South Ayrshire Council is making good progress towards satisfying auditors that it is providing addressing significant weaknesses identified 18 months ago.
On the up: South Ayrshire Council needs to keep making progress – Photo credit: Flickr, Doug Waldron
The Scottish public spending watchdog, the Accounts Commission, has said that the council has made “considerable progress”, including improvements to IT systems and considering users in service design, after a damning report in December 2014.
This includes steps to improve the corporate management team’s leadership of staff, with monthly meetings and a “good level of discussion” across the organisation.
“The corporate management team has a robust corporate approach and greater focus on priorities, delivering improvements and meeting financial challenges,” the report said.
This includes the appointing a digital transformation manager to make necessary improvements in the digital and IT services provided by the council – this decision was taken following advice from Socitm last year.
Changes in attitude from managers, and the recruitment of staff from outside the council, has created “a more dynamic and vibrant council”, the report said.
However, the report said that these improvements must continue in order to manage future financial pressures.
The report noted that the council had agreed to £4.154 million of savings in the 2015-16 revenue budget and a further £4.553m in the 2016-17 budget, but then had to make further expenditure reductions of £3.239m due to central government cuts.
Service redesign and the creation of some online services have helped push this change, the Commission said, but it added that there may be “scope for more radical approaches to service redesign”.
The report identified savings of £250,000 over two years by shifting employees onto a self-service online HR system.
Another positive example was work being done to create a smartphone app for employees to use in property maintenance. This will allow employees to pick up job details and then prioritise work based on urgency and location to increase productivity and improve customer service.
The council was also praised for its work to engage the community better, including asking users about their views in the review process, a consultation on budget options and the creation of locality planning groups for health and social care partnerships.