Council told to up its game is still struggling

Busker Danny Mullins and Mollie Scobbie at hte launch of the West End Summer Solstice
Busker Danny Mullins and Mollie Scobbie at hte launch of the West End Summer Solstice
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AN audit report today revealed below-average performance by Midlothian Council four years after the authority was told to up its game.

The report found that, despite improvements in some areas, the council was still not doing as well as most Scottish local authorities on a wide range of issues.

The Audit Scotland report rated Midlothian’s overall performance as “satisfactory” and praised the progress it had made since the last report in 2008, but said the council “still faces challenges”.

Today Colin Beattie, SNP MSP for Midlothian North & Musselburgh, claimed there was “something fundamentally wrong” at the council which would take time for the new administration to fix.

The audit inspection, carried out before May’s council elections, said: “Council services are improving. However, some services such as aspects of planning and development services, financial services, housing management and homelessness services, perform below the national average.”

It said the council reported improved and above-average performance in areas including sickness absence, council house conditions, recycling and road conditions. It reported improved but below-average performance in areas such as council tax collection, planning applications and weekend homecare.

Performance fell in some areas, including attendances at pools and indoor sports and leisure facilities, council housing repairs, arrears and the letting of low-demand houses.

The report said: “There have been improvements in how the council provides its education service, particularly in pre-school and primary provision.However, there is room to increase the pace of improvement in some aspects of its secondary education.”

It noted that a lower proportion of pupils go on to higher and further education from Midlothian schools than nationally. And it added: “While the figures for young people going into positive destinations post-school are slightly increasing, they are still below average.”

Mr Beattie said local people were “still very concerned” about the performance, but he voiced hopes that the new SNP-led administration would sort the situation.

He said: “There is a consciousness in Midlothian we are not hitting the right level – that’s a consciousness within the council as well as outside it.

“I think that’s part of the reason there has been a continuing swing to alternative political parties.

“It’s completely unacceptable that we continue to get negative reports and the council says ‘We’ve fixed it, it’s okay’.

“There is something fundamentally wrong and it’s going to take some time to fix. But there are plenty people on the council and working for the council who are up for fixing it.”

Midlothian Council chief executive Kenneth Lawrie said: “As a council, we are two years into our journey towards excellence and this report has captured our position accurately. We’ve made lots of progress, and that’s been recognised, and we know we’ve more work to do.”