Accountability in the Public Sector



South Lanarkshire Council, today, have issued a letter to parents informing them of the withdrawal of the planned merger of schools. This follows the incredible and unforgivable overestimation of required savings.

An overestimation of £40 million pounds: an error of fifty percent.

This is not a private business but a public sector organisation with the responsibility to spend taxpayers’ money in an efficient manner.

Added to this was the loss of £102,000 to fraudsters.

Where is the accountability?

The Executive Director of Finance and IT is to retire next April. But what of the Chief Executive and the Council Leader, both of whom allowed these errors on their watch. Both are equally responsible and should also shoulder the blame.

The recent proposal to merge primary schools caused outrage amongst parents. Children would be decanted from one school to the other, with some pupils having to make long journeys. Many parents of primary age children also have babies or toddlers to contend with as well. But no thought was given. The Council has already reduced school crossing patrols and there are genuine fears that all the patrols will be removed. Anyone who knows East Kilbride will appreciate just how dangerous some of the roads are.

Today, the Executive Director of Education Resources has issued a letter to all parents advising of the withdrawal of the original proposal.

No reason is given. No apology is forthcoming. For two weeks parents and carers have been faced with the uncertainty of change.

The Scottish Government needs to lay down certain standards for Executive level positions within councils across Scotland. Finances are tight enough as it is, without gross miscalculations adding to the problem. Auditing standards need to be watertight.

With South Lanarkshire Council, I personally want to see the resignations of the Council Leader and the Chief Executive. They have allowed these errors to happen. Perhaps not personally responsible but they are ultimately responsible.

This is not a political statement: far from it. Those who hold public office or hold senior public sector positions must be accountable to the public, and be prepared to accept the consequences for serious failures.