Redrawing Scotland’s council map ‘too simplistic’, warns accountancy giant
REDRAWING the councils map of Scotland to save cash and improve frontline services is too simplistic and would not enhance the role local government, one of the world’s leading accountancy firms has warned.
Amid increasing speculation that local boundaries could be altered within the next few years, Deloitte has said an overhaul of Scottish councils should not start with either expanding or reducing the current number of 32 authorities.
In a new report directed at the country’s top council officers, the ‘big four’ services giant said Scotland had spent too long "tinkering around the edges of the challenges faced by local government" and was now facing a crisis point.
Writing in today’s Herald, Angela Mitchell, a partner at Deloitte’s Scottish operation, called on local authorities to revisit the stalled or abandoned agenda to share systems and infrastructure across local organisations, which she said "would cut costs, create resilience and … deliver better outcomes across the public sector".
But Cosla, the body representing the vast majority of Scotland’s councils, described the proposals as outdated and said many of the ideas were already being put into practice.
And one senior local government source described the plans as "looking like a fairly crude sales pitch".
Over the next few years the Scottish Government is expected to overhaul local government, announcing last year that within the current parliamentary term it will introduce a bill "that will refresh local democracy by giving more power to local communities, review the roles and responsibilities of local authorities with an aim to transform our democratic landscape, protect and renew public services and refresh the relationship between citizens, communities and councils”.
Ms Mitchell said that the reform of local government had previously stalled due to a fear of failure by senior officers and risk aversion amongst political leaders that they could face a backlash within the perpetual electoral cycle due to job losses.
She said the Christie Commission, set up to address pressures within the public sector by focusing on prevention had not achieved the intended success.
Ms Mitchell also said concerns over job security and "pay-flat-lining" were key factors affecting local authorities’ ability to undertake change and modernise services.
She added: "Anything that is not continuing with ‘business as usual’ comes with personal and organisational risks. The risk averse culture within local government means people do not want to take a chance of failing. Local politics get in the way of change and we’re also caught in a perpetual electoral cycle in Scotland.
But time has moved on. Councils are at a crisis point and there are more and more pressures on services. Issues like elderly care will not be going away.
In England we’re even seeing some authorities cutting services rather than collaborating with other councils. Scotland can’t get caught in that trap. Political leaders need to stand behind their chief officers and be honest about what this might mean in terms of jobs but also why they believe difficult decisions are the right thing overall for the service users.
No industry is immune: times are changing and local government needs to be willing to adapt and take different approaches."
A Cosla spokesman said: “It would be wrong to think that many of the ideas put forward here have not already happened. This is an often quoted, simplistic and slightly outdated approach to reform. The idea that shared services etc is the silver bullet is simply wrong.
"Scotland’s Councils are up for reform. For a long time we have advocated the need for change and for reform to happen. But we would push for the scope of sharing to go wider."
Gordon Keane 12:49am Tue 28 Feb 17
We need a completely new set up of Local authorities in Scotland. With a return to regional/county style government with a mix of both districts, and burghs…. ie. a restoration of the Large Burghs.
I have written a booklet on this subject, complete with color maps, and notes on new municipalities, etc.
In the meantime, Highland, and Dumfries & Galloway must be divided up as a matter of urgency. These councils are far too large, and it is unfortunate the Scottish Parliament has let go almost 20 years of inaction on this matter. Keeping the tory mess that it inherited.
Also, with these new councils, comes the restoration of local Policing and Fire services.
It is unacceptable, this country has only 32 single tier municipalities.
There was never any need fr this, but for the tory Michael Forsyth’s disdain of regions run by mostly Labour. The tories were never gong to win these regions any more. What was needed was smaller regions and smaller districts. Instead what we got was a mishmash. What connection does Cumbernauld have with Motherwell for example, that it should be part of that same council? There have been far to many such cases in the new tory system.
No wonder the tories are detested in this country!
An overhaul is long overdue. I should have happened the very year the Edinburgh Parliament was restored. I t is shameful nothing has happened in all of this time.