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Annual Governance Statement 2021/22

4. Continuous improvement 2021/22

4.1 The Plan for North Lanarkshire sets the long-term strategic direction for the council, partners, and other stakeholders and, most importantly, for each unique local community and the people who Live, Learn, Work, Invest, and Visit within North Lanarkshire.  It’s a Plan with a shared ambition of inclusive growth and prosperity for all and a fairer distribution of wealth across all local communities.  The Plan provides a very clear and compelling narrative for the shared ambition which the council (and partners) are working towards; a narrative that has become well embedded throughout the strategic management, service delivery, and corporate governance approaches across the council.

4.2 The Programme of Work process (established in 2019) provides a clear roadmap for work across council services and with partners.  Directing policies and plans to support delivery of The Plan for North Lanarkshire, the Programme of Work is therefore instrumental in bringing together the elements that support strategic planning, local development, enterprise activities, and community investment in a cohesive manner. 

​​​​​​​4.3 Sitting alongside this - as a key aspect of the council’s strategic planning framework - is the Strategic Policy Framework.  This specifies the hierarchy of strategies, policies, and plans which underpin delivery of the long-term vision set out in The Plan for North Lanarkshire and ensures that strategy and policy remain connected to delivery in order to collectively facilitate a co-ordinated approach to identifying the resources and working practices needed to support delivery of the long-term vision.  Through a structured approach, the Strategic Policy Framework aims to ensure that strategies, policies, and plans are formulated, developed, implemented, monitored, and reviewed in a consistent and transparent manner across the council.  The annual update to the Strategic Policy Framework was approved by the Policy and Strategy Committee in March 2022. The supporting review programme ensures each of the strategies, policies, and plans are up to date, reviewed and updated at an appropriate interval, and reported to the relevant committee.

​​​​​​​4.4 The fourth annual iteration of the Programme of Work (for 2022/23) was approved by the Policy and Strategy Committee in March 2022.  This reflects the changes required to deliver on the long-term ambition and the broad range of innovative and transformative programmes of work and projects required in order to maintain services for residents in local communities which are efficient and effective, while targeting resources towards those individuals in the most vulnerable situations and ensuring value for money.

​​​​​​​4.5 The council has long since recognised that it does not have the luxury of a traditional once and done approach to strategic planning and change and the Programme of Work has enabled a recurring and dynamic approach in this respect.  It has enabled delivery of the long-term vision to be informed by an annual strategic planning process that is influenced by national policy changes and new developments which impact on the achievement of the vision and which require due consideration in future strategies, policies, plans, and programmes of work.  However, the considerable challenges that remain across North Lanarkshire - as demonstrated by the latest performance results reported to the Policy and Strategy Committee in March 2022 - means that an even greater focus is required to escalate the pace and depth of change in order to maximise positive outcomes for the people and communities of North Lanarkshire.  As such, a commitment has been made to ensure further work is undertaken during 2022/23 to fundamentally evaluate activities undertaken, resources expended, and results achieved against the direction of travel in order to assess the impact towards achieving The Plan for North Lanarkshire’s long-term vision of inclusive growth and prosperity for all.

​​​​​​​4.6 Key to assessing the success of The Plan for North Lanarkshire and monitoring delivery of the Programme of Work (while ensuring each stage of delivery towards achieving the overall ambitions is appropriately planned, guided, implemented, and governed) are six inter-related corporate frameworks:

  • Strategic Policy Framework
  • Strategic Governance Framework
  • Strategic Performance Framework
  • Strategic Self-Evaluation Framework
  • Project Management Framework
  • Framework for Demonstrating Improved Outcomes for Communities

​​​​​​​4.7 To ensure these frameworks remain aligned to The Plan for North Lanarkshire and Programme of Work, all are on an annual review and refresh programme.  This also helps the council to ensure it is proactive in responding to social, economic, and environmental trends and changes in legislation and governance, as well as the broad range of national policy changes and new developments.

​​​​​​​4.8 The Strategic Governance Framework has been developed taking into account the local environment within which the council operates.  It brings the principles of good governance together with legislative requirements and management processes by which the council is directed and controlled and through which it is accountable to, engages with, and leads the local community.  This aims to ensure the council is able to effectively pursue the long-term ambition set out in The Plan for North Lanarkshire, while ensuring this is underpinned with control and the management of risk, and:

  • Resources are directed in accordance with agreed policies and according to priorities and in line with corporate programme and project management procedures.
  • There is sound and inclusive decision making.
  • There is clear accountability for the use of those resources in achieving defined outcomes for service users and local communities.

​​​​​​​4.9 The annual review process now established through the Strategic Governance Framework ensures that the council’s governance arrangements are regularly assessed for ongoing effectiveness within the context of The Plan for North Lanarkshire.

​​​​​​​4.10 Following publication of the Accounts Commission’s Best Value Assurance Report (BVAR) for North Lanarkshire Council in May 2019, updates on implementation of the eight recommendations for improvement were reported to the Policy and Strategy Committee in September 2019 and again in March 2020. The report in March 2020 consolidated the eight improvement actions within the Programme of Work to strengthen a corporate and integrated approach to improvement that supports delivery of The Plan for North Lanarkshire.  The external auditors Annual Audit Report (AAR) for 2020/21 (reported to the Audit and Scrutiny Panel in December 2021) concluded that four of the improvement actions were now complete, and noted good or reasonable progress was being made regarding the remaining four.

​​​​​​​4.11 During 2021/22, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact on the council’s delivery of planned day to day activities and achievement of strategic priorities, albeit to a lesser extent than the previous year.  The impact of this is also recognised in the annual audit opinion from the Head of Audit and Risk.  In line with the guidance set out by the Scottish Government, a COVID Operating Model was approved at the Council meeting in March 2022.  This provides a template as to how the council will operate over the next six months in a manner which recognises the ongoing risks associated with the pandemic, sets out the routine protection measures to be adopted across all council facilities, and allows for delivery of all council services in a manner more reflective to what existed pre-pandemic.

​​​​​​​4.12 In line with the commitment to review the new hybrid working model (approved at Committee in December 2021), there will also be a review of the COVID Operating Model within a similar timeline. The purpose of this will be to reflect on any issues arising through its implementation and to have regard to any change in national policy which is likely to be kept under review over the same time period.

​​​​​​​4.13 Following the decision taken by the Policy and Strategy Committee at its meeting in January 2020 the insourcing of culture, sport and leisure services was effective from 1 April 2021, under the new, focussed, and integrated Active and Creative Communities (ACC) team.

​​​​​​​4.14 Six monthly reports during 2021/22 have provided the Audit and Scrutiny Panel with oversight and assurance of governance, financial governance, and risk management arrangements within the council’s Arm’s Length External Organisations (ALEOs). The reports have also highlighted where Covid has impacted on company operations, including the safeguards that were put in place during the pandemic to maintain service delivery and ensure safe working practices and the recovery strategies developed to resume service delivery as Covid restrictions were lifted.

Page last updated:
28 Oct 2022

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