Pembrokeshire County Council cannot yet provide adequate assurance that its arrangements are capable of delivering its priorities and improved outcomes for county residents.

This is the overall conclusion of a corporate assessment report published by the Auditor General today (Tuesday).

The council is in the early stages of developing a new corporate strategy and organisational principles, as it recognises the need for fundamental culture change and a new strategic approach in order to deliver its service priorities within the financial constraints it faces.

The council has appointed consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to provide the additional expertise and capacity necessary to drive forward a transformation agenda.

A lack of clarity in relation to key governance roles and responsibilities within the Council is weakening accountability, and aspects of the governance arrangements in place do not support consistent transparency in decision-making.

Currently there are not effective arrangements in place to help identify and address these weaknesses.

The council is working proactively with its strategic partners to deliver improved outcomes for citizens in Pembrokeshire, and is actively monitoring the performance of these partnerships to evaluate progress against the priorities set out in the County’s Single Integrated Plan.

Partners are more positive about future collaborations as they observe a change in openness and culture within the Council.

There is considerable scope for the Council to improve its financial planning, management and decision making arrangements, if it is to address the financial challenges it faces in 2015-16 and beyond.

It needs to improve its focus on its key strategic corporate functions if it is to have confidence that it is making the best use of its resources.

The Council is reviewing and strengthening its improvement planning and risk management arrangements, and has achieved improvement in some key priority areas including waste management, environmental health, safeguarding, social services and education.

The Council has improved its overall performance when compared with the previous year, and in comparison with other Welsh councils.

The Auditor General makes a statutory recommendation that the Council develops a strategic plan that sets out a clear vision for the future delivery of its services within the financial constraints it faces over the medium term.

In addition, the Council is required to produce an action plan to address those weaknesses in its arrangements which are set out in the Corporate Assessment Report.

Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas said: "There is a growing sense within Pembrokeshire County Council of opportunity and anticipation of an improved organisational culture and new direction.

"The Council now needs to focus on putting robust arrangements in place which will help it to deliver its priorities and improved outcomes for the citizens of Pembrokeshire".

Responding, the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Jamie Adams said: “We welcome this report and accept the recommendation of the Auditor General.

“We are pleased that the report acknowledges that we have made improvements in certain key areas and also in our overall performance.

“The report also confirms that the direction in which the Authority is now travelling is the correct one.

“Indeed, this was underlined as recently as September when we were named as the most improved Council in Wales.

“We also recognise the Corporate Assessment as a true picture of the position the Authority was in when we were visited by the Wales Audit Office in April.

“Since then, however, we have progressed a number of inititiatives.

“For instance, later this week a meeting of the full Council will be discussing and considering a new Constitution.

“The roles our Overview and Scrutiny Committees play are also being reviewed in order to apportion more accountability.

“And we are starting to develop a radical approach to ensure that the Authority’s governance structure is able to be fully understood by both politicians and staff

“I believe this will encourage more effective and better performing services.”

Councillor Adams added: “We are under no illusions though of the scale of the work ahead of us at a time when our funding is being severely constrained by economic pressures.”

The Council will be making a formal response to the Auditor General in January.