A PUBLIC spending watchdog has warned that “strained relationships” between bickering councillors is harming the work of a city authority and adding to financial woes.

An audit report by the Accounts Commission has also criticised Edinburgh City Council for failing to draw up a long-term financial plan.

The report has pointed to political rows causing harm to the authority’s decision-making and costing more public funding.

The authority is run by an SNP-Labour minority coalition – but since the 2017 council election, the SNP has seen four of its councillors quit the party, three after fallouts with colleagues and one amid allegations of misconduct.

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The Accounts Commission has warned that the political make-up of the council “contributes to strained relationships”, while adding that “decision-making can be difficult and resource intensive”.

It added: “There are tensions between elected members, which manifest in inappropriate language and tone being used in council debate, in the lack of involvement of some members in decision-making, and in media reports on member disagreements.

“While political debate is a normal part of council business, operating within this environment is challenging for members and officers. Although council business proceeds, it is more difficult to make decisions.

“The minority administration must work with other political parties to gain support on each individual policy or issue. This means that officers often spend a lot of time preparing tailored briefings for different political groups, to help elected members reach agreement.”

But the Accounts Commission stressed that the city council “has been able to make important decisions despite its difficult political environment”.

Officials have also been told they must draw up “a longer-term financial plan” in order to “address its significant revenue budget challenges”.

The Accounts Commission has also pointed to the lack of a “well-developed workforce plan”, warning “this makes it difficult for the council to identify whether it has the correct workforce skills, numbers or structure to effectively deliver its services”.

Elma Murray, interim chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “The City of Edinburgh Council can do more to maximise its potential to improve the city and the lives of local people. Whilst the ambition of the council and its partners is impressive, the detail of how it will deliver, monitor and report on its key strategic goals must be in one accessible and coherent plan.

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“It is the responsibility of all local councillors, working together, to ensure the city and its services continue to improve.

“It is important for the council to focus on continuous improvement and the creation of long-term financial and workforce plans. I expect the council to act swiftly on our report. Doing so will support the council’s ambitions to improve the lives of its residents.”

But the council has pointed to the report highlighting that many services have improved, “its finances have been well-managed" while “ambitious strategies to improve the lives of local people and the economy have been agreed."

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Council leader Adam McVey said: “We welcome the Accounts Commission's constructive feedback in response to the best value assurance report carried out by the controller of audit and we are pleased to note their positive comments about the levels of ambition we have shown in addressing our key priorities of poverty, sustainability and wellbeing.

“The controller of audit acknowledged the improving picture of our core services, while our bold strategies to put people at the heart of how we design public space, our proven ability to take difficult decisions like taking trams to Newhaven, and extensive consultations with residents and stakeholders to put communities at the heart of our decision-making are all cited as strengths.

“Of course, we’re always striving to improve wherever we can so that we deliver the best possible services and achieve what we've set out to achieve on behalf of the people of Edinburgh. We are now carefully reviewing the full report and will work hard to address areas in need of our attention going forward.”