About Us

The Improvement Service (IS) is the 'go-to' organisation for local government improvement in Scotland.

The IS was established in 2005 as the national improvement organisation for Local Government in Scotland. We were set up to deliver improvement support that would help councils to provide effective community leadership, strong local governance and deliver high quality, efficient local services.

Our purpose is to:

  • Provide leadership to Local Government and the wider system on improvement and transformation
  • Develop capability and capacity for improvement within Local Government
  • Deliver national improvement programmes for Local Government and partners and support councils to improve at a local level
  • Provide research, data and intelligence to inform Local Government’s policy-making and decision-making and to drive improvement
  • Deliver national shared service applications and technology platforms
  • Broker additional resources from outwith the sector to support the delivery of Local Government’s priorities.

We do this by providing a range of transformational change, performance and improvement support, data and intelligence services and digital public services.

We ensure that all the work we deliver is firmly focused on achieving our vision and purpose, and on adding value for local authorities, for the Local Government family and for our broader group of diverse stakeholders.

Strategic Framework

In November 2020, we published our strategic framework and development priorities for 2020-2022. The framework outlines the challenges and drivers of change that we believe local government and local services will face over the two-year period and sets out the support that the IS and other partners want to provide to help councils and Community Planning Partnerships deal with them.

From 2020-2022, our priorities are:

  • We will support Local Government to live with Covid-19.
  • We will support Local Government to rebuild post-Covid-19.
  • We will support Local Government’s contribution to the delivery of Scotland’s National Performance Framework. We will work with councils and other partners to:
    • build long-term sustainable economic recovery and employability which has wellbeing at its core
    • improve practice around climate change and environmental sustainability
    • address socio-economic disadvantage, strengthen community resilience and protect vulnerable groups
    • build better life chances for all children and young people.
    • deliver effective Early Learning and Childcare Expansion.
    • improve the delivery of health and social care services
    • adopt an evidence-based approach towards delivering improvement and reducing inequalities across the social determinants of public health.
  • We will support Local Government, working with their communities and partners, to deliver place-based approaches.

Download a copy of our Strategic Framework

Business Plan

The Strategic Framework provides the foundations on which our annual Business Plan, programme plans and resource plans are developed. Our annual plans are continually evolving to ensure we are best placed to respond to current and emerging pressures and to ensure that resources are targeted in the areas that matter most to councils and partners.

Download the 2021-22 Business Plan

Business Development and Growth

Our Board approved our new Business Development and Growth Strategy in September 2020. This sets out how we will build on our success to date and continue to grow our business, building on our reputation as a responsive, trusted and agile organisation which can quickly organise and deliver programmes of work, products and services that benefit local government.

Our prospectuses provide details of the products and services available to councils and partner organisations.

Download the Prospectus for Scottish Councils

Download the Prospectus for Local Government Partners

Annual Stakeholder Survey

The IS carries out an annual stakeholder survey to assess and report the extent to which councils and partnerships find our support valuable.

The survey report presents the overall results of our latest survey, results by product/service and makes comparisons with last year’s results. It explains our approach to continuous improvement and provides an overview of key improvement activity and actions.

Each team has its own approach to improvement and improvement action plan, therefore individual stakeholder groups will be updated further over the coming months.

How we are funded

Our detailed spending plans are fully integrated and aligned to our business plan for the coming year. In 2020-21 we received £1.656m Revenue Support Grant to fund our core programmes and £3.66m to deliver our digital public services. We also secured a number of specific grants.

We also generate additional funding and resourcing.

Our 2020-21 financial statements are now available: Download the 2020-21 statutory financial statements

How we are governed

The Improvement Service is a company limited by guarantee, with 34 members – COSLA, Solace and Scotland’s 32 local authorities. It is governed by a Board of Directors which meets quarterly and this is chaired by Councillor Alison Evison, President of COSLA. Current board members are:

  • Councillor Alison Evison, President, COSLA
  • Sarah Gadsden, Chief Executive, Improvement Service
  • Councillor Malcolm Bell, Shetland Islands Council
  • Councillor Neil Benny, Stirling Council
  • Steve Grimmond, Chief Executive, Fife Council
  • Councillor Graham Houston, Stirling Council
  • Maggie Sandison, Chief Executive, Shetland Islands Council
  • Angela Scott, Chief Executive, Aberdeen City Council
  • Lorraine McMillan, East Renfrewshire Council

Our approach to Net Zero

Climate change is the most significant challenge facing Local Government and has an impact on every community and local authority service area. Our Strategic Framework identifies climate change as a key driver and our Business Plan commits us to providing practical improvement support to councils, embedding this agenda across all our programmes.

Our Net Zero Statement develops this commitment to give direction and focus to our activity through three guiding principles:

  1. Work to become a Net Zero organisation and identify ways to have a further positive impact on people and planet.
  2. Work with the Local Government community to embed and accelerate climate change action through tailored, relevant and practical programmes of support which demonstrate the benefits for different outcomes and priorities.
  3. Develop our position as a national leader to promote and shape the role of Local Government in climate change transformation.

Read the full statement: Our Approach to Net Zero