Welcome Feedback From Critical Friends
Published date: 03 August 2020
Published date: 03 August 2020
Bromsgrove leaders have welcomed feedback from a group of peers from across the country who visited the authority as ‘critical friends’.
The Council volunteered to take part in a ‘Peer Challenge’ from the Local Government Association which is improvement focussed and looks at the Council’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 ensued out of which this latest report was presented.
Peers noted the Council’s improvements since their initial visits and on the subject of financial planning and viability, with the Council’s new systems in place the peers are confident that, once embedded that this 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 Karen May, said: “I welcome this report because we need our critical friends, in this fast-paced world, to encourage us to pause and reflect, to look at how far we have come and to consider where we are going. I am particularly pleased to note that 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.”
“This feedback report was delayed because of the pandemic so a lot of our improvements which we have made, in the last few months, could not be noted but for me, the Coronavirus pandemic demonstrated this Council’s resilience, flexibility and courage to make quick decisions when we have to.
“I am really pleased that our efforts to improve and take on what the peers told us, last year, have been recognised in this report and I look forward to working with all my colleagues in the Chamber to move further along our journey of improvement.”
The Council’s work with the Support Bromsgrove community group at the height of the pandemic was highlighted. 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.
Following the initial review 2 years ago, the feedback noted that “There is now a stronger sense of a single workforce serving two councils at the senior officer level.” And noted that “The councils now need to work to embed culture change from the bottom up to ensure all parts of the councils are engaged in moving towards a more dynamic and financially accountable culture”
Regular benchmarking of the Council’s change agenda is also recommended and the feedback report recognises future challenges including the Council is seeking to deliver on its 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