Planning groups ‘failing to help local services’
Community planning partnerships (CPPs) were supposed to bring together councils, health boards, businesses, the voluntary sector and others to deliver improvements for the areas they serve.
But a Audit Scotland has found that, overall, they were “not able to show that they have had a significant impact”.
It stated in a report: “One of the aims of community planning was to help reduce social inequality. However, stark differences in outcomes for different groups still persist in Scotland.”
CPPs “need to focus more clearly on where they can make the greatest difference in meeting the complex challenges facing their communities”.
The report was prepared for the Accounts Commission which audits local authorities and other public bodies.
John Baillie, chair of the commission, said: “Community planning in Scotland now stands at a crossroads. There is now a real opportunity to seize the nettle and make it work effectively. This report sets out the many challenges ahead. It is now up to councils and all their partners and the Government to make this a reality.”
Audit Scotland’s report “found shortcomings in how CPPs have performed” which are “widespread and go beyond individual CPPs”.
Last year a review by the Scottish Government and local government body Cosla set out “high expectations for community planning”, placing the system at the heart of public service reform.
Partnership working is “generally well established”, with many examples where this makes a difference to specific communities, Audit Scotland said.
But the report said: “Overall, and 10 years after community planning was given a statutory basis, CPPs are not able to show that they have had a significant impact in delivering improved outcomes across Scotland.”
CPPs have “not been clear enough about the key priorities for improvement”.
They have had “little influence over how the significant sums of public money available, for example to councils and the NHS, are used”.
CPPs were intended to bring public bodies to work together to improve services and make best use of scarce public money but “barriers have stood in the way of this happening”, so “all community planning partners need to work together to overcome these barriers”, the report said.
Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: “There is a new appetite from the Scottish Government to put community planning at the core of public service reform. Delivering this will require strong and sustained leadership at both national and local level.”
The Scottish Government has a “key role to play” by working to ensure joined-up approaches and needs to “clearly and consistently” set out how it expects integrated services to be provided, Audit Scotland said.
Cosla president David O’Neill said: “It is fair to say that Scotland’s councils have a good record in this area and it is pleasing that this is a fact which is recognised in today’s report.
“Scotland’s councils have been working on this agenda for a while and endeavouring to bring other public sector bodies to the table to better deliver for our communities. Councils have long recognised the importance of community planning and that we deliver better for our communities when we deliver together across the whole of the public sector.
“The next challenge we face is to make the community planning process as vital to other parts of the public sector as it is to councils and that is why last year, together with government, we set up the Community Planning National Group, chaired by my predecessor Pat Watters, to help us reach this goal.
“At a time of increased demands on all our services and decreasing resources to pay for these, it is vital that all parts of the public sector give this agenda the same importance as Scotland’s councils do.”