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An independent report carried out by Audit Scotland on behalf of the Accounts Commission will be considered by councillors at a meeting of the Council on 26 June.

The report, initially published in May this year, not only highlights the substantial improvements the council has made since it's 2022 Best Value Assurance Report, but also commends the organisation for its proactive approach to addressing the key findings and recommendations made.

Key improvements

In its report, the Accounts Commission acknowledges the significant efforts the council has taken to enhance strategic planning, highlighting clear priorities and commitments.

The commission also praised the council's effective approach to performance reporting, using data from the Local Government Benchmarking Framework and its own success measures. The council meets its requirement to publish data on performance in a meaningful way, with performance information readily available on the council’s Falkirk Performs webpages.

Moving forward

Despite the progress made, the council recognises that there is more work to be done. Key areas for further improvement include:

  • Financial sustainability: The council must identify and implement recurring savings to address the significant budget gap projected over the next few years. This includes reducing reliance on one-off savings to ensure long-term financial stability.
  • Community engagement: finalising and implementing the Community Engagement Strategy is critical. The council has made great strides in developing meaningful, quality consultations with stakeholders, and improving ways to involve them effectively in decision-making processes. However, there is more to do, and the council will continue to focus efforts here.
  • Collaborative leadership: Our approach to this across the council, involving both officers and elected members, has notably improved. Additionally, the Council of the Future Board has been strengthened to ensure the successful delivery of the council's transformation programme and associated savings. Despite this, this does remain an area for further improvement. Reports to council on the Financial Strategy have been explicit that the financial position is extremely challenging and that difficult decisions will be required. Effective collaborative working is required to ensure the council can take the decisions necessary to address the challenges it faces and the transformation needed to address projected budget gaps - and an action plan is in place to take this forward.
  • Climate change targets: The council has committed to its activities achieving carbon neutral status by 2030. This includes securing necessary funding and implementing effective carbon reduction projects. The council published its Climate Change Strategy 2023-2030, updated its Climate Emergency action Plan, and approved its Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy (LHEES) and Delivery Plan in October 2023 and work has started on these. The council has made major progress in reducing its carbon footprint by becoming one of the first local authorities in Scotland to no longer send waste to landfill, dramatically increased its electrified fleet, and reduced its property estate through the Strategic Property Review.

Kenneth Lawrie, Chief Executive of Falkirk Council, said:

"Our response to the Best Value audit demonstrates a strong commitment to improvement and delivering best value to local people, as clearly reflected in the Accounts Commission’s recent report. There is, however, much more work to do to ensure we become a financially sustainable council that can quickly adapt to the changing needs of our communities. I hope councillors agree with the report's findings, support the action plan and commit to the next stages of our transformation as a council."