Confident: Leader Cllr Hedley McCarthy
Blaenau Gwent council needs to prove itself and work together, according to the Wales Audit Office. The Wales Audit Office (WAO) looked at the council's performance during 2011 and issued an annual improvement report in January. The findings were presented to councillors at a special meeting on Thursday. Non Jones from the WAO said the big challenge for the council over the next six months is showing it has stepped up to the challenge of improving the council ahead of the next report.
She said the WAO is also looking for confidence from the council that it can work together and make difficult and sensitive decisions. She said: "There are some green shoots but green shoots are fragile so you need to nurture these to make sure they grow and flourish." Ms Jones added: "It's the consistency of how you work together across the services that is the key. "There are good indications that this will be a good six months for you but proof is in the pudding."
This latest report showed the council had longstanding weaknesses in how it was run and a "legacy of failings" in collective leadership and service delivery which undermined how effective it was. The WAO found some progress has been made towards making key improvements but that unless inconsistencies and weaknesses in how the council is run are addressed then it is unlikely the council will sustain significant improvement. It found good performance in many aspects of work with children and families but some gaps and called for improvements to be made particularly in adult services.
The report also picked up on last year's findings of Wales school inspector Estyn which found the council's education service for children and young people "unsatisfactory". It also described the council's performance in making changes to help maintain the area as a safe, prosperous and pleasant place as mixed. The council's deputy leader Steve Thomas said a lesson was learned last year and that political maturity has developed. He said: "All in all the council is probably in a better place in a cultural sense than it has been for a long time."
Leader Hedley McCarthy added: "I feel confident that there is a commitment from the majority group and the minority group to work together for the good of all the people of Blaenau Gwent."