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Small, but not best value

SCOTLAND'S SMALLEST council faces a number of significant challenges because of its limited capacity, the Accounts Commission's first report on Best Value at Clackman-nanshire Council has found.

It points out that it is the smallest mainland Scottish council with the least staff and the least money to spend, but has to provide the same range of services as other councils.

Isabelle Low, Accounts Com-mission deputy chair, said: "More effective leadership by elected members, sharper prioritisation and other improvements to corporate activity and services are needed. And because of scale and capacity issues, it is vital that it places the highest priority on more joint working, sharing management and service delivery arrangements with others, particularly other councils."

The commission's report records praise from HMIE for some innovations in education services, such as the synthetic phonics and Thinking through Philosophy initiatives. But it also points to weaker performance in aspects of educational attainment and community learning development.

Dave Jones, chief executive of the council, pointed out that the best-value report was compiled last AugustSeptember, and referred to an HMIE education authority inspection in 2005. Since then, attainment levels had gone up slightly, but not as fast as he would like although the council had high levels of deprivation to work with.

"That is not an excuse it just makes it harder work," he said.

At the time of the review last year, Clackmannanshire and Stir-ling had been working on a plan to bring all services together under a single management structure. But political considerations in the interim had led to that proposal being replaced with feasibility plans into joint working arrangements.

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