West Lothian Council shows what can be done

30 June 2005

West Lothian Council has been praised for its ability to transform its ambitious vision for the local area into improving services for the people who live there, according to a report published by the Accounts Commission today (Thursday 30 June 2005).

The Best Value Audit report says that West Lothian Council performs well, is fully committed to continuous improvement, and has responded effectively when faced with adverse demographic and economic factors.

Today’s report is the sixth in a rolling programme affecting all 32 local authorities in Scotland and provides information to local people for the first time about how well the council is organised to deliver improvement.

The Deputy Chair of the Accounts Commission, Isabelle Low, said: “West Lothian Council has achieved a great deal and we are delighted to see it at the top end of the spectrum. This is easily the best report so far.

West Lothian has had to contend with a number of problems, such as a fast growing population that is placing pressure on services and a decline in manufacturing. However this council has shown that, through strong leadership and a culture of improvement, it is possible to respond positively to change."

In particular, the following aspects of West Lothian council were singled out for praise:

  • Its clear and ambitious strategic vision for the local area and its ability to transmit this through effective planning into good services.
  • Its consumer-facing culture that is strongly focussed on listening to and improving services for the people who use them.
  • The value it places on the contribution made by its staff to improving services.
  • Its willingness to learn from good practice both within the council and beyond and its ability to apply lessons learned across the range of the council’s activities.

West Lothian has undertaken to produce an improvement plan which will be submitted to the commission by 20 September 2005. The commission will monitor action taken, particularly looking for the development of the role
councillors play in scrutinising service performance; better targets and performance information to underpin decision-making; and more balanced public reporting of performance highlighting areas for improvement as well as the council’s successes.

Councils in Scotland are audited for Best Value, on average, once every three years but in view of this positive report, the commission does not intend to audit for best value at West Lothian Council for four years.