independent

Friday 13 December 2019

New report outlines local authority's performance

Comprehensive audit highlights how our local authority is doing in key areas such as housing, planning and environment

A new report has outlined key performance ratings for Wexford County Council
A new report has outlined key performance ratings for Wexford County Council

Brendan Keane

A new report published by the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) has revealed that just 10 per cent of the county is unpolluted or litter-free.

However, the county is in the top 10 in the country in terms of green flag initiatives.

The Local Authority Performance Indicator Report 2018, outlined the performance rating of Wexford County Council in a number of key service areas.

In the comprehensive, 100-page report, the performance of the County Council can be compared to that of 30 other local authorities.

There are 37 performance indicators outlined in the report including key area such as housing, environment, finance, staffing, green flag status and fire service mobility.

Commenting on the publication, which is the fifth one to be produced, the NOAC Chairperson, Michael McCarthy, said it provides local authorities with 'a very useful mechanism to view, track and improve on their own performance relative to that of other similar local authorities'.

'Ultimately this will help improve their service to the public,' said Mr McCarthy.

Data for the report was collected by the Local Government Management Agency on behalf of the NOAC - which provides independent oversight of the local Government sector.

Collection of debt is a challenging aspect of the work of local authorities with payments collected including commercial rates, rent and annuities, and housing loans.

According to the report in 2018 the national average collection rate for commercial rates and housing loans improved on the previous year's figures while the rate of collection for rent and annuities remained the same.

Wexford had the largest increase in collection of commercial rates compared to the previous year with an increase of 5.6 per cent being recorded.

Housing:

Housing is one of the key indicators that NOAC reviews every year and it said that from a performance management perspective, the management of housing stock is a key assessment function of local authorities.

According the report within the housing sector Wexford County Council had 3.03 per cent of its housing stock vacant at the end of 2018 which was slightly higher than 2.77 per cent overall figure for local authority stock that was vacant across the country at the end of last year.

It was also higher than the vacancy percentage figures for its nearest neighbours: Carlow (.76); Kilkenny (1.14); Waterford City and County (1.81) and Wicklow (2.31).

At that point Wexford County Council also owned 4,492 housing units which was an increase of 153 units over the previous year.

The local authority also sold 26 of its housing units in 2018.

The national average re-letting time from the date a tenant vacated a dwelling to the date of the first rent debit in 2018 was 27.75 weeks and the average re-letting cost was €18,590.28.

In Wexford the average time for rehousing in vacant properties was 30.13 weeks.

The average cost of getting dwellings re-tenanted in 2018, in the Model County, was €8,961.52

In 2018, 839 rented dwellings were inspected in Co Wexford and of those 4.65 per cent were found to be not compliant with standard regulations.

According to the report 707 dwellings that were deemed non-compliant, became compliant throughout 2018.

On the night of December 31, 2018, there were 57 adults in Wexford classified as homeless and in emergency accommodation.

The report also showed that 45.61 per cent of the overall number of homeless adults living in emergency accommodation were those who were long-term homeless.

Roads:

According to the report only 16 local authorities (excluding the six large urban local authorities) surveyed more than 90 per cent of local primary roads.

The data also identified that 34 per cent of Wexford's local primary roads were classified as 'structurally distressed' which the report authors described as an issue of concern that should be addressed urgently.

NOAC recommends that 100 per cent of roads are surveyed to ensure the accuracy and completeness of information published and in assisting local authorities identifying roads that require repairing.

The report showed that 100 per cent of regional roads in the county received a Pavement Surface Condition Index (PSCI) rating in the 24-month period up to December 31, 2018, while the percentage for primary roads, for the same period, was 98.

The report also showed that 97 per cent of secondary roads in the county received a PSCI rating in the same two-year period.

Figures were also contained in the report in respect of the amount of regional road grant works carried out during 2018.

There were 18.1km of regional road strengthened in the county during the year with the amount expended, according to the report, equating to €2,961,071 with a further €802,617 being spent on resealing regional roads in the county.

The total length of local roads - including primary, secondary and tertiary - strengthened during the year was 56.7km at a cost of €5,424,774.

In addition, €1,197,383 was spent resealing 56km of local roads.

It appears the majority of Wexford motorists also prefer to do their motor tax online now with 72.04 per cent of transactions being carried out in this manner throughout 2018.

Environment:

When it comes to the environment, while there were some encouraging statistics revealed in the report, it was also revealed that just 10 per cent of the county is unpolluted or litter-free.

Seventy-one per cent is classified as 'slightly polluted', 18 per cent is moderately polluted while 2 per cent is significantly polluted.

However, with regard to drinking water 94.53 per cent of supply from private schemes were in compliance with statutory requirements.

