Council to ensure improvements

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South Ayrshire councillors have agreed an action plan to ensure that recent reports from Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission are a thing of the past.

The Government watchdogs slated the council earlier this year and lambasted them for not having a corporate strategy for the best part of two years.

However, at a special meeting of the full council on Tuesday 22 April an action plan was agreed in response to the best value report by Audit Scotland.

And a working group is to be set up to carry out the recommendations after a damning verdict on the council’s leadership style by the watchdogs.

The new working group is designed to ensure proper representation among all the political groups on South Ayrshire Council.

The group is set to get to work straight away and will be comprised of leader Bill McIntosh, depute leader John McDowall, SNP leader Douglas Campbell, Independent councillor Brian Connolly and senior officers from within the council.

Girvan and South Carrick councillor Alec Clark asked why the group was only set to exist in the short term.

“Why would the monitoring group only have to be for the short term?

“Shouldn’t this monitoring group be kept going to ensure we don’t fall into this situation again?”

Pressure had been on the Conservative and Labour administration to introduce a new style of leadership, particularly after SNP leader Campbell called for the resignation of McIntosh and other senior councillors in March.

The administration survived that vote but Campbell still had strong words for them on Tuesday.

“I think the last meeting should now embarrass people now that the mendacious one has been appointed to this group.”

That was in direct reference to a comment made by Prestwick councillor Hugh Hunter at the meeting in March.

Troon councillor Peter Convery apologised to voters for his oversight in not setting up a corporate plan sooner.

“I was part of the leadership panel at that time when there was a hiatus of not having a corporate plan in 2012 and whilst it’s not common for people to apologise in Scotland, I want to say sorry to the people of South Ayrshire for that lack of foresight which is deeply regrettable.”

Councillors agreed to six Audit Scotland/Account Commission recommendations:

Fully implement the previously agreed recommendations to set improvement objectives as part of the council plan and introduce regular reporting against these.

SAC has to ensure that the council plan and service and improvement plans are in place for the start of the 2014/15 financial year, and effectively communicated to all staff; ensure that all staff have Performance and Development Reviews, including clear forward objectives reflecting the new corporate and service plans; Ensure corporate approaches agreed at CMT, such as the roll out of “How Good Is Our Council?”, are consistently implemented across the council.

SAC also has to introduce regular and timely performance reporting that has a greater focus on outcomes and leads to improvement action being taken where required.

The council also has to ensure the review of scrutiny arrangements addresses the weaknesses in the current arrangements and that improvements are made with greater urgency.