Best Value

Audit of Best Value and Community Planning (BV2)

  • The Council last underwent a Best Value 2 review by Audit Scotland in 2009 with the final report published in May 2010. The recommendations of the report were accepted by the Accounts Commission who have found the Council is ‘improving well’ and is ‘well placed to deliver future improvement’. A summary of the main findings concluded that:
  • The Council’s pace of change and direction of travel are positive and the council is demonstrating that it is improving well. In particular, it can demonstrate a clear vision for the Highlands which is shared by partners and clearly defined in strategic plans
  • That the Council provides generally good quality services that are responsive to local communities:
    • improving performance in important services such as education and child protection
    • satisfaction with the council and its services is consistently high and improving
  • The Council has:
    • a strong, clear and consistent strategic leadership which identifies the area’s priorities
    • effective political management arrangements, an administration that works consistently and effectively and an effective opposition
    • Ward structures which provide a basis for good monitoring and scrutiny, working closely and effectively with local communities and delivering area priorities within a more corporate framework
    • developed effective partnership working and has made consistent progress in delivering complex cross-cutting strategic local outcomes with partners and has good service performance overall
    • sound arrangements to manage its resources, although improvement is needed in corporate asset management, workforce planning, and demonstrating competitiveness in how it delivers services in the current financial climate
    • well-developed arrangements for promoting sustainability and can show good progress on outcomes
    • implemented sound processes and structures to progress the equalities agenda
    • a strengthening culture of continuous improvement and a good awareness of where further improvement is required

What is Best Value?

All local authorities have a duty of Best Value. The key requirement of this duty is to deliver continuous improvement in everything we do, whilst keeping an appropriate balance between quality and cost. This means that the Highland Council must have the management arrangements in place to deliver this continuous improvement.

In simple terms these arrangements mean:  

  1. Understanding how we are performing
  2. Planning to improve
  3. Delivering the improvements 

1.  Understanding how we are performing

Understanding performance is about having the information available to understand where we can improve what we do. We need to get this information from a number of sources. The information below illustrates activities across the whole council.

What citizens and users think - A comprehensive public performance survey each year. In addition more targeted surveys are carried out on specific user groups or issues.
How well we use our resources - Information on budgets, performance of technology, and the use of our property and how we manage information. 
How well we manage - self-assessment exercises with the senior management team against good practice.
How do we compare with other providers - Data on a comprehensive range of performance issues (These are required by the Scottish Government). 
Do we meet the required standards - There are national required standards for service provision on in Education, Social Work Housing amongst others.

2. Planning to Improve

We have a range of strategic plans covering our activities with other public sector agencies, the whole council, services and specific service delivery units.

Single Outcome Agreeement
The purpose of the Single Outcome Agreement (referred to as the SOA or Agreement) is to identify areas for improvement and to deliver better outcomes for the people of the Highlands and Scotland, through specific commitments made by the Council, its community planning partners and the Scottish Government.

The document sets out the joint commitments made by the Highland Community Planning Partnership and the Scottish Government to an agreed set of outcomes. 15 local outcomes have been agreed by the Community Planning Partnership based on the needs and issues identified in the Area profile. These are cast against the 15 national outcomes.

Working together for the Highlands
Working together for the Highlands outlines the aims of the Administration of The Highland Council.  The aims will be achieved through the delivery of a programme of priorities set out over seven themes which focus on working together for:

  • the economy;
  • children & young people;
  • caring communities;
  • better infrastructure;
  • better housing;
  • empowering communities and
  • strong and safe communities.

The document informs the strategic planning of the Council at all levels through the Corporate Plan and Service Plans.
Corporate Plan
This shows not only what the Council is aiming to achieve, but how it will know this and how it will resource it.  So alongside the Council’s commitments from its Programme ‘Working Together for the Highlands’ the performance framework of indicators and high level actions are included plus information on the Council’s budget.

Service Plans
Each Service’s strategic plan shaped by service performance and the Corporate Plan.
Operational Plans
The more detailed plans showing specifically what will be done to deliver the strategic plans.

3. Delivering the improvements

Through implementing the plans above we aim to continuously improve what we do. It is important that we monitor and evaluate our progress on an ongoing basis to check we are delivering against our own and citizen’s expectations. Monitoring delivery is done through:

  • Elected members scrutinising plans and monitoring progress corporately and by service;
  • Senior Management implementing plans;
  • Reporting to the public (through the public performance report) on how well we are doing;
  • Audit Scotland carrying out a comprehensive audit of the way we manage;
  • Various inspectorates gauging the way the council manages improvement.

The Information is a simplified view of the Council’s arrangements under Best Value and if you would like more detail of the arrangements or to obtain copies of any of the documents that are referred to above, please contact Evelyn Johnston  01463 702671.