Accounts Commission annual report 2015/16 - Chair's foreword

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Douglas Sinclair

 

 

While it may be an overused cliché that councils 'face significant challenges' that does not detract from the truth of the statement underlined by the pressure of reduced resources, of an ageing and more costly population, and the legitimate expectations of the public for high-quality local services.

The key priorities facing councils are firstly the effective management of resources, and secondly, improvement in the use of those resources not only in either reducing costs or increasing outputs but also in ensuring that money is well spent – for example in preventing or mitigating known problems before they arise. The third priority is ensuring that councils have all the necessary skills and capacity to manage an increasingly complex provision of services.

I have heard it argued that reduced resources make continuous improvement – the duty of Best Value – harder to achieve. But the opposite is the case. Councils currently spend over £20 billion pounds each year. Cutting costs before cutting services is a legitimate expectation of the public as is the need to demonstrate that every pound represents a pound well spent.

The Commission also faces new challenges as well as our continuing responsibility of providing assurance to the public, not least, in shining a light on where accountability lies in the increasingly complex world of public services.

The Scottish Government has given us the additional responsibility to audit the new integrated joint boards – the Health and Social Care Partnerships between councils and health boards responsible for some £9 billion annual spending. These new bodies also have a duty of Best Value and the challenge of building a shared culture of trust and acting always in the best interests of the joint board.

We enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate 40 years of the Commission and the continuing importance of our values of independence, impartiality and the integrity of our evidence-based work.

I offer my thanks to my fellow Commissioners for the commitment and the thoroughness of their contributions, to our Secretary for his sound advice and management of the Commission’s business, and to the Controller of Audit and staff in Audit Scotland for their continuing high standard of work for the Commission.

Douglas Sinclair
Chair of the Accounts Commission