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GOVERNMENT WILL GET TOUGH ON COUNCILS - SCOTTISH LOCAL GOVERNMENT MINISTER

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Scottish local government minister Calum MacDonald today issued a ...
Scottish local government minister Calum MacDonald today issued a

stern warning to Scottish councils to improve their service delivery

performance or face strong government action to remedy the situation.

Addressing the Association of Direct Labour Organisations national

conference in Glasgow, Mr MacDonald said:

'A lot has been said recently about the modernisation of local

government and in light of recent events it is essential we drive this

agenda forward. There are parts of the local government system which,

by any sensible standards, leave room for improvement.

'As we have clearly demonstrated this week, the government will not

shy away from tackling poor performance and will use the powers

available to us to deliver improvement. The council taxpayer, who is

the customer for many of these services, has to be protected.

'As soon as we heard about the problems in North Lanarkshire and

East Ayrshire we took action and invoked statutory powers giving

them three weeks to demonstrate that they are fit to run a DLO.

'We have subsequently asked the other 30 DLOs to provide

information on their financial position as a matter of urgency. All these measures will flush out any further problems and we will root out mis-management and incompetence wherever it is found.

'If any of these inquiries show any hint of trouble we will not hesitate to look for full audit checking and then deal with them in the same way as we have done with North Lanarkshire and East Ayrshire.'

Mr MacDonald outlined the detail of the checking system which will

ensure a tightening of monetary control.

In July, Accounts Commission auditors will carry out a high level audit of the management and financial controls of the DLO client and

contractor arrangements. The minister has also said he wants to see

audited accounts for all DLOs by September as they are required to do

under statute.

The minister added:

'We will examine the management of the DLOs of councils in trouble.

If we conclude their record is so bad there's no realistic prospect of

them running a high quality service then they will have to find a

private sector partner.

'This government are not content to sit and wait for more nasty

surprises and the taxpayer wouldn't expect us to do so.

'Councils must be seen to be democratically accountable, responsive,

and efficient in the way in which they use the public's money and

deliver services. That is why we have placed such great emphasis upon

programmes to improve the efficiency and accountability of local

government, and I believe that is why COSLA and most local

authorities have responded positively and constructively to that effort.

'Councils exist to provide quality services competitively and must

consider all options of service delivery because in doing so they will

only meet the minimum of what the public deserve and expect. A

radical rethink of the way large areas of council activities are organised and delivered is required. Some of this work is underway but on the evidence of recent weeks we need to do much more.

'A business like approach and true competitive disciplines are essential if Scotland and its new parliament are to have the kind of local government and type of services they require to make it successful in the millennium.'

LGCnet can supply the full text of Mr MacDonald's opening remarks to today's debate at the ADLO conference titled 'The political parties of Scotland and direct services'. Tel 0171 833 7324/5.

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