22nd Sep, 2020

Local Government 'peers' give Bromsgrove District Council the thumbs up

BROMSGROVE District Council has been given the thumbs up by its ‘critical friends’ after voluteering to take part in the Local Government Association’s Peer Challenge to see how it was doing.

The study looked at the authority’s leadership, governance, corporate capacity and financial resilience as well as local specific issues.

Cross-party members, partners, staff and the Chief Executive were interviewed by the peers to give them insight into the council’s successes and areas for improvements

The first visit was in 2018 when a report of recommendations were presented and in February a follow-up visit brought this latest report.

Peers noted the council’s improvements since their initial visits and on the subject of financial planning and viability, with new systems in place the peers said they were confident that, once embedded, Bromsgrove’s plan will promote a ‘strengthened culture of financial accountability’.

Improved monitoring of outcomes and a bottom-up approach to the council’s ‘ambitious change programmes’ is also being put in place and was recognised.

Bromsgrove District Council leader Coun Karen May welcomed the findings, adding the authority’s critical friends were needed to encourage periods of pausing and reflecting on how far it had come and where it was going.

“I am particularly pleased to note the peer review team noted the improvements in the chamber where the conduct of political debate has positively changed and we will continue to build on these improvements so we don’t slip back in to the ‘historic legacy of negative political debate in public’.”

The report was delayed because of the pandemic and further improvements implemented have not yet been taken into account.

“For me, the Coronavirus pandemic demonstrated this council’s resilience, flexibility and courage to make quick decisions when we have to.”

The council’s work with the Bromsgrove Community Support Group at the height of the pandemic was highlighted.

Coun May added The report called for better two-way internal communications which the council has already stepped up to with the enforced working from home, post lock-down.

Regular benchmarking of the council’s change agenda is also recommended and the report recognises future challenges including delivering on the vision for an economically vibrant and sustainable district within the constraints of its green belt.

Chief Executive Kevin Dicks said: “This council was one of the first authorities in the country to embark on an extensive programme of shared services ten years ago and a decade later we are still pushing the boundaries of changes as we respond to the financial challenges which local government faces.

“Inviting the peers to visit us, to ask for their advice and feedback and in doing so hearing what our partners, members and staff think too, is invaluable to ensuring we move in the right direction.

“We have responded to the recommendations within the organisation and taking the time to stop and learn from our endeavours has seen us come up with other initiatives which enable us to embed improvement across the council from the bottom, up.

“We still have a lot of work to do but will continue invigorated and as always, with our customers at the heart of everything we do.”

A copy of the report is available at bromsgrove.gov.uk/peerfeedback

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