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Audit, scrutiny and improvement

Councils' performance in the provision of services is subject to audit and scrutiny in order to encourage good practice and improvement. The scrutiny bodies most closely involved with the work of local authorities are:

Organisation Summary of duties
Accounts Commission Examines how Scotland’s 32 councils manage their finances, helps these bodies manage their resources efficiently and effectively, promotes Best Value and publishes information every year about how councils perform.
Auditor General for Scotland Secures audits of bodies funded by the Scottish Consolidated Fund, or other bodies specified in legislation.
Audit Scotland Provides services to the Accounts Commission and the Auditor General for Scotland.
Care Inspectorate Provides assurance and protection for people who use care, social work and children’s services.
Education Scotland Provides support and challenge to the education system, from early years to adult learning.
Healthcare Improvement Scotland Supports healthcare providers in order to improve the quality of the care and experience of every person in Scotland every time they access healthcare.
Scottish Housing Regulator Promotes the interests of homeless people, tenants of social landlords, or recipients of housing services provided by social landlords.
Auditing performance and best value

Audit Scotland carries out annual financial audits of every Scottish local authority. It also carries out best value audits which examine local authorities’ achievements against their duty of Best Value. Best value for this purpose is defined in legislation as "continuous improvement in the performance of a local authority’s functions". Audit Scotland may undertake a special investigation if there are concerns about aspects of a council's performance.

Audit Scotland also produces national reports on local government performance. These reports look at performance across Scotland in a particular service area, such as social work or roads maintenance. In some cases, Audit Scotland works in partnership with other Scrutiny organisations, such as the Care Inspectorate.

Audit Scotland submits its reports on local government to the Accounts Commission for Scotland which considers the reports and publishes findings.

Improving performance

The Improvement Service is a partnership between COSLA and SOLACE Scotland which works with Scottish councils and their partners to improve the efficiency, quality and accountability of local public services by providing advice, consultancy and programme support.

The Improvement Service has developed the Local Government Benchmarking Framework which has been designed to:

  • help councils and their services better understand why they achieve their current performance levels;

  • build understanding of where council performance varies;

  • build understanding of why council performance varies; and

  • help identify and share good practice across councils.