Peer challenge praises council’s services to communities


Strong ambition to provide the best services to communities, maximising use of council assets and developing a joined-up vision are among findings in a Local Government Association (LGA) corporate peer challenge review the council commissioned this year.

The LGA peer challenge process, which is voluntary and improvement focused, designed to meet individual council needs, took place over four days in October 2023, and the final report from the challenge received this week has been published by the council.
The challenge involved six officers and councillors from other councils and LGA advisers talking to staff, councillors, and external partner organisations about how the council works and performs.

The report highlights positive findings and offers recommendations on how the council can move forward. An action plan is now being finalised by the council to help it capture these recommendations and help shape the future of the local authority.

The Peer Challenge team’s feedback is that staff are committed to delivering high quality services, with the council having a good understanding of the challenges it faces and a clear plan of action to address them and make the council fit for the future.

The team recognised that “effective collaboration and partnership working is a strength” and ‘BDC plays an active leadership role both locally and regionally”.
“A strong track record of strategic investment in commercial assets to generate income streams” was also recognised as were the savings made to secure a stable financial position for 2023/24.

The report has several key recommendations. These include establishing the council’s new corporate priorities and clearly developing and communicating the council’s vision. It should maximise the use of council’s assets to be clear on their purpose and develop a well-resourced transformation programme.

Councillor Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, said: “It’s so important to seek independent external challenge as this helps us to clarify what we are doing right, what we need to change and what we should focus our attention on.

“It is reassuring that the Peer Team found so many positive attributes, given the challenges we face along with other local authorities. We are a viable council and we have progressive partnerships – these are things to celebrate. Our strengths are down to the hard work of our staff, members and partners and I thank them for their commitment.

“Now the work must begin on building on what we have already achieved and driving forward sustained improvement, so Braintree District Council can continue to offer value for money services which matter the most to our residents. I am committed to prioritising our action to address improvements within the council and work with our stakeholders to create a clear, joined up plan for the whole of the district to help us achieve our ambitions.”

Dan Gascoyne, Chief Executive of Braintree District Council, said: “I’d like to thank all the members of the Peer Team for coming to Braintree; it was a very positive experience. I am pleased that they recognised our achievements, the strength of our relationships with key partners and the work we have been doing on strategic investment. Their report outlined many of our successes and highlights the importance of continuing to improve the way we work so that we are fit for the future.

“The Action Plan will ensure that we are well equipped to keep delivering fantastic outcomes for our residents and businesses with a clear sense of direction.”

The final report will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting on Monday, 18 December, with a view to agree the action plan in February 2024.

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