East Lothian Council has improved significantly in the last 11 years, with performance comparing favourably to other councils in the majority of service areas.
A new report - published today by the Accounts Commission, Scotland’s local government spending watchdog - highlights that governance arrangements, decision-making processes, leadership and scrutiny have improved since the last Best Value Assurance Report on East Lothian Council in 2007.
Other key points in the report include:
- The council has delivered and planned for further local population growth, with a well-supported vision and improvement framework. Improvement activity and embracing the digital agenda is coordinated through its Transformation Programme.
- Financial management is effective with a budget-setting process focused on the council’s priorities - growing our economy, growing our people, growing our communities and growing our capacity
- Strong links are in place with partners and the council works well and engages effectively with local communities
- Most local residents are happy with services provided by the council, with high overall satisfaction
- The council is achieving or exceeding its targets for most indicators
Angela Leitch, Chief Executive of East Lothian, said:
“This is a very positive report from the Accounts Commission, which highlights significant achievement across East Lothian Council.
“Performance compares favourably to other councils in the majority of service areas and continues to improve.
“The report highlights that the council has a good record of delivering services within budget and in the context of an increasing local population.
“It recognises we are a self-aware council on a journey of continuous improvement, with clear plans in place to address the areas where improvements are required.
“My thanks to all council employees for their ongoing work in securing this outcome and their commitment to delivering our 2017-22 Council Plan, which supports the vision for an even more prosperous, safe and sustainable East Lothian.
“Like all local authorities we face significant financial challenges and here in East Lothian we provide services in Scotland’s fastest growing council area. By working together we have met challenges in the past and we will continue to do so in future.
“Our clear objectives and focus on continuous improvement mean we are well positioned to handle the challenges and opportunities faced in the years ahead.”
Council Leader Willie Innes added:
“The Accounts Commission’s findings reflect the hard work and commitment of East Lothian Council employees to delivering on improvements to services and reducing inequalities within our communities.
“The report is a strong endorsement of the council’s highly effective leadership, clear strategic direction and improving overall performance.
“I’m particularly pleased to see effective financial management and workforce planning highlighted, which is about ensuring we have the right people with the right skills to deliver our services into the future.
“Particularly in a challenging financial environment for local government, and in Scotland’s fastest growing council area, we cannot be complacent. The report reinforces our assessment of performance and I look forward to working with our senior management in implementing further improvements.”
In delivering its vision, the report recommends that East Lothian Council:
- Ensures performance reporting arrangements are better aligned to demonstrating delivery of its vision, supporting objectives, service performance and savings plans
- Works with the East Lothian Partnership to agree outcome measures and report on progress in reducing inequalities and supporting the economy
- Continues to report the benefits transformation projects are having; prioritise and ensure they deliver the expected benefits and the savings being realised
- Continues to focus on improving education performance for all children and young people in East Lothian
- Builds on its good arrangements for scrutiny
- Considers more detailed plans linked to its longer-term financial strategy and to deliver required savings
- In line with its agreed workforce plan, prepares individual service workforce plans to consider how it will manage changes in services and staffing levels
- Ensure community and third party organisations continue to have the opportunity to shape council strategic planning at an early stage and tell local people how feedback has been used
- Continues to support the local area partnerships to focus on priority actions
Angela Leitch added:
“The Commission’s findings reinforce our own assessment of performance, recognising that we are well underway in implementing the changes and improvements identified. The report identifies some of the work already being taken to deliver improvements against recommendations. We recognise, for example, the importance of sustaining momentum to deliver better outcomes for all children. The Head of Education is assisting individual schools to raise attainment while the council has improved the way it manages exclusion rates. Education Scotland believes that council support to individual schools has improved significantly in the last 18 months.
“Education in East Lothian is generally recognised as a high-performing service and we’ve recently seen pupils from our six secondary schools improve their performance in SQA Higher courses, with the pass rate at its highest in five years. While recent figures from Skills Development Scotland show a further increase in the percentage of 16 to 19 year olds in East Lothian in education, employment or training – above the national average.”