I wasted two hours this afternoon attending a Members Decision Making workshop in the Guildhall hosted by the Wales Audit Office (WAO). The workshop followed the WAO Annual Report to Wrecsam Council, a Peer review with members and officers and an Estyn Inspection of the Local Education Authority...all in the space of five months.
They all concluded that there was something not quite right with the political management at Wrecsam Council and between the Executive Board and Scrutiny Committees and that there were too many meetings and slow decision making. I don't think there was anything that the people present were not aware of already.
There were many claims made that were inaccurate or totally contradictory, for example they said that Lead Members's main role is to give political direction to officers but when we did that by rejecting officer's recommendation with sixth forms they highlighted it as an issue that needed addressing. When challenged on this point the WAO guy made no effort to answer or justify their assertions. They seemed to think that just because they said it; it was right.
What really bugs me is the fact that Wrecsam Council has too many meetings is that Council Services are over inspected by the WAO, Estyn and the CSSIW. Every inspection produces its own action plan and progress on action plans need to be reported back to members either via Scrutiny Committees or the Executive Board which is a bureaucratic and time consuming nightmare.
I have already mentioned three 'inspection' regimes that has been undertaken recently which produced this 'magical' workshop, but within my remit there has been an inspection of Safeguarding and Support, Local Safeguarding Children's Board, Adoption, Fostering and inspection of two children's homes each producing its own action plan; I'm sure we have staff solely employed to implement action plans and with many inspection regimes being annual events existing action plans are being added to.
The Inspection regimes in Wales need rationalising they are an industry in their own rights, they are intrusive and demanding and are constantly taking staff away from their day jobs.
If only half the budgets of the inspection regimes in Wales were given to front line education and children's social care we would find enourmous improvements in educational standards and levels of child poverty.
A root and branch review needs to be undertaken by the incoming Welsh Government to rationalise the inspection regimes and ensure that resources goes to front line and not to give jobsworths a cushy life.