Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 11:21 UK

Swinney warning to council chiefs

Aberdeen City Council
The council was criticised by the Accounts Commission

Finance Secretary John Swinney has warned Aberdeen City Council's leaders that they must make "swift and effective" improvements.

Mr Swinney met council leader Kate Dean, her deputy Kevin Stewart and outgoing chief executive Douglas Paterson at Holyrood on Thursday.

The meeting came in the wake of criticism of the council by spending watchdog the Accounts Commission.

The council is currently pursuing a programme of 27m in cuts.

The commission said the council's financial difficulties, which have led to weeks of public protests, had left it facing "extremely serious challenges".

A recent Social Work Inspection Agency report also found morale in the council was "very low", and that managers and councillors were not showing strong leadership.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Swinney told BBC Scotland he was "confident" the council was capable of turning itself around.

'Speedy implementation'

He added: "I expect the city council to respond swiftly and effectively to the findings of the Accounts Commission report and the social work inspection report.

"We need to see urgent action to improve the position and the fortunes of Aberdeen City Council, and I have made it clear to the city council leadership that I am looking to them, and to the other members of the council, to deliver exactly that.

"I will be monitoring the situation very closely to ensure that the city council leadership takes the effective action and the swift action that is required to improve the situation of the council."

A council spokesman said: "The discussions were productive and the city council is working on the speedy implementation of the recommendations. Both sides recognise the scale and urgency of the work required to address these recommendations."

Willie Young, secretary of the council's opposition Labour group, said the city would suffer if the administration failed to listen to Mr Swinney.

He said: "If they don't take his advice then I think he will be saying to them that he will put auditors in to run the city. I think that is a bad thing both for the city, and for them."

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