Assessment report for 2021 by the Audit Committee of the City of Espoo

4.5.2022 10.00

The coronavirus has hindered residents’ access to services, which has increased the health care, education and welfare backlogs. link) (in Finnish and Swedish)

The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for the city’s sectors, public utilities and group entities to achieve their performance targets. The Audit Committee estimates that approximately half of the performance targets set for 2021 were achieved.

The city’s operational economy was better than expected thanks to the development of tax revenue, the implementation of the Economically Sustainable Espoo productivity and adjustment programme, and the growth in the book yields from funds, helping Espoo adapt to the constant changes in the operating environment. The coronavirus compensation paid by the state in 2020 and 2021 and the temporary increase in the municipalities’ share of corporation tax revenue were one-off support measures to tackle the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The city must continue implementing and boosting its balancing and productivity measures to ensure a sustainable balance in terms of the city corporate group’s economy while safeguarding basic services for the residents.

At the end of 2021, the unemployment rate in Espoo was considerably higher than it was before the coronavirus pandemic. The unemployed accounted for 9.4 per cent of the labour force. The number of long-term unemployed people continued to grow. The operating expenses related to employment services totalled approximately EUR 43 million, of which the share of municipal funding of labour market subsidies (EUR 30.3 million) was unreasonably large. The local government pilot on employment launched in March 2021 is aimed at bringing employment and educational services as well as health and social services closer together. Another aim is to reduce the share of municipal funding of labour market subsidies.

According to the School Health Promotion Study 2021, young people struggle with mental health issues, particularly in secondary and upper secondary schools. During the coronavirus pandemic, the need for mental health services has increased among children and young people. At the same time, the city’s services have had severe staff shortages. For example, the Child Psychiatric Unit was not able to take new clients due to a staff shortage in late 2021. In order to ensure talent attraction and retention at the city’s workplaces, the sectors must make systematic efforts to take care of their staff’s wellbeing, especially in exceptional and changing situations.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and staff shortages, waiting times have increased at health centres and dental clinics. Good practices in health centre services should be implemented throughout the city; one example being the good work carried out at the Kilo Health Centre. The city must secure people’s access to treatment and reduce patient waiting times before the services are transferred to the wellbeing services county.

The joint assessment carried out by the audit committees of the capital region cities and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) focused on elderly patients visiting the emergency department. A good example of related activities is the Espoo mobile hospital, LiiSa, which provides on-call services to long-term care units and home care clients around the clock. The LiiSa service has been very useful and has reduced the number of emergency department visits among long-term care clients. Unnecessarily long hospital stays have been reduced through the introduction of discharge teams. In order to meet growing service needs, the city must focus on developing cooperation regarding the discharge process for elderly patients, in particular.

Espoo’s quantitative planning targets have been achieved, which has enabled the achievement of housing production targets. In a growing and densifying city, it is important to find a balance between the city’s obligations and providing pleasant residential areas. Residents must be able to have their say on the preparation of plans at an early stage.

The main challenges facing Espoo over the next few years include managing the rapid growth of the city, responding to constant changes in the economy and operating environment, tackling the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and adapting to the decrease in tax funding as a result of the health and social services reform. The city must continue to lobby the state to change the financing model of the health and social services reform, which is set to have an unreasonable impact on Espoo.

The assessment of the Audit Committee is based on an assessment plan that covers the City Council term as well as an annual assessment programme. The assessment report was submitted to the Chair of the City Council on 4 May 2022. For further information, please contact Paula Viljakainen, Chair of the Audit Committee, tel. 050 5727 497.