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Royal Borough more 'positive and open' but improvements still to be made, report finds

Royal Borough more 'positive and open' but improvements still to be made, report finds

There is a ‘universal recognition’ that the council’s working culture is more ‘positive and open’ than two years ago, a report has said.

The Local Government Association (LGA) document, compiled on June 10 and 11 following a check-up that month, is a follow-up on a report the organisation made during 2017.

Then, the LGA said the council should review and update its constitution, that elected councillors should work with council officers in a ‘one-team’ approach and strengthen scrutiny, among other recommendations.

In June, the LGA sent a ‘peer-team’ made up of council officers from other authorities, an LGA manager and Cllr David Renard, the leader of Swindon Council.

The Royal Borough has undertaken ‘a significant programme of governance modernisation including adopting a revised constitution’, the report said, but its effect is too early to be commented on.

It praised the efforts of new managing director Duncan Sharkey.

The chief council officer, who was brought in during February to replace Alison Alexander, has ‘made a strong impression throughout the organisation’ and has ‘made it clear’ he will ensure councillors and officers work ‘collaboratively’.

It also found that fewer panels which scrutinise the council’s cabinet’s work are an opportunity to improve how they function.

“The reduction in the number of scrutiny panels presents potential for scrutiny to be a positive influence,” the peer team found.

But the report still found flaws in how the Royal Borough works.

“There are still too many instances of announcements being made publicly without having gone through the agreed internal procedures,” it stated, and also recommended the creation of a medium term financial plan as ‘current culture of financial management and budgetary control is not robust enough and needs greater resource and grip given the scale of risk the council is now exposed to’.

It adds that Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) speaks ‘compellingly about the regeneration of many areas of the borough’ but that is ‘often rooted in physical change meaning that the overall vision for people and place feels underdeveloped’.

“This could result in developments taking place that are disconnected from each other and from the council’s commissioned services,” the report stated.

“The council should articulate an overarching vision of what the borough will be like in the future, pulling together the physical regeneration and people-centred plans in a vision for the entire borough.”

The Royal Borough must ‘establish a clearer vision bringing together elements of people and place’, share that with partners, and ‘introduce consistently strategic oversight of services’ and should ‘build on the refreshed culture to move from a culture of finding efficiencies to one of change for transformation’.

Visit https://www3.rbwm.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/4513/lga_corporate_peer_review_revisit_june_2019.pdf to view the report.

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