Best value audit

We last underwent a Best Value 2 review by Audit Scotland in 2009 with the final report published in May 2010.

Visit Audit Scotland to view The Highland Council Best Value and Community Planning reports.

The recommendations of the report were accepted by the Accounts Commission who have found we are 'improving well' and are 'well placed to deliver future improvement'.

A summary of the main findings concluded that:

  • Our pace of change and direction of travel are positive and we are demonstrating that we are 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 we generally provide 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

We have:   

  • 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 made consistent progress in delivering complex cross-cutting strategic local outcomes with partners and has good service performance overall
  • Sound arrangements to manage our 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 ability to 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

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 we must have the management arrangements in place to deliver this continuous improvement.

In simple terms these arrangements mean: 

  • Understanding how we are performing
  • Planning to improve
  • Delivering the improvements 

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 customers 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, for example education, social work and housing.

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.

Local Outcome Improvement Plan

The purpose of the Local Outcome Improvement Plan 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 plan focuses on agreed priorities for all partners that look at tackling inequality and prevention.

The document sets out the joint commitments made by the Highland Community Planning Partnership  and the Scottish Government to an agreed set of outcomes. A range of outcomes have been agreed by the Community Planning Partnership based on the needs and issues identified through consultation with our communities and linking to the Scottish Governments National Outcomes.

Council Programme

The Council Programme outlines the aims of our administration.  The aims will be achieved through the delivery of a programme of priorities that informs our strategic planning at all levels through the Corporate Plan and Service Plans. 

Corporate Plan

This shows how we will deliver the Council Programme through a series of actions and measure to demonstrate how we will know we are achieving our priorities. So alongside our commitments from our Programme we set out a performance framework of indicators and high level actions alongside information on our 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.

Delivering the improvements

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 measuring the way we manage improvement
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