Scottish councils warned to scrutinise spending more effectively

Scottish councils are failing to properly scrutinise capital spending and oversee long-term strategic plans, a new report has warned.

The report, published by the Accounts Commission, urges councils to improve the management of major projects, including schools, roads, housing and flood prevention.

The Accounts Commission issued similar warnings in 2013, and the report claims that officials have failed to provide ‘regular, appropriate and accurate information’ about the scale of capital spending. The report also suggests that authorities are failing to define why and how certain projects are prioritised and set out the clear benefits each one is intended to deliver.

Scottish councils spent £7 billion in the last year, which accounts for over half of Scotland’s public sector capital expenditure.

Dougal Sinclair, Accounts Commission chair, said: “Councils spend a great deal of money on capital projects such as schools and roads which are vital for local services.

“Our 2013 report recommended actions to help councils improve performance. They have made some progress since then but they need to do further work to fully comply with good practice. In particular, they should provide councillors with better information through clear, good quality reports to enable them to effectively challenge and scrutinise capital investment decisions, plans and progress.”