Watchdog highlights “weaknesses” in workforce plans at Welsh councils

Watchdog highlights “weaknesses” in workforce plans at Welsh councils

Audit Wales has said that local councils have made “major changes” to how and where their staff work, but need to build on their experience of the pandemic and “develop their strategic approaches” to plan for the longer term.

In its report, Springing forward: lessons from our work on workforce and assets, Audit Wales looked at asset management and workforce planning in all 22 Welsh councils between 2021-22.

The report found that following a “mass move” to remote working brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, most councils were working through what their ‘new normal’ should look like as staff tended to currently work partly remotely, at council offices or out in the community.

It found that councils needed to “further develop their thinking” so that they could plan and deliver on issues such as balancing recruiting and retaining staff while providing efficient services to the public in the longer term.

However, we highlighted weaknesses in their arrangements that could hamper their ability to do this”, said the watchdog.

Audit Wales said councils should use the ‘Well-being of Future Generations Act’s sustainable development principle in workforce planning.

Local authorities need to develop well-defined strategies if they are to balance flexible working arrangements with strong service delivery while making the best use of their buildings and other assets, the report noted.

Councils did not always have a good understanding of current workforce risks

The watchdog found that councils did not always have a good understanding of current workforce risks or the longer-term challenges likely to impact them. Further, it noted that councils were “not always utilising the data available to help them manage the present or plan for the future”.

Benchmarking was found to have been rarely undertaken meaning councils were not able to compare and understand the extent to which they were achieving value for money.

Auditor General Adrian Crompton said:

“The pandemic has brought about accelerated change for local councils, including in terms of how and where their workforce is working.

“To ensure they are delivering in a modern and sustainable way, councils need to recognise how they can use the sustainable development principle to help them plan and deliver their approaches to workforce and assets. As part of this, they really need to understand the risks ahead and work with each other and their partners to manage them.”

Lottie Winson

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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