Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 16:53 UK

Council 'needs major assistance'

Aberdeen City Council
The council was the focus of a two-day hearing

Aberdeen City Council "lacks a full appreciation of the seriousness of its current circumstances", according to a highly critical report.

The Accounts Commission for Scotland said the council was facing extremely serious challenges and needed support.

Finance Secretary John Swinney expressed his concern and called for action, amid cutbacks and protests.

Aberdeen City Council leader Kate Dean stood firm against calls for her to step down after the report.

The council said it accepted its financial problems, but blamed them on historical spending.

The Accounts Commission public hearing, which led to the findings, followed concerns about best value and planning.

We are absolutely committed to working together and with others to put our current difficulties behind us so we can deliver excellent, modern services to the citizens of Aberdeen
Aberdeen City Council statement

The council is currently pursuing a programme of cutbacks, which has led to weeks of public protests.

The commission said it was particularly concerned by the financial position, the organisational structure and the lack of effective leadership and direction in education and social work, and people management - with what appeared to be a fundamental morale problem among many employees.

It is also recommending the appointment of an independent financial expert to oversee savings.

John Baillie, commission chairman, said: "Aberdeen City Council has extremely serious problems with its management, governance and finances as well as the effective delivery of major services such as social work.

"It is essential that the council accepts the seriousness of its circumstances, pulls together and acts quickly and decisively to implement our recommendations."

'Order from chaos'

Mr Swinney, in a letter to council leader Kate Dean, asked the council to accept the Accounts Commission's findings and put in place an improvement plan as a matter of urgency.

Aberdeen City Council said it welcomed the prompt publication of the findings.

A statement said: "We fully accept the seriousness of our financial difficulties - though it must be pointed out that they apply overwhelmingly to our historical levels of spending on health and care services and not right across the board.

It is time to put aside petty party political differences and work together for the good of the people of the City of Aberdeen
Brian Adam
Aberdeen North SNP MSP

"Much of the work that we need to do has already begun.

"We are absolutely committed to working together and with others to put our current difficulties behind us so we can deliver excellent, modern services to the citizens of Aberdeen."

Council leader Kate Dean said: "There's nothing to suggest I should resign."

Aberdeen North SNP MSP Brian Adam said: "I welcome the fact that we are at the end of the investigation stage of this process and that there are quite clear actions laid out to remedy historical mistakes which led to the council's current financial predicament.

"It is quite clear that all of the elected members and the staff of Aberdeen City Council need to work together to bring forward an implementation plan to bring the council back from its precarious financial situation.

"It is time to put aside petty party political differences and work together for the good of the people of the City of Aberdeen, and part of that has to be a recognition and acceptance of the council's precarious financial position and of the budget which is currently being implemented."

Aberdeen Central Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: "The council should set aside the budget cuts and school closures it has agreed in recent months until some order is restored from the chaos."


SEE ALSO
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Chief executive stands down early
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Pensioner in council tax protest
30 Apr 08 |  North East/N Isles
'No resignation offer' at council
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29 Apr 08 |  North East/N Isles
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09 Apr 08 |  North East/N Isles

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