Councils in Scotland need to improve the way they manage major projects including road schemes, schools, housing and flood protection, according to auditors.
A report from the Accounts Commission found ‘weaknesses in capital investment planning’ and suggested local authorities need to improve their long-term capital investment strategies and plans.
The Edinburgh tram scheme went over budget and behind schedule
This is despite councils spending £7bn on capital investment over the last three years - more than half of Scottish public sector capital expenditure.
In particular more work is needed to clarify how capital investment contributes to wider strategic objectives and benefits and why and how projects are prioritised, accountants said.
Although the auditors did accept that improvements had been made in local authority structures and processes to help them manage capital investment activity more effectively, since a 2013 report from the Accounts Commission.
Accounts Commission chair Douglas Sinclair said: ‘Councils spend a great deal of money on capital projects such as schools and roads, which are vital for local services.
‘Our 2013 report recommended actions to help councils improve performance. They have made some progress since then but they need to do further work to fully comply with good practice. In particular, they should provide councillors with better information through clear, good quality reports to enable them to effectively challenge and scrutinise capital investment decisions, plans and progress.’
Councils were also reminded to review business cases as projects progress and evaluate them after completion so that good practice can be shared across the sector.
Between April 2012 and October 2015 councils completed 149 projects and as at October 2015 they had 245 projects worth around £6 billion underway. More than 40% of these are school projects, which continue to perform better to cost and time targets.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has been approached for a response.