Auditors praise NLC’s handling of finances

The meeting between Audit Scotland and North Lanarkshire Council took place at Motherwell Civic Centre last week to review the council's finances
The meeting between Audit Scotland and North Lanarkshire Council took place at Motherwell Civic Centre last week to review the council's finances

North Lanarkshire Council has been praised for its handling of its current “challenging” financial situation.

Representatives of Audit Scotland met with the council’s Audit and Scrutiny Panel at Motherwell Civic Centre to go over its latest report last week.

Audit Scotland assistant director Brian Howarth said the council was in much better financial shape than some Scottish authorities and had a proven track record for achieving its savings targets.

With a budget of £752 million for 2017/2018, the council had planned to use £14 million of reserves and implement savings of £25 million. In fact it was able to expend less than that amount of reserves thanks to effective financial management.

The auditors noted the council appeared to be providing good value for money in its services, with favourable reports from various inspectorates including education, social work and domestic waste management.

The council’s current reserves are £57 million, £37 million is earmarked and £8 million remains unearmarked. This would be able to cover around one year of the recent annual deficit and is considered relatively low compared to other councils.

Auditors want elected members to work more closely together to prepare for financial challenges in future. One aspect of this is a cross-party sounding board, although the SNP currently declines to participate.

Councillor Bob Burrows agreed to the importance of the sounding board.

He said: “Those who are on the sounding board would agree it is very enlightening, if sometimes alarming, to discuss the anticipated cuts. I would encourage all elected members to get together.”

Councillor Paddy Hogg called for greater involvement with IT systems analysts in managing change in future.

He said: “This is something I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about for a long time and it seems to be a Scottish disease affecting all of our councils. We have been too reactive and need to have IT people using their skills to work with senior council officials.”