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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 00:56 GMT
Council given deadline to improve
Picture of houses in Inverclyde region
Inverclyde Council has been told to speed up improvements
A local authority, savaged in an official report, has been given six months to sort the problems out.

A new investigation by Audit Scotland ruled that, although changes had been made at Inverclyde Council, they did not go far enough.

An Accounts Commission inquiry earlier this year found "fundamental weaknesses in leadership and direction".

Public Service Reform Minister Tom McCabe has now warned: "I expect to see changes over the next six months."

Commission chairman Alastair MacNish said: "While a recovery exercise has been put in place, it is only now reaching the stage where proper implementation can begin.

The challenges involved in this level of recovery should not be underestimated
Alastair MacNish
Accounts Commission

"However, the pace of recovery needs to increase in addressing the problems.

"The challenges involved in this level of recovery should not be underestimated."

But he added: "The risk to service delivery must be kept to an absolute minimum."

Mr MacNish called for more information from the council about how it will be run until the shake-up of its management was complete.

Demands were also made for clear decisions to be recorded on how the new management structure would work.

Tom McCabe
The pace of improvement has to be stepped up
Tom McCabe
Public Service Reform Minister

Watchdogs also urged the local authority to draw up immediately a "more robust" plan for the next 12 to 18 months.

Their message was echoed by Mr McCabe.

"Progress has been made but this follow-up report makes clear that the pace of improvement has to be stepped up," he said.

"There is no doubt that delivering the level of improvements Inverclyde Council needed will not happen overnight."

However, Mr McCabe added: "The conditions which will allow those badly-needed improvements to happen are now in place and I expect to see changes over the next six months."

Harshest criticism

Chief Executive of the council, Robert Cleary, resigned after the critical report which described some services - including housing and information technology - as "consistently poor".

The commission said the findings were the most critical so far, adding that problems could be traced back to local government reorganisation in 1996.

A team of outside experts was brought in to help improve performance by the Liberal Democrat-controlled council which covers Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow.

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