A new report says there has been ‘significant and strong evidence of improvement’ at Corby Council and the way it is run.
Corby Council voluntarily asked a peer team to provide external consideration to assess progress and improvement by the council and to provide a generic external ‘health-check’ of the organisation.
This assessment was undertaken through an extensive three-day visit in October in which the team gathered information, researched evidence, interviewed more than 90 people and observed more than 30 meetings.
The council has been commended by the Local Government Association for taking this action and for its willingness to invite an external team to provide feedback.
The LGA’s peer challenge team has now published its findings, in which they say: “The review process identified that there is significant and strong evidence of improvement resulting in a recommendation of the peer review team that the voluntary improvement board’, that was set up by the council in 2013, ‘could legitimately be closed down’.
“The team reflected on corporate and economic challenges and changes that the council has faced but acknowledge that ‘it is abundantly clear that the members and senior managers had ‘stepped up to the wicket’ and that ‘the evidence suggested there is a recognition by staff that further change and transformation is required and that they are ‘up for it’’.
“They also recognised that the clear pride and ambition across the organisation and partners’ is ‘driven by a well-regarded, inclusive and supportive managerial and political leadership team.’
“The peer team noted a very good level of community leadership provided by local ward members resulting in a high level of engagement and understanding of the local needs of the community’ and suggest that ‘the improvement journey has been supported by an increased openness and transparency across the whole organisation, combined with a growing recognition of the importance of financial and legal considerations within the decision making process.’
“There is an acknowledgement that Corby is now in a much stronger financial position’ and that this ‘has seen an improvement in the level of reserves held by the authority’.
“The peer team have recommended that this careful management is maintained.
“In summary there was clear and strong evidence of learning and progress resulting in demonstrable improvement in the key areas of previous concern resulting in the teams’ recommendation to disband the voluntary improvement board.”
Council leader Tom Beattie said: “We are very pleased to welcome the findings from the peer review team in which they recognise the hard work from all staff and members at Corby Borough Council to improve and progress the authority.
“In 2013 we set up a voluntary improvement board and we have found the advice and support through the board extremely useful.
“We felt that now was the right time to invite a peer review team in to see how we had put this advice into practice and it is great to see our efforts acknowledged.
“We have, and continue to face challenges but it is positive to see how far we have come.
“We are aware there is still more to do and the review has suggested helpful ways in which we can move forward.
“This is exactly what we wanted from the process and we will now look at these suggestions corporately in order to ensure we are providing services that rank with the very best for our residents.”
A statement released by Corby’s Conservative group said: “The improvements highlighted in the corporate peer challenge letter are welcome, however many of the changes implemented are for basic safeguards that should have been operational in the first place.”
And it added: “There is still a huge quantity of work required to bring the service Corby Borough Council provides to taxpayers up to an acceptable standard.
“The peer challenge report highlights that the authority is inefficient in its corporate operation and that it functions in an unhelpful, departmental fashion.”
To see the full report go to www.corby.gov.uk.