Watchdog highlights transformation progress at Scottish Borders Council

Scottish Borders Council has made “steady progress” as it continues to transform the way it delivers services but a “clear plan” is required to enable the local authority to deliver its ambitious programme of transformation.

The programme, called Fit for 2024, aims to improve how the council is run and save £30 million within the next five years.

A Best Value Assurance report by the Accounts Commission today has recognised the significant efforts made by the council since the last Best Value review in 2010.

A number of key strengths are highlighted, including good performance in education and social work, effective financial planning and the key role the council has in joint working to deliver ambitious economic initiatives.

The local authority watchdog said it is important for the council to be clear about the senior level staff it needs and have the right mix of skills in its workforce to deliver services differently. It is also crucial that that all council staff contribute to the transformation plans, it said.

Although education, economic development and some social care services continue to improve, many services are performing below the national average. The watchdog said the council must do more to understand where and how these services need to improve.

Graham Sharp, chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “The continued progress Scottish Borders Council has made to transform services is encouraging. Now it must focus on several critical areas including tackling underperforming services, ensuring councillors have the right training to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities and getting to grips with both staff and community engagement.”

Welcoming the report, Tracey Logan, chief executive of Scottish Borders Council, said: “Looking after our most vulnerable people and giving our children the best start in life are key priorities for the council and we are justifiably proud of our track record across these areas.

“However, the report recognises that as a small rural authority covering a huge geographical area we face many challenges in order to improve and sustain high performance across all our service areas.

“We will take on board Audit Scotland’s feedback and recommendations, many of which we had already identified ourselves and are taking action on, and continue to drive forward transformational change across all our services through our Fit for 2024 programme.

“For example, we are already actively working with NHS Borders to improve joint working, and we also recognise that we need to do more to respond to the Community Empowerment Act in order to encourage and enable people to play their part more easily in their communities.

“A key priority for us going forward will be to improve our performance monitoring and measurement to demonstrate on a regular basis that the Council’s services are continuing to meet best value and identify quickly areas where further improvements are needed.”

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