Cheshire East Council and the Local Government Association have published the full report of the corporate peer challenge undertaken earlier this year.
The council invited the Local Government Association (LGA) to undertake the challenge session as part of the council’s commitment to continuous improvement and the LGA’s offer to support sector-led improvement.
This involves a small team of local government officers and councillors, from other organisations, spending time at the council to provide challenge and share learning.
The report, discussed at a meeting of cabinet on 9 June 2020 and approved for wider publication, sets out what the council is doing well, key suggestions and observations about how the council works. The report states:
- The council has made good progress over the past few years;
- The council delivers a number of high-quality services to the residents of the borough, which it should be proud of; and
- The culture change programme has made a profound difference to the way the organisation functions and to the experience of staff.
It goes on to make a number of key recommendations covering strategy and finance, governance, partnership working and culture. It also states that the peer team recognised ‘the progress that has been made by the council in addressing historic issues and improving the culture of the organisation. The team were also impressed that whilst these improvements were delivered, the council had continued to deliver effective services…’
Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of the council, said: “I would like to thank the team from the LGA for supporting us with this challenge process. It was a very positive experience and the findings will be really valuable in our planning for the future.
“I am particularly pleased the peer group have recognised the remarkable progress made in improving the workplace culture here at Cheshire East Council. This work has been driven by both officers and members and we will continue to prioritise this. The peers also acknowledged the positive and inclusive approach taken by the joint administration.
“We also understand and recognise the financial challenge identified by the peers. We must work hard to ensure that we continue to have a sustainable budget with adequate financial reserves.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the value of local government but it is also bringing significant additional pressures and appropriate funding has never been more important.”
Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of the council said: “We know that Cheshire East has an enviable economy, with enviable potential for further sustainable growth. The peers recognised the importance of the council’s partnerships in delivering our ambitions for inclusive growth and have suggested that we can do even more to engage partners around our shared ambitions.
“They also made helpful observations and recommendations regarding the implementation of the committee system for Cheshire East Council. We can use these insights to help us to deliver a new inclusive model that will enable effective decision making.”
Councillor Jill Rhodes, Cheshire East cabinet member for corporate services, said: “I am pleased that the peers recognised the improvements in workplace culture.
“Through the challenge session, the peers heard about the positive working relationships between councillors and officers across the organisation. We would not have seen these improvements without the committed efforts of councillors, managers and staff, working together.”
The peer team met with councillors, managers, members of staff and the council’s partners – a total of 180 people. They focussed on the following areas:
- How the council sets and delivers its priorities;
- The council’s understanding of Cheshire East – its residents and communities and as a place;
- The council’s leadership role;
- How the organisation is led and managed; and
- The council’s management of finances and resources.
The team also looked at the council’s organisational culture and plans for transformation. The full report of the LGA’s corporate peer challenge can be found on the council’s website via the cabinet agenda – item 8.
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