“Impressive Improvements at Angus Council” says the Accounts Commission as Best Value Report Issued

Published on Tuesday 5 July 2022

Angus Council has demonstrated a good pace of improvement since the last Best Value Report in 2016.

That is a key finding from the Accounts Commission Best Value Assurance Report (BVAR) on Angus Council issued today (5 July). It further states that the council “has reshaped services and is an organisation that is focused on its priorities, working well with partners and keen to learn from good practice.”

The BVAR was compiled by Audit Scotland for the Accounts Commission to evaluate how effectively the council is delivering on its statutory duty to deliver Best Value.

The report drew evidence from interviews with key stakeholders, desk-based research and other methods of information gathering, including elements of the council’s self-evaluation report. It was then subject to further analysis and scrutiny by the Accounts Commission, the independent public spending watchdog for local government.

It noted that performance reporting needs to be more frequent to help drive improvement and that clearer links should be made between performance data and the impact of improvement actions.

Angus Council Leader Beth Whiteside said, “This is a very positive report. I am excited and privileged to be taking over as Leader as we strive to recover from the Covid pandemic. There is much work to be done and I am greatly encouraged that the fundamentals are in place to help us all to achieve a positive, prosperous and successful future for the people of Angus.”

Margo Williamson, Chief Executive of Angus Council said, “It is gratifying that the efforts made by the Council since 2016 have been recognised. This report demonstrates that, while we continue to face extremely challenging financial realities, we are a Council which delivers best value for local people and taxpayers and we are well-placed to continue with our concerted efforts to find solutions to these challenges while working in partnership across Angus.”

Cllr David Fairweather, Leader of Angus Council from 2018 until 2022 said, “This report accurately demonstrates the huge progress made by the council to reform and reshape in the face of severe financial restrictions while continuing to deliver the highest possible quality of services to its citizens. I am proud that this report covers the time that I served as Leader in a very encouraging way, and I pay tribute to all those who helped in the preparation of this report.”

Here from Tim McKay, Interim Deputy Chair of the Accounts Commission on their website.

The key messages from the report are:

1 The council has demonstrated a good pace of improvement since the last Best Value report in 2016. It has reshaped services and is an organisation that is focused on its priorities, working well with partners and keen to learn from good practice.

2 The council and its partners have a clear vision for Angus. There is strong partnership working and collaboration. Partners across Angus worked well together to deliver services to those most in need during the Covid-19 pandemic. The council is looking to learn from others how to engage effectively with communities on the service redesign required.

3 The pandemic has increased existing inequalities, hitting the most disadvantaged groups hardest. Reducing inequality is a priority for the council and it is engaged in a range of local projects to provide support and increase opportunities for its most disadvantaged citizens.

4 The Leader of the Council and Chief Executive provide effective leadership. Officers and members have constructive working relationships. Effective arrangements are in place to support decision-making and public scrutiny. Elected members have worked together to make difficult decisions to deliver financial sustainability.

5 Angus Council has effective financial management and medium-term financial planning but has yet to fully develop its long-term financial plan. The council has delivered significant financial savings in recent years through its Change Programme, including comprehensive service reviews. Now increasing financial pressures mean even more radical change is required to the range and scale of services and how they are delivered.

6 Annual performance reports are used to inform elected members and the public of progress against council priorities. These reports are improving year on year, but performance reporting needs to be more frequent to help drive improvement. Clearer links between performance data and the impact of improvement actions is also necessary.

7 Progress in embedding a council-wide performance management framework to drive improvement activity has been slow. Covid-19 disrupted progress. Further change is needed if the council is to realise its ambition to be a performance led council.

8 The council’s performance has improved or been maintained across three of the four key priority areas within its Council Plan. But in its priority area of the local economy, where many indicators do not have performance information available, there were already challenging performance issues before March 2020.

9 The Local Government Benchmarking Framework indicators for 2021/22 show a mixed picture, with good performance in areas such as waste management alongside the need for improvement in the key area of housing. The proportion of indicators in the top quartile is the highest since 2016/17.

10 Across the majority of areas the people of Angus are more satisfied with their council services than the Scottish average.

11 The Angus Health and Social Care Partnership is a key partner for the delivery of health and social care services. Good progress has been made in shifting care from hospitals to community and home-based care settings, but changes in the demand for care and recruitment challenges are resulting in unmet need. New models of service delivery are being introduced, but further change is needed to ensure services remain financially sustainable.

This assurance report on Angus Council reflects on the council’s progress since the Best Value audit report 2016, including the council’s response to COVID-19.

 

In the next audit appointment, the audit of Best Value will be integrated into the annual audit of the council, rather than requiring a separate Best Value Assurance Report. The council’s auditors will follow-up on the findings from this report and carry out more detailed audit work on Best Value characteristics as appropriate.

 

The full report will come before Angus Council in September is will be available on the Audit Commission website.