Accounts Commission annual report 2017/18

Chair's foreword

Graham Sharp

Local government has rarely been out of the spotlight over the last year. Councils have a challenging job as they cope with rising demand for services while resources continue to be under pressure.

Graham Sharp
Chair of the Accounts Commission

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As the public’s independent watchdog, the Commission provides assurance that public money is well spent, and at the same time through its findings and reports encourages improvement.

It has been a busy year for us as we published 14 local and national reports, all based upon the audit evidence from 32 councils, 30 health and social care integration authorities and 32 other local government bodies in Scotland.

We have increased the focus in Best Value in our annual audits. The feedback we have had from those councils who have taken part in what is a more challenging and performance related process so far has been largely positive.

I was privileged to be appointed Commission chair in November 2017. I am very grateful to my fellow Commission members for their support throughout the year, particularly to Ronnie Hinds, who took on the role of acting chair following the untimely death of Douglas Sinclair.

I also offer my thanks to Christine May, whose term of office ended in March, for her lively, insightful and very valuable contributions to our work over eight years’ service.

This is an exciting and challenging time for the Commission as the public sector embraces new ways of working, with an increased emphasis on prevention and improving outcomes to benefit local communities. Community empowerment will be an important theme in changing how councils work with their citizens and communities, and we have increasingly reflected in our work on what this means for councils.

I want the Commission to be at the centre of the change agenda over the coming year, working with other scrutiny bodies and partners to provide robust assurance for the public.

Increasing scrutiny's profile

A key priority for us is to help the public scrutinise their own councils. We continue to use new formats to help with this.

We also provide check lists for councillors and interactive tools which people can use to understand the data that underlie our reports and quickly identify the precise information they need.

tableau presentation

Our Tableau visualisation provides data on councils' income, reserves and revenue costs of general fund borrowing.

Our video explains how to access early learning and childcare.

Our national work

Early learning and childcare

This was a new audit topic for us, and we published this report jointly with the Auditor General. It revealed significant risks for the Scottish Government's ambition to double early learning and childcare hours by August 2020.

Read the report on early learning and childcare

Find out some of the key facts from the report.

Early learning and childcareOur e-hub provides a guide for parents and carers on what childcare is available.

Best Value in councils

A new approach to auditing Best Value was introduced last year. We want these reports to help residents to be better informed and more involved in shaping the key services that they rely on, and to help councils improve. Read more about our Best Value Assurance Reports.

Reporting on councils

We published ten reports on local councils in 2017/18 – six new Best Value Assurance Reports, two follow-ups to previous audits and two statutory reports highlighting areas of wider concern.

Ensuring quality in our work

Audit Quality Framework

This year we revised our approach to provide more robustness and transparency. A new independent team was set up which produced our audit quality framework.

Working with others

National Scrutiny Plan

We value working with our principal partners and other scrutiny bodies, who help us fulfil our responsibilities throughout the year. We met regularly with councils, and with scrutiny partners at a national level to produce a national scrutiny plan and 32 local area scrutiny plans.

Action Plan 2017/18

Accounts Commission reports

In our 2017/18 action plan, we committed to a number of activities we would do during the year involving the work we would carry out and how we would do it.

 Read about the progress we made on the action plan - PDF 1.4Mb

Engagement Plan 2017/18

Accounts Commission members

Our engagement plan outlined the areas we engaged about, who we would engage with and how we would do it.

 Read about the progress we made on the engagement plan - PDF 2.6Mb