The City of Edinburgh Council should do more to ‘fulfil its potential’ and improve the lives of its citizens, particularly given the additional pressures caused by COVID-19, auditors say.
A report by the public spending watchdog in Scotland, the Accounts Commission, has said that the council has improved many of its services over the last four years. Its finances are ‘well-managed’ and it has agreed ‘ambitious strategies’ to improve the lives of local people.
However, the auditors also warned in the Best Value Assurance report that since 2016 there has been ‘mixed progress’ at a strategic level, across community engagement and continuous improvement.
It urged the council to put in place a long-term financial strategy and a more effective workforce plan and said this would be ‘essential’ if the local authority is to deal with the fallout from the pandemic.
‘Whilst the ambition of the council and its partners is impressive, the detail of how it will deliver, monitor and report on its key strategic goals must be in one accessible and coherent plan,’ said Elma Murray, interim chair of the Accounts Commission.
‘It is the responsibility of all local councillors, working together, to ensure the city and its services continue to improve.
‘It is important for the council to focus on continuous improvement and the creation of long-term financial and workforce plans. I expect the council to act swiftly on our report. Doing so will support the council's ambitions to improve the lives of its residents.’
Council leader Adam McVey welcomed the ‘constructive feedback’.
‘We’re always striving to improve wherever we can so that we deliver the best possible services and achieve what we've set out to achieve on behalf of the people of Edinburgh,’ he said.
‘We are now carefully reviewing the full report and will work hard to address areas in need of our attention going forward.’
‘These are especially testing times for all local authorities given the ongoing global pandemic and straitened public finances so it’s vital we are equipped with as much information as possible when making decisions affecting our communities,’ said deputy leader Cammy Day.
‘What we're doing now is reviewing the Best Value Assurance report and the Accounts Commission's findings in full with elected members. We'll then draw up our detailed response setting out how we plan to use the findings in the best interests of the whole city.’