The Director of Strategy, Engagement and
Growth introduced the report and stated that the Corporate Peer
Challenge had been undertaken in January 2022, which had been led
by the Local Government Association and officer/Member peers from
other local authorities. She stated that the LGA and peers had met
with staff Members and partners, and their report had been received
in Spring 2022. She explained that from this report an action plan
had been developed and published on the Council’s website in
June 2022. The Director of Strategy, Engagement and Growth
explained that government intervention had begun in September 2022
which saw work start to develop an Improvement and Recovery Plan,
and which could show similar themes from the Corporate Peer
Challenge actions. She felt that the Corporate Peer Challenge would
be subsumed by the Improvement and Recovery Plan, which would be
shared with Members in the New Year and taken to the appropriate
Full Council meeting. She stated that the process was iterative and
would also feed information in from the Best Value
The Chair highlighted that the report felt the Council took the lead on too many projects, and subsequently damaged its reputation with stakeholders. The Chair asked what had changed regarding this issue since the publication of the action plan. The Director of Strategy, Engagement and Growth explained that the Council had previously taken the lead on many projects with a range of partners, such as the Health and Wellbeing Strategy, the Economic Development Strategy implementation plan, and the Thames Freeport. She stated that the Council now had an opportunity to review and reprioritise major projects, and allow the voluntary and private sectors to take the lead when they were best placed to do so. Councillor Kent stated that Members had spoken to the LGA regarding the Corporate Peer Challenge in January 2022, and the report was only being presented to the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee one year later. He felt that the report was now out of date due to the Improvement and Recovery Plan, and asked why the report had not been presented to Members earlier, and sought assurance that the Improvement and Recovery Plan would be shared with Members. The Leader agreed with Councillor Kent that the report should have been shared with the Committee earlier. He felt that the Council needed to resolve the issues with finances, but also needed to undergo a cultural change and remove the culture of secrecy through leadership. The Chair agreed that the amount of time that had passed since the peer review had taken place devalued the report, and asked officers to ensure the Improvement and Recovery Plan was distributed to Members in a timely way. The Leader explained that the Improvement and Recovery Plan was an iterative process and would need to be agreed by the Secretary of State before being shared with Members.
RESOLVED: That the Committee:
1. Noted the outcomes of the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge in January 2022 and the actions as part of the wider response to the Best Value Inspection and intervention process.
2. Feedback on any specific areas which committee members feel should be focussed on in future iterations of the Improvement and Recovery Plan.
Councillor Duffin left the meeting at 7.51pm