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Aberdeenshire Council 'needs to focus more on deprived areas'

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image copyrightAberdeenshire Council
image captionThe council was praised in several areas

Aberdeenshire Council must focus more on helping areas with higher deprivation, especially amid the Covid pandemic, a watchdog has said.

A report from the Accounts Commission said while many areas were thriving, the council needed to concentrate on less affluent neighbourhoods.

The authority is also facing challenges posed by an ageing workforce, the report said.

The council said it would "continue to work hard to deliver improvements".

The Accounts Commission praised Aberdeenshire Council for the way its councillors work together, the management of finances, and delivering many services to a good standard.

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However, it said the local authority must address a gap in educational attainment between poorer areas and others.

The report said: "We urge the council to maintain its focus on those communities whose existing vulnerability has been exacerbated further by the Covid-19 emergency, thus helping to support fairness and equality."

It also said the council must put in place a strategy to better manage its workforce, with a significant numbers of staff aged over 50.

'Recognise the strengths'

Tim McKay, the interim deputy chairman of the Accounts Commission, said: "Aberdeenshire Council's services are mainly performing well, and residents are largely satisfied.

"But there are underlying weaknesses that it must address - too many priorities, a need for greater clarity about how services are performing, and the absence of a robust workforce plan.

"The council must step up its efforts to ensure communities are empowered and to focus on areas with higher levels of poverty. It needs to be much clearer in its purpose, direction and pace in order to improve services and the lives of all local people."

image captionJim Gifford said staff had been working flat out

Aberdeenshire Council leader Jim Gifford said it was a "comprehensive audit process" which had "teased out some of the steps we need to take as an organisation to keep moving forward at pace".

He said: "Since the audit took place, our teams have been working flat out on the Covid-19 response, and it is my hope that council staff recognise the strengths of this report.

"Their work has helped save lives and keep Aberdeenshire moving, and they have our utmost respect."

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