Watchdogs have access to all areas of town hall

Scene of the council meetings
Scene of the council meetings

Local government watchdogs have called on all Falkirk councillors to work together to avoid damaging the town hall’s reputation.

In its annual report Audit Scotland has urged every elected member to play an active role in every area of the new decision-making process introduced in May but boycotted so far by the SNP and Non-Aligned Independent Group.

It makes it clear: “These new arrangements have only recently been implemented and not all members are participating in every aspect of the new decision-making structures. It is important that this issue is resolved timeously as continuation of the current situation could undermine local governance and scrutiny arrangements and cause reputational damage to the council.”

The ‘report card’ which also looked at its financial position, use of resources and future strategy, warns: “We will monitor the effectiveness of the new arrangements as part of our 2013/14 audit work.”

The annual report, which will be studied in detail behind closed doors by the council’s audit committee next Thursday, also noted Falkirk’s “better than anticipated” financial position with an overall underspend last financial year of over £11 million.

But while it supports the Labour-led administration’s decision not to use its bank balance to bridge gaps in its funding, expected to be £35 million over the next three years, the auditors warn: “Public bodies will continue to face increasing demand and cost pressures for their services in the foreseeable future. Falkirk, will have to review its future priorities and consider decisions on future service provision they had previously ruled out just to balance the budgets in future years. For longer term financial sustainability the council will have to identify recurring savings rather than rely on short term fixes such as using reserves.”