The Improvement Service

Formed in 2005, the Improvement Service was created to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local public services in Scotland. Over time the organisation has evolved and flexed to respond to changing needs and priorities, but throughout a wholehearted commitment to establishing mutually beneficial local and national partnerships has been a fundamental characteristic of the way we work.

We work with local councils and with key national partners such as COSLA and SOLACE to ensure that our activities are aligned, complementary and that we derive maximum impact from our collective input.

The operating context of Local Government continues to be challenging and it is evolving at pace. The challenges include extensive policy and legislative developments, increasing demand and expectations for services and diminishing resources, a drive for continuous improvement and transformation, a massive shift in digital technology and changes to the wider framework of local democracy. The emerging challenges from the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union also look set to drive further changes and challenges for local government over the forthcoming period.

The Board’s key aim is to ensure that improvement and support is available to Scottish Local Government to effectively deal with the complex and evolving landscape in which it operates. Our offer is based on four themes: outcome focused service redesign; leadership, people and culture; place and empowerment; data and business intelligence. Ensuring we continue to support the priorities of councils and partners and respond to the scale and complexity of the challenges they face is critical to the effectiveness of the Improvement Service. In practical terms, this means focused partnership working with councils, key partners COSLA and Solace, and other professional associations and improvement agencies, to ensure our collective efforts are better aligned and integrated to maximise added value.

We receive £1.656m from the Scottish Government as part of the local government block expenditure grant. This core grant funds our core capacities: the Elected Member Development programme and Organisational Development activities, Supporting Change, Transformation and Improvement, Knowledge Management, and Research and Intelligence activities including core benchmarking activities. The core grant also funds a small corporate team and covers the running costs of the organisation.

Other income streams have grown steadily since 2005. For example, the myaccount delivery contract with Scottish Government (which will be reviewed in 2021) is valued at around £3.66m annually over three years, and our collaborative programmes (such as e.g. Roads Collaboration Programme, Local Government Benchmarking Framework) bring in agreed funding from each of the 32 Scottish Councils. Total annual income for 2018/19 was £8.55M.

Governance:

The Improvement Service is a company limited by guarantee. Membership is made up of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), and all of the 32 local authorities in Scotland. A formal partnership is currently being developed with COSLA based on a shared vision that delivers on Local Government’s priorities.

Our Board of Directors meet quarterly, and the current make-up of the board is as follows:

  • Councillor Alison Evison, President, COSLA
  • Councillor Neil Benny, Stirling Council
  • Councillor Malcolm Bell, Shetland Islands Council
  • Councillor Graham Houston, Stirling Council
  • Sarah Gadsden, Interim Chief Executive, Improvement Service
  • Angela Scott, Chief Executive, Aberdeen City Council
  • Steve Grimmond, Chief Executive, Fife Council
  • Joyce Whyte, Chief Executive, West Dunbartonshire Council
  • Aubrey Fawcett, Chief Executive, Inverclyde Council
     

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The Board’s key aim is to ensure that improvement and support is available to Scottish Local Government to effectively deal with the complex and evolving landscape in which it operates. Our offer is based on four themes: outcome focused service redesign; leadership, people and culture; place and empowerment; data and business intelligence.