Accounts Commission highlights decade of improvements at North Ayrshire Council
North Ayrshire Council is delivering value-for-money services to its local communities and has demonstrated a culture of continuous improvement since 2011, according to the public spending watchdog for local government.
In a Best Value Assurance Report published today, the Accounts Commission said the council has effective leadership, and works collaboratively and has strong links with its partners. The council enables and works well with local communities, and staff are empowered to make changes that improve service delivery. According to the report, this creates a council that is committed to delivering services differently and addressing future challenges.
Since a previous report by the Commission in 2011, the council has continued to improve and, alongside its partners, has determination and commitment to make better the lives of local people, the report added.
The Commission said the council should continue to focus on areas of poorer performance, most notably a recent decline in education. The council also needs to develop detailed plans to support its aims of further transforming services and saving up to £19 million over the next two years.
The Commission has noted the lack of external competition in the recruitment of the new chief executive in late 2018, which underlines the Commission’s view that in councils, the recruitment of chief officers should be subject to external competition. This ensures the public have confidence in the process of appointing a council’s most senior officers.
Whilst the audit work for this report was carried out prior to the COVID-19 emergency, the Commission believes that key themes, such as financial management and good governance, are more vital than ever. The Commission also recognises the significant pressures that councils are working under during the pandemic.
Graham Sharp, chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “The commitment and vision of the council is impressive. North Ayrshire is rightly recognised as an award-winning council, that looks to innovate. It continually strives to improve, working alongside its partners and local communities to make the lives of local people better, focusing on creating a thriving local economy.
“But there are challenges, including the urgent need to make savings of up to £19m over the next two years, a need to continue looking forwards to transforming the delivery of council services, whilst ensuring the lives of local people improve.”
Welcoming the report, council chief executive Craig Hatton said: “We’re delighted with the report - it’s a reflection of the effort and hard work put in by staff across the council over a number of years.
“I’m really pleased that it recognises the close working between council officials, our elected members and our communities to deliver real and meaningful improvements.
“The report also highlights the continuous improvement of the council over recent years and that impetus is something we cannot lose – we will continue to identify areas for improvement and drive transformation of our services to ensure our residents get the best services possible.
“We will also fully take on board the recommendations made by the Accounts Commission as we continue on this journey of transformation.”
Council leader Joe Cullinane added: “It’s pleasing that the report recognises the work the council is doing to ensure our communities are a key part of how we deliver services.
“As well as making sure that we are empowering communities in a wide range of council services, the report highlights that we are being innovative in our approach to dealing with major challenges, such as launching a Community Wealth Building Strategy and our work to tackle child poverty.
“We have a lot of work to do and many challenges to overcome but the report shows we are heading in the right direction.”