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Report says council is 'high achieving' but must strengthen scrutiny process

A Local Government Association (LGA) peer review report about the Royal Borough has been published today (Wednesday).

The council was described as ‘ambitious’ and ‘high achieving’ but recommendations included undertaking a full constitutional review and strengthening the scrutiny process.

The review team, which is made up of councillors and senior officers from other local authorities, visited the council from Monday, September 18, to Thursday, September 21.

The report states many external partners were positive about engaging with the new leadership since Cllr Simon Dudley became leader in May 2016 and the council’s ambitions around growth but the view was not universally shared which was having negative implications for the council’s governance and reputation.

The council was described as ‘ahead of its time’ in developing new ways of delivering services but was given three key recommendations; ‘pause, embed and explain’, and 26 specific recommendations.

It states: “The organisation, its partners and the residents of the Royal Borough need to better understand the changes that are taking place - and why. The new operating model is not widely understood by staff and the residents that we spoke to.”

It added the council needs to establish clear lines of accountability for council service areas.

The LGA said that the Conservative majority, and the cabinet and principal member system had resulted in ‘certain councillors who sit on the executive also sitting on scrutiny committees. This causes the lines between the executive and scrutiny to be blurred when scrutiny members are unsure as to whether a colleague on the panel is acting in their scrutineer or wider deputy/principal capacity’.

Another specific recommendation was investing more time in understanding what residents value and engaging positively with them and community groups.

The report also noted that it was ‘unusually’ directly contacted by residents, resident groups and parish councils and the team were made aware of ‘some of the views’ held by the organisations but these are not reflected into the report or input to the formal peer challenge process.  

Speaking about the report, Cllr Dudley (Con, Riverside) said: “We would like to thank the team who carried out the peer review for the work they did.

“As identified in the report, we will now embed some of the significant transformation work we have delivered while continuing to deliver the best services to our residents.”

He also thanked council staff and those who were invited to take part in review.

Click here to read the review in full.

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