Financial watchdogs deliver verdict on West Lothian Council

Lawrence Fitzpatrick
Lawrence Fitzpatrick

West Lothian Council maintained its strong performance but councillors need to play a more active role in the face of a £73.5m funding gap.

That’s the view of the Best Value Assurance report which was published today (Wednesday) by the Accounts Commision- which investigates local authority spending.

Auditors involved noted the council’s “strong vision, well-established processes for capturing local people’s views, effective management of its finances; and its improved outcomes for local people, especially in education.

However, the report states that earlier councillor involvement in identifying spending priorities would, the report says, have reduced the council’s risk of failing to deliver budget savings on time.

The watchdog also notes the need for greater transparency around the council’s governance arrangements with West Lothian Leisure to ensure proper scrutiny of its finances and performance.

The report highlights that the council is facing Scotland’s highest projected rates of increase in older people by 2039, particularly over-75s. The latter group is forecast to rise by 130.8 per cent compared to the overall Scottish figure of 85.4 per cent.

Graham Sharp, chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “West Lothian Council continues to maintain its strong performance and we are pleased that outcomes are improving for local people.

“As with other local authorities, the council faces substantial budget challenges. And for that reason it is crucial that all elected members play a more active role in scrutiny of policy priorities and performance.”

Leader of the Council Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: “I’m delighted the inspectors have recognised that West Lothian continues to be one of the top performing councils in Scotland.

“We will look carefully at the recommendations to ensure improvements continue to be made, despite the challenge we face with over £73 million of budget reductions needed over the next five years.”