Angus Council services face further cuts ahead of £26.5m funding gap
The local government spending watchdog said the council has made progress since 2010, setting out a clear vision, modernising its business processes and improving the leadership provided by senior managers.
But the council is facing “significant financial pressures” and needs to find savings of £26.5m over the next three years, it added.
Today’s report said that the council’s ability to make these savings largely depends on the success of its change programme, Transforming Angus, which, while helping to improve the organisational culture within the council and contributing to reducing the cost of delivering some services, there are risks that it may not succeed in delivering savings within the required timescales.
The council needs to be more ambitious and increase the pace and depth of change, the watchdog said.
In its report, the Commission also welcomed an improvement in the relationships between elected members and officers at the council, but raised concern that cross-party relations have become increasingly fragile. While improvements have been made in arrangements for elected members to scrutinise decision-making, these should be more open and transparent.
Douglas Sinclair, chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “Angus Council is heading in the right direction as an organisation but it is only now implementing initiatives which many other councils have already done.
“If the council is going to confront increasingly tough financial challenges, it needs to get more ambitious and speed up the pace of change.”
Council leader Iain Gaul said it was a “fair and positive report” that recognised the changes and work it has been carrying out as a council since the last Best Value Review in 2010.
He said: “Indeed, the report reflects our own assessment of the progress we are making.
“Angus Council has undergone significant changes in recent years, both in structure and culture and the report commends our transformation programme.
“It acknowledges that our strategic approach is sound and the pace of change is increasing.
“In the face of significant financial pressures and other factors facing Scotland’s public sector, the Commission asks for the pace of delivery to be increased.
“That is something we are equipped to do. We continue to embrace change and to demonstrate our agility in taking and adapting to the difficult decisions that must be made in challenging times.
“Our management structures are streamlined and more effective than before, we have established ANGUSalive — a culture and leisure charitable trust — and our shift to agile working will significantly reduce the number of buildings occupied by our staff.
“In the months ahead, we will talk with residents about our priorities and spending for the next four to five years.
“Strong strategic leadership and rigorous scrutiny ensures we can and will make the tough but essential decisions to achieve the budget cuts that must be delivered.”