve integrated medium term policy and financial planning.
Long term. The importance of balancing short-term needs with the need to safeguard long term needs.
Whilst there are excellent examples of how the Council is investing in projects, which have a clear long term benefit such as new school buildings and regeneration schemes, encouraging re-use and recycling, as an organisation we know we need to extend service and financial planning horizons. The emphasis of what we do in practice is too short term and needs to be extended to (at least) the medium term. Longer term planning horizons make it easier to focus on the other four ways of working; it takes time for preventative approaches to lead to reductions in demand for services, longer term approaches are often built around a consensus
Prevention. How acting to prevent problems occurring or getting worse may help public bodies meet their objectives.
Prevention is being embedded in our approach to many services especially in social care and education. Other examples include tackling poverty, preventions task group as well as services that improve public health, for instance by encouraging people to be more active. Again, by focusing on medium term plans, it is easier to give preventative projects the time they need to have an impact.
Integration. Considering how the public body’s well-being objectives may impact upon each of the well-being goals, on their other objectives, or on the objectives of other public bodies.
Our actions are often integrated (for instance making greater use of apprenticeships tackles skills shortages as well as helping young people to stay within the area) but there is a need to formalise this through how we approach medium term planning. As pressures increase on public finances the risk of efficiencies in one service adversely impacting on another increases.
Collaboration. Acting in collaboration with any other person (or different parts of the body itself) that could help the body to meet its well-being objectives.
Much of the work is in partnership and the structures around these are maturing. The new well-being plan being produced by the Pembrokeshire Public Service Board, the focus on regional economic development through the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee and the integration of health and social care through the West Wales Care Partnership are all examples of how the Council is contributing to medium term plans that focus on well-being.
Involvement. The importance of involving people with an interest in achieving the well-being goals, and ensuring that those people reflect the diversity of the area which the body serves.
The participation strategy and putting citizens, communities and businesses at the heart of what we do will strengthen involvement in future. This is necessarily (at least) medium term timescale work and work can be undone by rushed decision processes that presents mixed messages to stakeholders.