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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
Council urged to tackle failings
Picture of houses in Inverclyde region
Inverclyde Council has been told to solve its problems
A council branded one of the worst in Scotland has been ordered to seek outside help to solve its problems.

The Accounts Commission said Inverclyde Council requires "urgent remedial action" to address weaknesses in its leadership and direction.

Public Services Minister Tom McCabe said the findings were "completely unacceptable" and urged the council to tackle its failings.

Council leader Alan Blair said it had drawn up a recovery plan.

The commission's report, published on Thursday, said Inverclyde needed better leadership, more consistent decision-making and urged it to carry out a "recovery exercise".
Fundamental weaknesses in leadership and direction are preventing Inverclyde from improving
Isabelle Low
Accounts Commission

The Accounts Commission report is part of a drive which began in 2003 to assess whether councils are meeting their legal duty to improve services.

Its deputy chair, Isabelle Low, said the report was the most critical so far and added that problems could be traced back to 1996 with local government reorganisation.

"Extensive and fundamental weaknesses in leadership and direction by elected members and senior management are preventing Inverclyde from improving," she said.

'Mutual frustration'

The Liberal Democrat-controlled council covers Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow and the report said its elected members and senior officers were not working together effectively.

"Relations between members and the council management are not good and this results in mutual frustration and hinders progress," said the report.

It said the performance of some services, including housing and information technology, had been "consistently poor".

Detailing some of the council's financial problems, the report noted "significant" under-spends in education and social work - resulting not from cost savings but from deficiencies in budgeting.

It also pointed out that 157 officials were receiving allowances for carrying out extra responsibilities on a temporary basis, suggesting the structure of the council might need changing.

Staff concern

Commenting on the findings, Mr McCabe said: "Local people expect and deserve the best possible service from Inverclyde Council.

"The council has clearly not delivered across all areas in the period covered by the report - that is obviously a grave concern and a major disappointment.

"I will visit Inverclyde in the next few days to seek personal assurances that the recovery group is working to address the problems."

Council leader Alan Blair responded by saying the recovery process would look at ways of improving and its proposals for change would be checked by external experts.

Tom McCabe
Tom McCabe said the findings were "completely unacceptable"

The report findings were also accepted by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla).

Its president Pat Watters said: "Although the report does not criticise the quality of services provided by Inverclyde - indeed a number of services are praised in the report - it does identify the inability to monitor and challenge services and ensure they are properly accountable to local people."

Public sector union Unison said it accepted some of the criticisms but accused the report of failing to give credit to staff and managers for providing public services.

Margaret Smith, the Scottish Liberal Democrats' spokeswoman on local government, said the Labour administration which ran the council for the first seven years of its existence bears "a heavy responsibility" for its problems.

The Scottish Nationalist Party claimed the problems were the result of "mismanagement" by its Labour and Liberal Democrat administrations.




SEE ALSO:
Council's schools plan criticised
13 Jan 04 |  Scotland


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