How does the Wales Audit Office’s work fit in with the co-production agenda in Wales? On Tuesday I attended Working With Not To’s Big North Wales Co-production meet up! to share what we’re doing.
When I started thinking about co-production and audit I immediately started thinking about public service performance. But after we ran a shared learning seminar with the Society of Welsh Treasurers last Friday, it struck me how our finance work is equally tied into co-production. Participation Cymru’s All Wales Network was also taking place down the road, and despite the different subject matters, the Wales Audit Office report on Meeting the Financial Challenges Facing Local Government in Wales linked them together as “ineffective stakeholder engagement means that some councils may not be adequately reflecting the needs, priorities and expectations of their citizens.”
So co-production can help save money by targeting it where it can be used most effectively. But at the event I also pointed out that genuine co-production still needs resources to be successful. We heard a lot at our Land and Asset Transfer Shared Learning Seminar about how assets that had been passed on to town and community councils weren’t viable without the right support.
Council 2025: A vision for local government in Wales
A couple of weeks ago the Auditor General for Wales spoke at the Welsh Local Government Association’s Annual Conference and examined re-organisation of local government. I recommend watching the video below if you haven’t already as he asks some searching questions – where is the debate in Wales about what local government should be about? Where are the models of delivery and enablement that will help us deliver the value and quality that Wales needs?
He also looks at co-production in Welsh local government:
I carried out as you may recall a study on public engagement in local government a couple of years back. That found few practical examples of collaborative forms of engagement. Since then, I’ve seen very little evidence of a shift towards co-production, or as it’s often described, working with and not to.
The Wales We Want
Co-production is also a theme in the mid-term report of the Future Generations Bill. The bill presents a big challenge to public services, including the Wales Audit Office. The only way that we can audit in a way that’s meaningful and proportionate is by working with councils to co-produce a solution. We’ve already started doing that by using feedback from the Future Generation Bill Shared Learning Seminar in the work that Mike Palmer is leading on, and there will be more chances for public services to let us know how audit can be effective.
So what is the Good Practice Exchange doing to help?
In order to help public service organisations to get to grips with this, we’re holding a free seminar on Re-shaping Services with the Public. We’re practicing what we preach about working in partnership, and the event will be run in collaboration with Welsh Government, Welsh Local Government Association, Wales Council for Voluntary Action, Wales Public Service 2025, 1000 Lives Improvement Service, Wales Co-operative Centre and Good Practice Wales.
The theme of the event has obviously struck a chord, as next week’s event in Cardiff is fully booked, but there are still some places available for September’s event in North Wales.
The emphasis of the seminar is going to be on sharing practical experiences of how different relationships can help re-shape public services to deliver better outcomes. We’ll be using the #ReshapeServices hashtag on the day if you’d like to follow it on Twitter, and we’d love to hear from you about what’s working in your area too.