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Audit Scotland - Community planning yet to plug the gap between expectations and delivery
Progress on community planning has not yet achieved the major change needed to fulfil its potential to reduce inequalities and put communities at the heart of delivering public services.
Community planning involves councils and other public bodies working with communities, businesses and voluntary groups to plan and deliver services that improve the lives of local people. Established in 2003, the process is led by 32 Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs), covering each council area.
In its third update on community planning for the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission, Audit Scotland states that local and national progress has been made since its last report in 2014.
It recognises that CPPs have improved leadership and scrutiny, and the way they use data to set clearer priorities. However, more effort is needed to shift resources on a larger scale towards long-term goals and to involve communities fully in making decisions that affect their lives, so CPPs can improve outcomes and address inequalities, particularly in more disadvantaged areas.
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 sets out new statutory duties for CPPs, and reforms such as health and social care integration aim to promote prevention and outcomes. But stronger national leadership and support from the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) is needed for community planning to meet its full potential.
The Scottish Government is improving its understanding of individual CPPs, but should be clear on what role it expects CPPs and partners to play in reforming public services.
The report also states that some short-term performance targets make it difficult to advance reform and shift the focus of public bodies to long-term outcomes for services and the people who use them.
Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said:
"Community planning continues to be given a pivotal role in transforming public services in Scotland. The progress we've seen from individual CPPs shows there is enthusiasm for pushing forward with this ambitious reform.
"But without a stronger focus on prevention, long-term outcomes, and how partnerships perform, it's difficult to see how community planning can make the impact that's needed. If community planning is to thrive, the views and experiences of local people must be at the heart of measuring delivery of public services."
Douglas Sinclair, chair of the Accounts Commission, added:
"This report makes clear that a gap still exists between national expectations of CPPs, and how partnerships plan and deliver services.
"Bridging that gap requires firm leadership from the Scottish Government, COSLA, and CPPs, strengthened by empowered communities and a commitment from all partners to share and deliver resources towards joint priorities."
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