Some success at Dundee City Council, but further modernisation needed

05 October 2005

A report published by Audit Scotland for the Accounts Commission today (Wednesday 5 October 2005) says that Dundee City council’s services generally perform well for its community, but that more modernisation and better scrutiny by councillors will be required for the future.

Today’s Best Value audit report is the seventh in a rolling programme affecting all 32 local authorities in Scotland and provides information to local people about how well the council is organised to deliver improvement.

Deputy Chair of the Accounts Commission, Isabelle Low said: “The overall picture in Dundee is one of contrasts. The council is showing reasonable improvement on many frontline services without relying on additional resources, but not across the board.

“There are big challenges ahead for the council: population changes are likely to result in increases in demand for services and it is likely to have more limited resources in the future. This means the council will face difficult decisions that will require strong leadership by elected members and senior management if it is to deliver for the people of Dundee.

“In particular, the Council needs to be prepared to look radically at how services are delivered in order to get maximum value for money; and at how Councillors go about their business of scrutiny and challenge.

"The council knows where it has to focus further work and we look forward to receiving its improvement plan by 31 October 2005. We will be monitoring progress against the council’s improvement plan and would normally expect to report again on its performance in three year’s time.”

The report highlights the following achievements and areas of good practice:

  • Strong commitment to social and economic regeneration
  • Ambitious plans for the city
  • Good community engagement and significant achievements in community planning and joint working
  • Some services, such as housing repairs and community care assessments, have become more efficient as a result of improved business processes
  • Council services generally performing well

The Accounts Commission identified the following issues which the council must address:

  • A lack of effective scrutiny by councillors. All 29 members currently sit on all 13 committees which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for councillors to form an independent view
  • The focus on policy-making within private sessions raises concerns about transparency
  • The need to improve strategic management in a planned way in order to achieve appropriate structures, both at elected member and officer level, and not simply react opportunistically to personnel and political changes
  • The need to systematically align council policies and priorities to the resources available Audit Scotland provides services to the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission
  • The adoption of blanket policy commitments which, taken with pressures on resources, from a declining population/tax base and a growing demand for services, severely limit the achievement of Best value.
  • Specific service performance issues, such as: staff absence, some aspects of social work including home care, council tax collection, educational attainment, delivery of new schools and roads maintenance