Watchdog highlights significant improvements at Clackmannanshire Council
Clackmannanshire Council has “laid the foundations for improvement” but “serious challenges” remain for the local authority, according to the Accounts Commission.
The local authority watchdog praised the work the council has done so far, and recognised the increased pace of change during the past year.
A progress report published today follows serious concerns raised by the Commission about the council’s financial position in a 2018 review. The Commission said that over the last 12 months the council has demonstrated a determination to change, including making savings, appointing a new management team and improving how councillors and officers work together.
Clackmannanshire Council is also building effective working relationships with local councils and others as it seeks to establish sustainable and efficient services for the future, it said.
But the Commission warned that it remains seriously concerned about the council’s financial position. With a cumulative budget gap of over £23 million in the next three years, maintaining the pace of change, transforming services and making long-term savings are critical, it added.
The report stated: “The council’s financial position remains very challenging. Against that backdrop, it is making the investment necessary to create the conditions for change. The pace of change has increased significantly since August 2018 and the council is taking steps to secure the capacity it needs to maintain this momentum. The council still has much to do to implement and embed the changes required for service and financial sustainability.”
Stephen Moore, member of the Accounts Commission, said: “Whilst the council has had the determination to take on board many of the recommendations in our 2018 report, there is an urgent need for the council to implement change to tackle their financial position. Without transforming services, the council’s finances are not sustainable in the longer term. The scale of the challenge ahead remains significant.
“Our auditors will continue to have a close interest in progress made.”
Recommendations contained within the report are:
- Councillors and officers should build on recent progress and work collaboratively to agree initiatives which secure transformational change, long-term savings, and service and financial sustainability.
- The council should work urgently to finalise its new management structure and proceed with organisational redesign, and ensure that initiatives that are in train provide the necessary capacity to support and embed change.
- The council should further develop its working relationships with local councils and others and use these to secure efficiencies in services.
Chief executive Nikki Bridle welcomed the report’s positive findings and confirmed that steps are already being taken to ensure the council meets the recommendations set out in the report.
She added: “The Accounts Commission findings on the progress report are largely positive and we are pleased that the work carried out since our last Assurance Report in January 2018 has had a positive effect. Like all local authorities, we face significant financial challenges, but we are on a journey of continuous improvement, with clear plans in place to address the areas where improvements are needed.
“My thanks go to all council employees for their ongoing work in securing this outcome and their commitment to delivering ‘Be the Future’ our Corporate Plan for 2018-2022, and to our elected members for their focussed joint working and support in implementing our improvement actions. This Plan supports our vision for being a valued, responsive, creative organisation, through collaboration, inclusive growth and innovation, to improve the quality of life for every person in Clackmannanshire.”
Cllr Ellen Forson, leader of the council, said: “I am pleased to see the report acknowledging the progress we have made in the council over the last period. The commitment from elected members to work together has been very pleasing, and I hope that this will continue as we face the challenges ahead to transform the way we deliver services so that we can ensure we are working with partners to provide important services while ensuring the council’s financial sustainability.”