Comhairle nan Eilean Siar welcomes the newly published Best Value Assurance Report from Audit Scotland which notes the many strengths of the Comhairle whilst highlighting that there continue to be challenges going forward. The Comhairle accepts the recommendations and will be implementing an Action Plan.
The statutory duty of Best Value was introduced in the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003. The audit of Best Value is a continuous process that forms part of the annual audit of every council.
The report highlights that the Comhairle has had the largest decrease in funding in real terms of any Scottish local authority over many years. This important point provides context to the Comhairle’s work to implement local initiatives and projects, and to support the local economy. The report emphasises how critical the Comhairle’s financial position is in meeting the challenges ahead.
The Comhairle is pleased that there is acknowledgement of the many successful initiatives underway and our good practice in areas such as community engagement, supporting the local economy and, importantly, being a strong advocate for the Islands. Our good collaboration with our partners to bring improvements to the Islands is fundamental to how we work and we welcome its recognition by Audit Scotland.
The Comhairle knows well and fully accepts the challenges that it continues to face, particularly in the light of the financial situation facing local government. The need to increase the pace of change and develop our policies and strategies for achieving improvement are heavily influenced by the challenges of finance, workforce and leadership capacity. The risks associated with depopulation remains a concern for the Comhairle and we will continue to work with our partners to address these through all our strategic work.
The Comhairle’s Leader Paul Steele said; “The Comhairle is committed to transparency and accountability in all we do and welcomes this report as an important contribution to that commitment. The report identifies many of the key strengths of the Comhairle and describes some of the challenges we face. We agree with Audit Scotland on the importance of clear and strategic policy, long term financial planning and the Comhairle calls on the Scottish Government, once again, to implement a multi-year settlement which will allow for greater security for Councils to plan and deliver improvements and change. We have campaigned vigorously against the cuts which all local authorities but particularly the Comhairle, have had to endure in recent years. No-one recognises more than the Comhairle the challenges of depopulation, providing social care and tackling fuel poverty. We note the findings of the Accounts Commission and remain committed to working for our communities in a challenging financial climate exacerbated by COVID and Brexit.”