Supporting Scotland’s economic growth – new audit invites businesses to share views

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I’ve recently starting working on an audit with a few colleagues in Audit Scotland looking at the roles and impact of Scotland’s economic development agencies, Scottish Enterprise (SE) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

These agencies have a specific remit to generate economic growth across Scotland. They spend around £380 million a year supporting Scotland’s businesses and industry sectors. Our work will provide an independent assessment of what this money is spent on, and what it achieves. You can find out more about how we’re carrying out this work in our project flyer.

Since beginning the audit we have spoken to a few businesses and business representative groups who’ve received some form of support from the agencies. This has helped us gather insight into how SE and HIE operate and support economic growth in Scotland.

That work is ongoing, and we’re now inviting businesses to get in touch to share views and experiences with us.

We’d welcome responses from businesses who’ve received any form of support from SE and HIE. We’d like to hear from you on what went well, what could have gone better, and what benefits you and your business gained from the experience.

We also want to hear from you if your business was unable to access support from SE or HIE. What were the reasons for this, and were these reasons clearly explained to you?

We won’t publish individual responses, but will use the information we receive to help build a fuller picture of how economic development is progressing in Scotland, and to help compile our findings.

Our report, which we plan to publish in summer 2016, will highlight good practice and make relevant recommendations to help improve public sector economic development activity.

If you’d like to participate or have any queries, please get in touch by 5pm on Friday, December 11th 2015 by emailing me at gdiamond@audit-scotland.gov.uk or by telephoning 0131 625 1820. You can also write to the audit team at 102 West Port, Edinburgh, EH3 9DN.

About the author

gdiamondGemma Diamond, senior manager, has worked on a wide range of audits across the public sector since joining Audit Scotland in 2010. She currently leads Audit Scotland’s economic development portfolio.

Supporting administrative justice in Scotland’s councils

For the past year, I’ve been helping the Scottish Tribunals and Administrative Justice Advisory Committee (STAJAC) produce a report looking at administrative justice in councils.

What’s that about, you may ask? It might sound a bit like a plot from Yes Minister (no, that was the Department of Administrative Affairs) but in fact, it’s more important (and complex) than you might think. It’s about the part of the justice system concerned with decision-making by public bodies that affect your rights and interests.

In Scotland, councils make most administrative justice decisions, examples include school placement requests, planning permission, parking and bus lane enforcement and over 40 kinds of licencing from alcohol and gambling to pedicabs and rickshaws.

For the complete unexpurgated list, you can view the newly launched report Making decisions fairly – Developing excellence in administrative justice in Scottish councils. The project looked at a representative selection of local authority decision-making areas to model the user journey through these administrative justice processes. It provides a whole system view of the decision making areas, including the appeal or review processes and attaches indicative costs to each part of the process.

The report – one of two launched this week by STAJAC to showcase the administrative justice landscape in Scotland – also aims to raise awareness of the importance of sound and transparent administrative justice decision making, in particular by local authorities.

Having effective decision-making, complaints, and appeals processes is also important for councils’ reputations and can help them improve services and, most importantly, people’s experience of those services. We also found that empowering frontline staff to vary decisions or find alternative solutions for service users could reduce appeals and complaints and achieve moderate savings.

Administrative justice is also a crucially important for how we in Audit Scotland carry out our work, as looking at services from the viewpoint of the user provides us with a fresh and valuable perspective. For example, a service user trying to negotiate through paperwork and online forms to gain access to services or get permissions and licences will have had a unique experience of the decision making processes within a council.

As part of our forthcoming audit on social work services in Scotland, we’ll be looking at the views of service users and carers on the support they receive from councils and others.

About the author

MM6A5530John Lincoln is an audit manager within Audit Scotland’s Performance Audit and Best Value team. His next project will be leading on an audit of social work services in Scotland, which is expected to report in Summer 2016.