Orkney Islands Council which was reviewed during March and June of 2017 has welcomed a report from Audit Scotland . The financial watchdog looked at key areas by:
- interviewing councillors, senior officers and community planning partners
- observing a range of council and committee meetings
- holding focus groups with councillors, council staff and community groups
- reviewing documents
It noted that although the council is the smallest in Scotland it benefits from effective leadership and from a strong financial position.
“Income generated through marine port activities has contributed to substantial financial reserves. This has meant the council has been able to supplement local government funding, to some extent, to help protect front line services. Nevertheless, certain cost saving decisions have been taken and, for instance, the senior management team has been halved in size.”
Not so good according to the report is the slow change in some areas including workforce planning and digital/IT arrangements.
Although viewed by the residents in a mainly favourable light some aspects of service provision have been slow compared to other local authorities.
The report states:
“The council works well with its partners and local communities, with some examples of good community engagement and progress in empowering communities.”
“the council and the Orkney Community Planning Partnership do not yet measure, monitor and report sufficient evidence to demonstrate how effectively they are making progress towards delivering their outcome priorities for the community.”
Alistair Buchan, Chief Executive of Orkney Islands Council said:
“There is recognition that as a small Council serving an island community, providing services can be complex and challenging. As with all Best Value audits, the report highlight areas where improvements can be made.”
“We will now build on the findings of the report to achieve further effectiveness in all that we do.”
The key recommendations from the report for the Council to take forward are:
- Developing a detailed workforce plan that considers future workforce needs, current capacity, supply and recruitment, skills and financial constraints.
- Managing capital projects effectively to avoid slippage and the negative impact on delivering strategic priorities.
- Longer term financial planning to ensure the sustainability, feasibility and practicalities of current spending plans. This should be done with reference, also, to the Strategic Reserve Fund.
- Implementation of the IT Strategy and Digital Strategy, including the associated capital programme and completion of the review of capacity
It was further suggested that training for councillors should be improved and that they should be encouraged to take up personal development opportunities.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame