THE Peer Review team highlighted a number of key findings. The key messages read:
● This is a council that has had an impressive track record and positive reputation;
● The effective running of the council and its reputation are currently being badly damaged;
● The leadership and governance of the council is central to this - at a time when they need to be stronger than ever;
● As a consequence the council is running a significant set of risks;
● The council is currently at a cross-roads, ensuring it goes down the right path requires immediate action and demonstration of intent;
● As a first step we would encourage the council to share our findings as quickly and as widely as possible;
● As a second step we strongly urge the council to run an external competitive recruitment process for the position of permanent chief executive.
Areas of concern included the reputation of the council in the eyes of local people has been damaged, there are major anxieties about the senior management capacity to deliver the very demanding agenda facing the council.
There was also a concern about the governance and political leadership of the council, the conduct of some members and that the voluntary and community sector feel there has been a “significant deterioration” in their relationship with the council over the past two years.
Anxieties were also expressed to the review team about the “effectiveness and transparency” of the commissioning and grant-funding arrangements for the voluntary and community sector - which generates a “specific risk given the strong links between some elected members and this sector”.
As well as the areas of concern, the Peer Review also highlighted a number of strengths. It found the council, with partners, has a good range of mechanisms in place for engaging and informing local people and neighbourhood working is operating well.
It also concluded that the council has traditionally performed well and delivered good quality services and major regeneration has been successfully delivered, while the council has a tradition of delivering within budget and has delivered savings required and there is an “impressive” officer commitment and “can do” attitude.