In its report on The Highland Council published today (Wednesday 5 April), the Accounts Commission says that whilst the council often delivers appropriate and effective solutions to residents’ problems, there are areas in which it must make improvements if it is to be in a position to deliver Best Value. In particular there is a need for stronger corporate direction from councillors and for corporate strategic management in the senior management team to complement the chief executive.
The report says that The Highland Council residents are increasingly satisfied with service delivery and the council engages well with its local communities and partner organisations such as the NHS. Another strength is that despite the high cost of service delivery, Band D council tax is below the Scottish average.
However the council needs to do more to pull together its eight administrative areas and shape their direction. It also needs to improve the information councillors receive about the council’s performance, so they can make the most of their scrutiny role. The council should also consider putting some of the services delivered by its Significant Trading Organisations out to competitive tender, and should make better use of options appraisal and benchmarking.
Alastair MacNish, Chair of the Accounts Commission says:
“The Highland Council’s decentralised structure often delivers appropriate and effective solutions to local problems and residents are increasingly satisfied with the results. However there is a need for stronger corporate direction from councillors. This should focus on making the council more cohesive, improving its centralised activities – such as workforce planning – and setting fewer, clearly articulated priorities. The council needs to ensure it is operating as efficiently as possible, given the pressure on its financial resources.”
The Accounts Commission requires The Highland Council to produce an Improvement Plan that addresses the report and the Commission’s findings. The Commission will continue to monitor the council’s progress through the normal audit process.