Bosses at Aberdeenshire Council have been told they must place more focus on the region’s most deprived communities.
Audit Scotland’s accounts commission has published its Best Value report following an inspection of the local authority’s services, which it carried out earlier this year.
It found most of the council’s services were delivered to a good standard but said it needed to be clearer in its aims.
The report also found while many of Aberdeenshire’s more affluent areas are “thriving”, more focus needed to be given to those areas which are less well-off – particularly in the north.
And local authority chiefs should also put plans in place to combat the ageing workforce and a shortage of staff in areas such as teaching and social care.
Tim McKay, the accounts commission’s interim deputy chair, said: “The council needs to be thinking about the differences between areas with varying levels of deprivation.
“One of the things they should be doing is producing local outcome improvement plans (LOIPs) for the most deprived areas. They have got them for some parts but for some reason, there is not one for Banff at the moment.
“That would help the council set targets for improving outcomes for people living in the area.
“The council needs to make sure its services work as well in the most deprived areas as they do in the most affluent.”
Mr McKay added the council should make clearer what it aims to achieve.
He said: “Aberdeenshire Council’s services are mainly performing well, and residents are largely satisfied.
“The council has strong foundations and with increased focus can build better performance.
“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.
“It needs to be much clearer in its purpose, direction and pace in order to improve services and the lives of all local people.”
Since the inspection earlier this year, the council has already agreed a fresh set of priorities and is working to implement the commission’s other recommendations.
Leader Jim Gifford said: “We welcome the recommendations and observations in the report.
“It was a comprehensive audit process which has teased out some of the steps we need to take as an organisation to keep moving forward at pace.
“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.
“Satisfaction across Aberdeenshire with the work of the council remains high and we can consistently demonstrate the value of our roles in the lives of our community.
“Even before the audit process began we had acknowledged some of the issued highlighted here and had started to take steps towards fixing them. We will continue to work hard to deliver on improvements across the board.”