Moray Council improves financial stability and services but challenges remain
Moray Council has made progress in some important areas to address financial stability and having plans in place to tackle poor performing services, although challenges remain as it seeks to deliver strategic change, the Accounts Commission has said.
Progress also continues to be hindered by some poor working relationships among some councillors, the watchdog added.
In a follow-up report for the local authority, the Accounts Commission said Moray Council has in place many fundamental components needed to deliver crucial improvements. This has been achieved during a challenging period, managing the impacts of Covid-19 well. Improvements include increasing money set aside for unexpected costs; reprioritising transformation projects and improving how it understands and manages performance.
But the Accounts Commission said it doesn’t have assurance momentum to sustain and make change will be maintained.
Strong collective leadership expected from councillors is not being demonstrated, it added. There needs to be effective decision-making and scrutiny of this decision-making. This remains a central issue in addressing tensions and poor working relationships between councillors, and between councillors and senior council staff. They should continue to seek external support to deal with this.
The Commission made it clear that the continuing lack of agreement on how this can be achieved is “not acceptable”. Moray Council needs to continue to ensure it has the right skills and sufficient staff to achieve its aims, with clear plans to transform and improve services. There is a real risk the council will not be able to agree a sustainable financial model to implement this service delivery, the watchdog warned.
Tim McKay, interim deputy chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “There has been progress at Moray Council, but all councillors have a responsibility to work together to successfully deliver strategic change in order to improve services and the lives of local people.
“With council elections taking place in May, both returning and new councillors need to use this report as a platform for change. We expect progress to made within a year of these elections. Difficult decisions must be made collectively, above all for the benefit of those living and working in Moray.”