Council welcomes peer challenge report

Council welcomes peer challenge report Published: Monday, 5th August 2019

Warrington Borough Council has welcomed positive, constructive feedback and advice following a recent Local Government Association (LGA) peer challenge.

The peer challenge, which initially took place in March 2019, was led by a group of public sector experts and leaders drawing from their own experiences in other local authorities, both from a political and operational perspective. The findings of the visit have now been formalised into a report for review and consideration.

The scope of the peer challenge’s review, which focused on the council’s performance, governance, relationships and financial resilience gave the council an opportunity to discuss its strengths, as well as areas for improvement.

The report highlights that:

  • The council nurtures strong relationships with stakeholder organisations, working across regeneration via Warrington&Co, and alongside health, community and voluntary partners
  • The council has a proud, committed workforce who feel valued
  • The new Leader and reshaped Cabinet have an opportunity to set out a fresh vision for the council
  • The council has a good track record of managing its finances but tough decisions across the council will need to be made and, with continuing budget pressures, future budget plans need to be robust to ensure a sustainable financial footing
  • The council’s commercialisation achievements are well known and have provided substantial additional income to support core day-to-day services
  • The council has an opportunity to further embrace digital transformation

The report notes that whilst good and significant progress is being made, further improvements should be implemented to further embed the council’s positive work.

Council Leader Cllr Russ Bowden reflected on the report’s findings, adding: “I welcome the peer team’s feedback from their assessment and I’d like to thank all of Warrington’s councillors, officers and partners who supported the peer challenge.

“The purpose of the visit was not to seek validation of our current processes and the positive work we continue to do, but to scrutinise and identify potential improvements we can make for the future.

“It’s clear we have some difficult decisions to make as we continue to face our continued, austerity-driven budget pressures and we need to ensure we are agile and able to cope with future demands.

“We now have an opportunity to redesign the vision for Warrington and feedback from the report will be important in helping us to shape our future ambitions.”

Professor Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the council, also welcomed the findings of the report, and said:  “It’s important from time to time to have an external perspective – fresh eyes and critical friends can uncover different ways of working and opportunities that we can build on.

“Reflection and continued improvement are vital to ensure we continue to deliver good services. We will now go through the report in detail and have developed an action plan to take forward.”

The LGA offers all councils the opportunity of a peer challenge every four or five years. During their time at Warrington, the peer challenge team spoke with more than 90 people including a range of external stakeholders, staff and councillors. The team gathered information and views from more than 35 meetings and collectively spent more than 260 hours – the same as one person spending seven weeks - determining their findings.

You can read the full report and action plan online at warrington.gov.uk/peerchallenge