Public spending watchdog offers vote of confidence

In 2021/22 Aberdeen City Council is spending nearly £700 million on running services and building projects. Part of our job is to ensure that every penny is used in a proper, effective and efficient way.

Today saw the publication of a Best Value Assurance Report by the Accounts Commission, which oversees how councils perform in this regard whilst offering a fuller analysis of a council’s performance, including how effectively councils are managing changes in services.

In essence, we are expected to demonstrate Best Value by showing continuous improvement in how we deliver services.

I am pleased to say that the Accounts Commission commended us on the “strong changes, improvements and ambition that have been put in place since our 2015 and 2008 Best Value reports”.

Much of that was attributed to the drive and innovation as we radically restructured our institution and embraced digital technology. The redesign of services and a move to a commissioning-led approach has meant we are successfully on track to meet our £125 million five-year target.

The Accounts Commission also acknowledged the comprehensive scale of the council’s capital programme, which in recent years has delivered TECA, an award-winning redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery, infrastructure to combat climate change, and is now driving the city’s biggest council house building programme in a generation.  

The report added that in recent years the council “has successfully managed its capital programme to deliver projects on time and on budget” and was working with industry to diversify the local economy whilst improving its own performance against most economic development indicators.

As well as our clear financial management, the Commission noted our well-developed partnerships with communities and businesses, which have allowed us transform lives through the Local Outcome Improvement Plan whilst being a key player in the city’s economic recovery.

Of course, we have long championed a partnership approach to running the council, not just with stakeholders and communities, but internally, and the report spoke of a good record of collaborative leadership between elected members and officers as being a “strong” foundation on which to deliver our vision for the city.

Education and housing were areas where the Commission saw a need to accelerate the pace of improvement and I’m happy to report that work has been going on to do just that. The Commission, for example, welcomed our efforts to increase attainment by restructuring, tackling recruitment issues and implementing new plans and policies.

We are truly a ground-breaking council but that is never an easy path to take.

To have kept making gains when a global pandemic hit is especially impressive but perhaps not unexpected, given our new approach to doing business, tireless hard work from staff, and shared purpose with partners.

We have achieved much in a five years and the city can go forward with renewed confidence on the back of this report.