Annual Self-Assessment 2022-23
This section concludes the self-assessment and draws together key actions for the organisation as a whole.
Our financial situation was challenging in 2022-23, but despite the difficulties of inflation and increasing demand for many services we balanced the budget. We will update the latest financial projections for 2025-25 as at September 2023. As at June 2023, the assumption is that £10m of budget savings will be required for the 2024-25 budget though there are a number of reasons (such as higher than expected inflation and 2023-24 savings proposals that are proving difficult to implement) that suggest the £10m figure is more likely to increase than decrease.
The Corporate Governance Improvement Plan sets out how we will improve processes across the Council as a whole. Audit Wales reviewed our progress in early 2023-24 and a revised Plan will be considered by both Governance and Audit Committee and Council during the remainder of 2023-24.
We made progress on defining our vision and priorities over the medium term, for instance through the redrafting of the Programme for the Administration and the Corporate Strategy 2023 – 2028. More work is needed during the remainder of 2023-24 on communicating our vision and priorities throughout the Council. Structured budget reviews have commenced, which are key to achieving a closer alignment between financial planning and corporate planning and work will continue in future.
We are now starting to implement Power BI within our performance management reporting. More work is needed to strengthen monitoring arrangements of the Corporate Strategy through ensuring appropriate measures to evaluate our progress are integrated into the Corporate Scorecard as well as within service plan monitoring.
Recruitment and retention of employees across many services remains an issue. We are putting much more emphasis on apprenticeships and graduate entry schemes and ‘grow your own’ routes into social care employment. These are sustainable, rather than short-term solutions, meaning that workforce capacity issues are likely to be an issue for the immediate future. The workforce development strategy will be considered during 2023-24 and set out how we will become an employer of choice.
We adopted a strategic asset management plan in February 2023, the foundation for addressing many long-standing issues with property and asset management. However, despite some progress on recruitment, further progress in the short term has been hampered by significant retention problems. Both external and Internal Audit reviews have highlighted the need to improve our management of our assets.
In relation to engagement and consultation we have adopted a participation strategy and a petitions strategy, to increase public involvement in the democratic process. We continued to engage and involve people via corporate and service consultations. However, the relatively high percentage of uncontested seats at last year’s local government elections and reducing numbers of people getting involved in consultation exercises show that more work is needed in this area in forthcoming years.
Education in Pembrokeshire has improved and can now be considered to be on a sustainable footing for further improvement in the future. Overall inspection outcomes are in line with the view of the local authority in relation to its schools and a very few schools are placed in statutory category with Estyn. Most inspection outcomes show that schools are performing well and do not require follow-up with Estyn. Future work is centred on our overarching strategy for improvement in education centred on five key themes and on systems to performance management to give assurance that the strategy is having an impact.
With regards to Social Care, Covid showed that from a customer perspective social care and health need to work as one integrated system. Whilst the social care system came close to breaking point in 2022-23 we demonstrated through Operation Nightingale 23 that our social care services can still adapt, flex and meet a crisis. Children’s social care has also seen increases in demand and the complexity of demand. We have continued to work with partners, providers and communities to develop alternative ways of delivery or preventative projects. The recruitment and retention issues already commented on have made it more difficult to deliver social care social services. We also need to make improvements in social care within the context of constrained financial resources as social care costs have the potential to squeeze many other Council services.
We have made in-roads to increasing the supply of accommodation (through leasing, acquiring houses or by building new affordable homes) but this is in the context of a substantial and concerning increase in homelessness. A new housing strategy will be adopted in the remainder of 2023-24 which will set out priorities and timescales for delivery, but the scale of the issues (be it the supply of affordable housing or the cost and technical difficulties of decarbonising our housing stock) should not be underestimated.
The successful Celtic Freeport bid, building on previous projects focused on green energy, means that Pembrokeshire is well placed to exploit the economic opportunities arising from decarbonisation. This is a longer term project and essential for the successful transition from fossil fuel based energy industries to those of the future. Other macro-scale projects, such as encouraging broadband have also gone well. Projects to regenerate town centres have had to be carefully managed to mitigate rising costs and difficulties in attracting contractors to do the work. For the next two years, external funding through the Shared Prosperity Fund will provide capacity to improve skills so that all local people are in a position to make the most of new opportunities from regeneration.
Our performance on services that protect the local environment, such as waste and recycling and street cleaning continue to perform well and are amongst the best performing in Wales. However, Pembrokeshire’s environment continues to experience pressures such as high levels of phosphates in protected rivers, and these are exacerbated by climate change. We continue to change the way we work with the aim of being net carbon zero by 2030 but are now at the point where the technology currently available (for instance fuel for heavy vehicles such as refuse trucks) is not developed to a sufficient extent to enable us to fully adopt net zero carbon technologies in all areas of our work. Given this, there is a need to continue to refine and fully understand the deliverability and costs of our net carbon zero plans.