In terms of refuse collection 11,429 households throughout the county, in an area covered by a licensed operator, avail of a three-bin service amounting to 21.16 per cent.

There were 4,180 pollution cases subject to a complaint throughout 2018 while 3,963 cases were closed during the year with a further 679 classified as 'on hand'.

Green Flags:

At the end of 2018, 57.14 per cent of schools in the county held a Green Flag, which was up slightly on the national average of 51.4 per cent.

Only five other local authorities had a higher percentage throughout the entire country.

Local authorities provide environmental education and support to schools which participate in this programme.

Planning:

Throughout 2018, 33.42 per cent of new buildings notified to the local authority were inspected.

The number of local authority planning decisions that were subject to an appeal to An Bord Pleanala and decided on throughout the year was 58.

However, 70.69 per cent of determinations by An Bord Pleanala confirmed the decision of the local authority.

The cost per capita of the planning service for the year was 26.87 while the total number of planning cases referred to or initiated by the local authority throughout 2018, that were investigated, was 236 and 177 cases were closed.

Of the cases that were closed 51.41 per cent were dismissed as 'trivial, minor or without foundation', or were closed because [they were] statute barred or an exempted development.

Cases resolved to the local authority's satisfaction through negotiations amounted to 11.86 per cent while a further 36.72 per cent of cases were closed due to enforcement proceedings.

At the end of the year 252 planning cases were being investigated.

Fire Service:

The report showed that it took the fire service in Co Wexford an average of 5:32 minutes for stations to mobilise fire brigades for calls to fires and 5:33 minutes to mobilise for non-fire emergency incidents.

With regard to the number of fire safety certificates applied for during the year 79.22 per cent were decided, whether granted or refused, within two months of being received.

A further 19.48 per cent of applications were decided within an extended period of time in agreement with the applicant.

The fire service members were in attendance at fire scenes within 10 minutes in 30.40 per cent of incidents.

In 44.72 per cent of fire incidents the fire-fighters were on scene in excess of 10 minutes but less than 20 while in 24.87 per cent of cases the arrival time was after 20 minutes.

The percentage rate in respect of all other emergency incidents in which the first attendance on scene was within 10 minutes was 23.29 and in 48.40 per cent of all other emergency incidents [non fire related] the arrive time was in excess of 10 minutes but less than 20.

In 28.31 per cent of all other emergency incidents the arrival time was over 20 minutes.

Library Service:

The statistics reveal that people in Co Wexford make a lot of use of the county's library service with an average of 3.6 visits per head of population during 2018.

People borrowed 465,627 items from libraries during the year.

Youth - Community:

In Co Wexford 90.91 per cent of schools are involved in the local Youth Council/Comhairle na nÓg scheme.

The percentage of organisations included in the county register that opted to be part of the Social Inclusion College within the PPN [Public Participation Network] was 19.12.

Corporate:

The whole-time equivalent staff employed by Wexford County Council at the end of 2018 was 754.23.

The report revealed that 3.72 per cent of paid working days were lost to medically certified paid sick leave throughout the year - which was slightly less than the national average of 3.78 per cent.

A further .37 per cent of paid working days were lost to sickness absence through 'self-certified' leave throughout 2018.

The local authority's website was utilised during the year to a large extent with the total number of page views of the Wexford County Council website during the year amounting to 2,200,452.

The total number of followers of the local authority's social media accounts at the end of the year was 29,986.

The overall cost of ICT during the year, as a proportion of revenue expenditure was 1.53 per cent.

Revenue expenditure per capita during 2018 (based on 2016 census) was €805.04. while the revenue balance at year end in 2018 was -€3,770,163.

Throughout 2018, the local authority collected 88 per cent of commercial rates and the report also revealed there was a year-on-year increase in the percentage of rates collected since 2014 - when 70.6 per cent of rates were collected.

With regard to rent and annuities 92 per cent was collected during 2018 while 98 per cent of housing loans were collected throughout the year.

Thirty-three jobs were created during the year with assistance from the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) and the number of trading online voucher applications approved by the LEO in the year was 32.

Twenty such vouchers were drawn down.

The report showed that 119 people received mentoring during the year.

Regarding social housing the report showed that new builds amounted to 110 during the year and the local authority had acquired a total of 129 units.

Forty units were leased with 9 units falling under the RAS scheme and a further 624 units covered by HAP.

The NOAC (the National Oversight and Audit Commission) was established in July 2014, under the 2014 Local Government Reform Act, to provide independent oversight of the local Government sector.

The statutory functions assigned to NOAC include the scrutiny of the performance of local Government bodies against relevant indicators - including indicators relating to customer service - that the Commission considers it appropriate to refer to.

The published report was based on data provided to the Local Government Management Agency by the 31 local authorities in response to reporting guidelines document issued by NOAC.

Wexford People

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