“WE’RE now looking to be the best council in Scotland”.

That’s according to North Ayrshire Council Leader Willie Gibson after the presentation of the council’s year-end performance reports for 2014/15.

The reports were presented to the NAC Cabinet last Tuesday (June 23) and revealed some of the strengths and weaknesses of each department.

Every department’s performance was self-assessed and provide’s each section’s take on its overall performance, capacity for improvement, financial performance and progress against each of its ‘priorities’.

Democratic Services’ overall performance and capacity for improvement was rated as ‘Very Good’.

Strengths over the past year included being awarded the Healthy Working Lives Gold accreditation, developing a Local Government Benchmarking Framework and handling an ‘unprecedented’ four elections over 12 months.

But NAC Chief Executive Elma Murray, presenting the report, admitted that refreshing the department’s approach to equalities and undertaking prepatory work to pave the way for an Electronic Records Management System were both priorities for improvement.

Health and Social Care, Place, along with Finance and Corporate Support also assessed a ‘Very Good’ rating for both performance and improvements.

Continued focus on protecting vulnerable adults and children, strong partnerships with other bodies and an award for Kilwinning’s Dirrans Centre were all marked as major strengths for Health and Social Care.

Improvements to be made include addressing sickness absence rate and managing its budget in the face of rising demand for services.

The Cabinet also heard how Finance and Corporate Support have pledged to improve on increasing the number of customers “delighted” with services and developing its digital approach.

Director of Finance Laura Friel, presenting the report, insisted that modernising the ICT infrastructure, supporting the most vulnerable residents through Welfare Reform and leading a “culture change” in the council were all major strengths for 2014/15.

A number of strengths were highlighted by Director of Place Craig Hatton in his report. He insisted that a number of Place services such as housing and waste management are among the “very best” in Scotland. Mr Hatton added that his department had made significant progress on the implementation of renewable energy.

He also stated that reducing customer complaints, improving satisfaction with the roads department and reducing cost while improving satisfaction levels were all areas for improvement.

Both Education and Skills and Economy and Communities assessed a ‘Good’ overall performance and ‘Very Good’ capacity for improvement.

Director of Education John Butcher told the meeting how his department is “going in the right direction” and hopes it will “continue to improve”.

Major strengths in education included progress in school leaver destinations after 94.1 per cent of North Ayrshire leavers progressed to an initial positive destination in 2013-14.

This was the fifth best performance in Scotland compared with other local authorities.

Areas for improvement include broadening and extending the department’s approach to self-evaluation and the provision of additional support to all education establishments.

Economy and Communities highlighted the significant reduction in unemployment, the creation of 962 jobs under Economic Development and engaging young voters to boost the turnout for the Scottish Youth Parliament elections amongst its major strengths.

Areas for improvement for the next year include increasing the volume and range of services delivered online along with consulting on the review of library opening hours.

NAC Leader Willie Gibson was delighted with the reports from the departments.

He said at the meeting: “I think we could have had a separate meeting just for this.

“I would like to compliment and thank everyone for all their hard work.

“I would class us clearly as the most improved council in Scotland and we’re now looking to be the best council in Scotland. I say that with all humility.”