What has been the impact of the Regional Working Scrutiny Inquiry?

Councillors heard that good progress has been made with most of the recommendations made by the Panel and that there is now clearer direction from Welsh Government on regional working, especially in relation to improving collaboration between Councils.

The Regional Working Scrutiny Inquiry Panel met the Council Leader and Chief Executive in October to discuss the impact the report has had and to follow up on the recommendations were agreed by the Councils Cabinet in August 2018.  

The panel heard about progress including:

  • The Chief Executive holding informal discussions with the Minister and with senior civil servants with a view to preparing a regional proposition following discussions with neighbouring councils.
  • That reviews the existing arrangements have informed the developing strategy for collaboration and the preference for a four council footprint in South West Wales as a basis for future partnership arrangements.  The Panel heard that the most logical footprint for Swansea is that of the City Region area, which includes the four Local Authorities of Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Swansea.  Although, this would not include Health for the moment because considerations around this are rather more complex. Councillors felt that it is very positive that we have clarity amongst the four local authorities about the possible way forward.  They recognise that these four authorities have experience of delivering projects together and have many common strategies, especially around economic development and education improvement.
  • It was explained that little progress had been made in relation to the recommendation about improving modern technology in order to reduce travel to meetings.  Councillors heard that whilst the use of Skype is increasing the level of technological capability and capacity varies between councils.  A regional collaboration proposition is to be made that will aim to address this and seek funding from Welsh Government to do so.
  • Lessons have been learnt from our current collaborative activities and it was explained how this learning can be of benefit to Swansea in future collaborative activities, especially in relation to good programme management, clear and strong governance and sharing of responsibility.
  • In November 2019 a new Welsh Government Bill is likely to be published and this will outline the new powers and responsibilities for local councils.  It will create both challenges and benefits.  For example, the general power of competence will be hugely important and it will sweep away unnecessary bureaucracy around continuous audit introducing peer review.  The Panel agreed financial resources must follow along with the new powers and responsibilities from Welsh Government to ensure they can truly be met.

The Panel were pleased to hear that the scrutiny inquiry had helped to raise the profile of regional working and that it has informed and began to provide clarity on the Council’s approach to regional collaboration.

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