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Annual Report 2013/14

Who we are

The Accounts Commission, established in 1975, is the public spending watchdog for local government. We hold councils in Scotland to account and help them improve. We operate impartially and independently of councils and of the Scottish Government, and we meet and report in public.

Our work includes:

  • securing and acting upon the external audit of Scotland’s councils and various joint boards and committees
  • assessing the performance of councils in relation to Best Value and community planning
  • carrying out national performance audits to help councils improve their services
  • requiring councils to publish information to help the public assess their performance.

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Welcome

to the Accounts Commission's annual report for 2013/14

Like all public bodies, the Commission’s most important asset is its reputation. This has been built up over nearly 40 years based on our impartiality, independence and the integrity of our work. Our challenge is to build on these attributes and raise the level of ambition in all of Scotland’s 32 councils.

Local government faces three key challenges: reducing budgets; ever increasing percentage of older citizens with higher needs; and continuing public expectations for high quality services.

Against that background and in common with all our scrutiny partners our key role is to provide assurance to the public that their money is spent wisely and properly. So it is good to report that the accounts for all councils in Scotland were in order this year.

And the Commission continued its responsibility in auditing best value in councils and, with our scrutiny partners, ensuring that scrutiny is proportionate and targeted at the right areas. Our published reports provide a detailed picture on how councils are performing.

We also took action on statutory reports by the Controller of Audit highlighting areas of serious concern in some councils. But we are also here to help councils improve. Our work includes highlighting good practice and check lists for each report we produce and more detailed guidance through our How Councils Work series.

Like the public, we want every council to be a well-run council. That means good governance and accountability, and accurate performance information and reporting. These are all essential ingredients of a culture of continuous improvement which needs to be in the life-blood of every council.

Douglas Sinclair
Chair

Douglas Sinclair, Chair of Accounts Commission
  • Highlights

    2013/14 in numbers
  • 32
  • 2
  • 100
  • 4
  • 32 council annual audits
  • 2 How Councils Work reports
  • 100% audits completed on time
  • 4 Best Value reports

Highlights

2013/14 in numbers

  • 32 council annual audits

  • 2 How Councils Work reports

  • 100% completed on time

  • 4 Best Value reports


Our context

local government under pressure

Our annual overview review published in March 2014 examines how Scotland’s 32 councils have done over the past 12 months and the issues they face in the year ahead.

The Commission said councils need to make better and more consistent use of options appraisal so that they can deliver the best possible value for money services to their communities. Councils need to ask the question: “What works best and can we prove it?”

To date councils have balanced budgets mainly by reducing staff numbers but that alone is not sustainable in the longer term.

delivering the best possible value

While the financial position across councils remains relatively stable this year and next, councils have identified medium-term funding gaps and need to make substantial savings, at least over the next four years. More work is needed to develop resource plans in the longer term.

We want to ensure that our work reflects the changing way that councils are delivering services, which they increasingly do jointly with other partners. In 2013 and 2014, we reviewed, along with the Auditor General for Scotland, our joint apporach to auditing community planning partnerships. We agreed to a series of five such audits, which will report during 2014.

network of figures
map of Scotland

Statistics

32 Scotland councils

Spent nearly £21 billion

204,500 staff directly employed

Used buildings and other assets with a value of around £38 billion

Our work

Our members

We said farewell to John Baillie who demitted office in November 2013 after ten years with the Commission, the last six as chair. John steered the Commission through a very challenging period for local government.

He was succeeded by Douglas Sinclair, previously depute-chair, who brings a wealth of experience from a career in local government with various councils and as a former chief executive of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Jim King also came to the end of his term of office as a member of the Commission. Jim brought his varied experience from both private and public sectors.

He was succeeded by Pauline Weetman, emeritus professor of accounting at the University of Edinburgh. Pauline has a valuable professional background as convener of the examining board and a member of the accounting standards committee for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

Members

  • Douglas Sinclair, Chair of Accounts Commission
  • Michael Ash
  • Alan Campbell
  • Sandy Cumming
  • Colin Duncan
  • Christine May
  • William McQueen
  • Colonel (retired) Colin Peebles
  • Linda Pollock
  • Graham Sharp
  • Professor Pauline Weetman
  • John Baillie, Chair of Account Commission (until Nov 2013)
  • James King (until Dec 2013)

How we work

The Commission is keen to improve how it does its own work and involves others with an interest in, or who are affected by, its work. We co-operate closely with the other inspectorates to achieve sharper focus on potential risks that lie ahead, so that issues facing councils can be addressed sooner and more effectively.

In the past year, Audit Scotland was able to report to the Commission that it had - on behalf of the Commission and the Auditor General - reduced the cost of audit by 20 per cent over four years.

Alongside the Auditor General we form the basis of public audit in Scotland.

All our monthly meetings are open to the public. Over the past year various chief officers from councils and other bodies have attended as well as the minister for local government. Minutes of our meetings and those of the meetings of our two committees, the Performance Audit Committee and Financial Audit and Assurance Committee, are publicly available.

At the same time, we have gone out to meet more than one third of councils in Scotland over the last year to discuss reports and hear their feedback on current issues.

As well as our role as independent watchdog with a prime focus on scrutiny, we are also part of the wider local government community. That means offering help and guidance in dealing with problems that are often complex and challenging, particularly when all budgets are getting tighter.

How we work Visit the Scottish Parliament website Visit the Scottish Government website Find out more about SCPA Find out more about the Accounts Commission Find out more about the Audit Scotland Board Find out more about the Auditor General Find out more about the role of Accountable Officer Find out more about Audit Scotland Find out more about the Controller of Audit

Scottish Ministers

Visit the Scottish Government web pages at www.scotland.gov.uk/

Scottish Parliament

Visit the Scottish Parliament web pages at www.scottish.parliament.uk/

SCPA - The Scottish Commission for Public Audit (SCPA) is central to holding Audit Scotland to account. The SCPA consists of five MSPs and meets in public. It appoints our non-executive members, scrutinises our budget, annual report and accounts, and produces reports on these.

Find out more about its work at www.scottish.parliament.uk

Accounts Commission

Douglas Sinclair is Chair of the Accounts Commission

The Accounts Commission is the public spending watchdog for local government. It holds councils in Scotland to account and helps them improve.

Find out more on our website at www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/about/ac/

Controller of Audit

Board

  • Ronnie Cleland - Chair of the board

  • Douglas Sinclair - Chair of the Accounts Commission (appointed Dec 2013)

  • Caroline Gardner - Auditor General for Scotland and accountable officer for Audit Scotland

  • Katharine Bryan - Independent non-executive member (until 31 March 2014)

  • John Maclean - Independent non-executive member

  • John Baillie - Chair of the Accounts Commission (until Nov 2013)

Auditor General

Caroline Gardner is Auditor General for Scotland and accountable officer for Audit Scotland

The Auditor General's role is to appoint auditors to Scotland's central government and NHS bodies, examine how public bodies spend public money, help them to manage their finances to the highest standards and check whether they achieve value for money.

Find out more about the role of the Auditor General on our website at www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/about/ags/

Audit Scotland

Audit Scotland is a statutory body set up in April 2000 under the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000. We help the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission check that organisations spending public money use it properly, efficiently and effectively.

Find out more on our website at www.audit-scotland.gov.uk

Annual reports

Annual action plan 2013/14: Progress report 1 April 2013 - 31 March 2014

Audit Scotland Annual Report and Accounts 2013/14

 

 

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