Royal Borough moving ahead with key recommendations from independent review

Corporate Peer Challenge

The Royal Borough is moving ahead with key recommendations for further improvement arising from a recent independent review, which overall found the council had made “good progress” where needed over recent years, with a clear direction to strengthen further.

In January 2022, the Royal Borough welcomed an external Challenge Team drawn from other councils to look at the five core areas of: local priorities and outcomes, organisational and place leadership, governance and culture, financial planning and management, and capacity for improvement. The process included interviews with councillors, staff, residents and external partners.

Despite the challenges of Covid, the review’s initial feedback, shared in February, was the Royal Borough had made “good progress” where needed since its previous review in 2017 and was already well aware of further work required, thanks to a positive shift in strategic leadership and the culture of the organisation.   

Councils have a Corporate Peer Challenge on a regular basis, organised free-of-charge via the Local Government Association, to provide a practitioner perspective and “critical friend” feedback of their progress in order to support ongoing improvement across the sector. 

With officers having since received the Challenge Team’s full report, Cabinet met yesterday to consider and accept the review’s key recommendations, recognising work on some is already well underway. They also asked officers to prepare an action plan for consideration by Cabinet in May 2022, responding in detail to the feedback and setting out how recommendations will be taken forward. 

Key recommendations include:
•    Prioritise embedding the Corporate Plan across the council and the establishment of a new performance framework
•    Refresh the Medium Term Financial Strategy with stronger links to the savings made by the Transformation Strategy
•    Establish a member development programme, including a new induction package for May 2023
•    Review the current model of scrutiny committees.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, the council leader, said: “This has been valuable independent validation of how far we’ve come as a council, highlighting good progress and positive change made in recent years, as well as our own clear awareness and sense of direction for where further improvements are needed.

“There’s still more to do but we are on a much stronger footing. I’m pleased we’re well underway with implementing some of the actions highlighted as recommendations, such as embedding the Corporate Plan. I would like to again pay tribute to Duncan and the whole staff team for their hard work and commitment to deliver well for our communities.”

Duncan Sharkey, the chief executive, added: “The Corporate Peer Challenge is intended to be a constructive process. It is pleasing to see this review commenting that we’ve focussed on the right areas for improvement. We’re implementing the recommendations, in that same spirit, to strengthen the council further.

“On our journey, we’ve prioritised investing in the strong foundations required, both in culture and strategic leadership. The fact we’re already ahead on some of the key recommendations is endorsement of our clear sense of direction, stability and capacity – that we’re on the right track with some momentum behind it.

“Thank you again to the Challenge Team, the LGA and all those who participated in this process. I look forward to welcoming the LGA back in the autumn to assess our progress on delivering on the recommendations.”