Latest Public Sector News

20.03.15

Scottish councillors need better training to scrutinise borrowing

Councillors in Scotland need better training and for the jargon to be cut out of reports so that they can better scrutinise borrowing arrangements, auditors have said.

Borrowing is a major source of funding for Scottish councils to invest in key services like schools or roads. A new report from the Accounts Commission says that councils are meeting professional requirements but need to do more to set out the longer term implications of borrowing and other debt on their finances.

It adds that authorities need to make better use of information to clearly set out the impact of borrowing in the longer term to help councillors make informed decisions and undertake their scrutiny roles.

The report says total councils' debt from traditional borrowing now stands at £12.1bn and has changed little over the last three years with just over half of councils have increasing their borrowing levels over the last decade.

Councils have other debt of £2.7bn from Public Private Partnerships, bringing total debt to £14.8bn. While the report focuses on council borrowing the commission says its recommendations could apply to all debt.

Although Scotland's 32 councils have developed strategies to suit their own local priorities and needs they are not always highlighting the strategic importance of borrowing and treasury management or providing evidence of long-term affordability and sustainability.

Douglas Sinclair, chair of the Accounts Commission, said: "This is a highly complex technical area. Councillors don't need to know every detail but they do need to know enough to ask the right questions. This is a critical part of council business which requires close and effective scrutiny, particularly in times like this when budgets are so tight.

"We hope this report will help councillors and officers make improvements through clearer information and wider analysis of options so that they can be confident that their borrowing policies deliver best value in the longer term."

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >

the raven's daily blog

NSPCC: Working together to improve the support available for children who have been sexually abused

08/10/2019NSPCC: Working together to improve the support available for children who have been sexually abused

Hayley Clark, the acting head of development and impact at the NSPCC, talks about the significant gap in support services for children who have been sexually abused and the Ho... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >