Agenda item

Peer Challenge 2021

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive attached.


The Leader of the Council (Councillor Paul Foster) and the Shared Services Lead – Transformation and Partnerships presented a report on the recent Local Government Association (LGA) Peer Challenge and subsequent Action Plan.


The Peer Review had taken place virtually between 30 June and 2 July 2021 and was undertaken by a team of peers including elected members, a Chief Executive, and other Executive Directors from across England.


Members welcomed the outcome of the Peer Review but questioned what was meant by ‘embed’, which was used frequently in the report. In response, members were advised that this meant ensuring that every area of the authority worked in the same way.


A query was raised regarding how success of the Action Plan would be measured, and members were advised that this would be monitored and reported quarterly with performance updates provided to the Scrutiny Budget and Performance Panel, which the committee welcomed.


Discussion focused around shared services with Chorley Council and clarification was sought as to whether phases one and two of shared services had now been delivered. It was confirmed that phase two work on a shared revenues and benefits department and shared customer services was still ongoing and that formal discussions on further development were being held with members at Chorley Council.


Members referenced the “takeover” narrative within shared services which was discussed in the Peer Review report. Challenges in cultural change were acknowledged but assurances were provided that staff feedback is regularly surveyed.


In response, it was agreed that the results of the employee survey would be made available to the committee once available and that examples of best practice adopted across both South Ribble and Chorley Councils as a result of shared services be presented to a future Shared Services Joint Committee.


It was also suggested that recommendation 3, which related to a Programme Plan for the delivery of future work and political priorities, be strengthened to ensure capacity and delivery of corporate projects.


The budget gap within the Medium-Term Financial Strategy was raised and mentioned at recommendation 4 in the report and assurances were provided that the Council had several influences to aid in closing this gap, such as strategic reserves.


The committee also welcomed commitment to involving all members in the interim review of the My Neighbourhood Community Hubs and were pleased to hear that the LGA had commended the council on the work of the Hubs.


In response to a query regarding what was meant by ‘political engagement’ as mentioned in recommendation 4, challenges in cross-party working and relations and a need for all parties to work better together for the good of the community were acknowledged. The Leader explained that he felt positive about this going forwards.


Members referred to the possibility of a review of the council’s Scrutiny function, as mentioned in recommendation 8, and emphasised the annual self-assessment undertaken by the committee and its national commendation for best practice.


Clarification was provided that any review into the Scrutiny function would be undertaken by the committee and would assess best practice and effectiveness.


The committee thanked the Leader of the Council and the Shared Services Lead – Transformation and Partnerships for their attendance and report.


Resolved: (unanimously)


That the Scrutiny Committee:


1.    welcomes the report and the outcome of the Peer Review and looks forward to working together on delivering the action plan;


2.    is grateful for the commitment to develop clear measures and that progress monitoring reports would be presented to Cabinet and Scrutiny Committee;


3.    asks that recommendation 3 be strengthened to reflect that capacity requirements will be assessed and put in place to ensure delivery of the corporate projects;


4.    is grateful for the offer of the employee survey results being made available to the Scrutiny Committee once completed; and


5.    suggests that examples of best practice adopted across both South Ribble and Chorley councils as a result of shared services be presented to a future Shared Services Joint Committee.

Supporting documents: