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Published 28 June 2018

West Dunbartonshire Council‘s strong performance and leadership in recent years has been recognised by the public spending watchdog for local government.

The Accounts Commission, which hold councils in Scotland to account, said that effective and improved leadership from councillors and officers had been critical to the progress made in West Dunbartonshire. They were also pleased to see the clear and steady improvement in service performance – particularly in the Council’s priority areas of housing and advancing educational attainment.

The Commission published its findings this week following a significant review of the Council conducted over several months in 2017/18. The latest Best Value publication marks a significant turnaround for West Dunbartonshire since audit reports in the mid-2000s.

 The key strengths identified in the latest report included:

  • The vision, leadership and strategic direction of the Council
  • Improved performance and use of resources, including finances and staffing
  • Effective financial management
  • Partnership working including with community planning partners and other local authorities
  • Future plans which reflects the needs of the communities in West Dunbartonshire

The report states: “Since our last Best Value Report in 2007, West Dunbartonshire Council has made significant improvements in how it works. The council now demonstrates a focus on delivering Best Value and we found evidence of continuous improvement in its services.  There has been clear improvement  particularly in the councils priority areas of housing and advancing educational attainment.

“Changes to the senior officer team, including the appointment of the current Chief Executive in 2011, have played a key role in the improvements the council has made. The Chief Executive and Senior Management Team provide clear direction and Senior officers are motivated and passionate in striving to achieve the council’s priorities.

“Officers and Councillors from all parties work well together for the benefit of the residents of West Dunbartonshire. “

Audit Scotland undertook the review on behalf of the Accounts Commission.   Their team of accountants and professional experts scrutinised performance across individual services and interviewed Councillors and officers, observed Council, committee and board meetings, reviewed documents and performance data, and observed staff focus groups.

The Accounts Commission identified five areas for continued improvements.

These were:

  • Review project management processes for capital projects
  • Further develop workforce plans  to include forecasts of numbers and costs
  • Continue efforts to address employee absence and support employees through change
  • Continue to support the development of the Community Alliance and help it reach its full potential
  • Consideration be given by councillors to establishing a cross-party groups to address the financial challenges which exist and the important decisions required in the future

Councillor Jonathan McColl, Council Leader, said: “This report marks a significant milestone for West Dunbartonshire Council. Over the last 11 years the Council has been on a journey of improvement and it’s really pleasing that the Accounts Commission has recognised the progress which has been made both in improving the services we deliver for our residents and also in engaging with our communities and planning for the future. We have clear plans in place for the next four years and this is reflected in our strategic plan. We are committed to continuing to improve and reflecting the needs, wishes and aspiration of our residents as we move forward.”

Councillor Caroline McAllister, Depute Council Leader, added: “This is a really positive report which all Elected Members should take pride in. Despite the financial challenges which we as a Council have faced, we have continued to reflect and improve and that is evident in our performance figures. I want to take this opportunity to thank our staff for the key role they have played in delivering these improvements. This report is validation of their efforts.”

The report is published by the Accounts Commission today and a full report on the findings will be presented to the next full Council meeting for consideration in August.