WHILE the “ship is going in the right direction” at Clacks Council, an officer warned they “wouldn’t underestimate” the challenges still ahead.

Improvements to secure future financial stability at the local authority were noted in a report by the Accounts Commission, the independent public spending watchdog.

At the same time, there is no denying that the council “still has much to do to implement and embed the changed required” in what remains a “very challenging” financial climate.

The report, which was brought to the Kilncraigs chamber last Thursday, was debated by a meeting of all elected representatives and followed on from an earlier one in January 2018.

It highlighted how each of the major political parties present now work closer together.

The documents said: “The party leaders have worked to develop more constructive working relationships and, along with their deputies, now meet monthly.

“These improved working relationships will be further tested as the council works to deal with its financial challenges and implement its transformation programme.”

Labour opposition leader Councillor Dave Clark was keen to highlight the cross-party working and explained things are turning around.

He said: “People need to understand the ship is going in the right direction.”

Securing future sustainability currently revolves around the council’s whole organisational redesign, which has seen senior managers cut while other capacity was added to drive forward alternative service delivery.

When asked by Conservative leader Cllr Bill Mason whether there has been sufficient progress, a council officer said that it was “clear” that was the case.

They added the council would now have to build on that, but warned that they “wouldn’t underestimate the challenge still there”.

The Accounts Commission said the council “has a track-record of managing its finances year-on-year”, something highlighted by SNP council leader Cllr Ellen Forson, who thanked colleagues for their hard work so far.

She then vowed: “We will deliver change and a more sustainable future.”

The commission’s findings added: “The budget [for 2019-20] includes further recurring savings of £4.8 million and the council will use one-off savings and a contribution from its capital receipts reserve.

“The council knows this approach is not sustainable and accepts that the £10.1 million funding gap for 2020/21 is very challenging.”

Following the meeting, the council’s chief executive Nikki Bridle explained the report was “largely positive”.

She said: “Like all local authorities, we face significant financial challenges, but we are on a journey of continuous improvement, with clear plans in place to address the areas where improvements are needed.”

The chief thanked colleagues and elected members for their commitment to the council’s corporate plan.

And added: “This plan supports our vision for being a valued, responsive, creative organisation, through collaboration, inclusive growth and innovation, to improve the quality of life for every person in Clackmannanshire.”