Accounts Commission underline shortfalls across the board
Gathering, analysing and acting on performance information is essential to improve services and the quality of people’s lives, according to a new report.
However, the research, carried out by the Accounts Commission, said no single Scottish council has all the elements of a comprehensive performance and improvement framework in place.
The report, entitled ‘Managing performance: are you getting it right?’ offers practical pointers and support to help councillors and officials.
It says effective management of performance is everyone’s business – from the chief executive down.
According to the commission, in well-run councils, this is embedded throughout the organisation, part of the day job and not seen as a burden.
A key element is getting the culture right, with councillors and officials sharing a common purpose and vision and setting clear priorities.
The report said councils in Scotland spend £21bn a year – or £40,000 every minute – but cannot easily compare their performance in particular services against other councils.
It added that sometimes information itself is poor quality or the focus is on bringing in electronic systems rather than developing the corporate culture.
Lengthy performance reports are often ineffective because critical issues are buried in the detail.
Chairman of the Accounts Commission, John Baillie, said: “Establishing effective performance management isn’t easy but it can and does deliver huge benefits for councils, their staff and the quality and effectiveness of the services they offer the communities they serve.
“We hope this report helps guide councillors and officials on the steps they can take to make it happen. It is particularly important at this time of tight financial pressures that they do have effective performance management to maintain quality services and ensure they are getting the best value for every pound spent.”
This report is the fourth in the ‘How Councils Work’ series, which draws on audit work in all councils to highlight concerns, issues and good practice. Previous reports have looked at councillors’ and officers’ roles and working relationships, Arm’s Length Organisations (ALEOs) and using cost information.
The report was prepared by Audit Scotland for the Accounts Commission, which checks whether local authorities, fire and rescue services and police boards spend public money properly and effectively.