On Tuesday Cabinet members had an update on RAAC in the F&HDC Council estate.... and happily at this time, there is no identified RAAC in the Council's General estate. That's something of a relief, as I'd assumed the Civic Centre was going to be a dead cert for RAAC given the state of it, but no. Work is still ongoing to check all buildings in the Council's Housing estate (so Council housing), but there are currently no signs. We await a final update, but so far, so good.
Although schools are not a District Council responsibility, we had also had the update that only one school (Palmarsh Primary) had been identified as having RAAC in the district, and that remedial works for that had started before the summer holiday, and were complete to welcome pupils back on day one of the new school term. Having seen comments online, many parents were *very* complimentary about how well the school and headteacher had managed, which was great to hear.
What IS a District Council responsibility is waste management and street cleansing. Now, throughout the year, the Council's Internal Auditors look at various areas of the Council in detail, and the services they provide, and give judgment on how reassured we can be that they are doing the job as we would want, and to make recommendations to fix it where they are not.
In this case, what they were looking at was:
"To provide assurance on the adequacy and effectiveness of the procedures and controls established to ensure that the waste management and street cleansing function is being carried out efficiently and effectively within an appropriate control framework which reduces any risks to an acceptable level."
What the Internal Audit says in response after their tests is:
"Management can place No Assurance on the system of internal controls around the contract management of the Street Cleansing function."
Let's be clear: that's grim. The full report is at pages 9-12 (section 2.5) of the published report, which goes to the Audit and Governance Committee next week.
What is important when you get a report like this is you:
I've seen too many organisations fight or try to dismiss audit findings: that's rarely the right answer. Use those findings for what they are meant for and you'll make things better. Don't fight it: roll with it. And I'm pleased to say, that's exactly the plan: acknowledge the issues, accept the suggestions, and get on with making it better.
To be clear though: I'm told the inspections on which this report was based were in April and May: around the time of the election and before the forming of the current Council administration. The street tests were also mainly (but not exclusively) in Dover, with whom we share the Veolia contract. However, I'd be surprised if many in Folkestone thought the findings were unfair, so we accept them and learn from them. These problems were not caused by this administration, but we have inherited them. And like the other issues we have inherited, we'll fix them.
I hope the Audit and Scrutiny Committee get to ask the detailed questions on that report next week, and that when the service is retested in a few months time, we will see recommendations implemented and improved performance.