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Auditors flag up six areas for council to improve

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Auditors flag up six areas for council to improve

AUDITORS have scrutinised the running of Dumfries and Galloway Council and flagged up six areas for improvement.

Council watchdog Audit Scotland is looking at several themes in the operation of local authorities, and recently produced a report with a first theme focusing on leadership involving both Dumfries and Galloway councillors and senior officers.

Three key strengths were highlighted, while six were identified where the council can do better.

The key positive messages from the report include:

• The council’s leadership have been effective in setting out a clear vision and priorities in the council plan for 2023-28.

• The council engaged effectively with citizens, communities and staff when developing its vision and priorities.

• There is effective collaborative working between elected members and with members and officers.

The areas highlighted for improvement in an action plan were: performances management, climate change targets, asset management strategy, the monitoring of capital projects, workforce planning, and local government benchmarking framework reporting.

On climate change, auditors stated: “The council declared a climate emergency on 27 June, 2019. At the same time, it set out a 12-point plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions target by 2025.

“However, there are no references to the target for Dumfries and Galloway to achieve a net zero carbon status by 2025 in either the council plan 2023-28 or the annual delivery statement.

“There is a risk that without clear targets the council will not meet the net zero emissions target by 2025.

“The council should clearly set out its net zero emissions target and how it plans to achieve it.”

In reference to monitoring capital projects, auditors stated: “Reports to members on the capital programme show cost information and a general narrative on the projects but there is no reporting of planned project completion timelines.

“As well as cost information, reports to members on the capital programme should show progress against planned project timelines.”

From this month onwards, short reports on councils will be presented to the Accounts Commission by auditors. There will be one for each council over a four-year period.

This extra scrutiny is to “maintain a regular and consistent focus on the performance of all of Scotland’s 32 councils”.

Dumfries and Galloway Council is one of the first councils to be audited under the new approach.

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