Corporate Peer Challenge report published

Published Wednesday 27 September 2023 at 17:02

A clear sense of pride and ambition and ‘unique passion’ was highlighted in a report which details the Council’s performance.

 The Council invited officer and political peers from the Local Government Association (LGA) and other councils to take part in what is known as a Corporate Peer Challenge in July 2023. The aim of a Corporate Peer Challenge is for an organisation to showcase its successes, and also to allow the peers to challenge processes and offer suggested improvements. It is recommended and considered best practice for councils to have a review every five years – the previous review was in 2018.

The Peer Challenge team spoke to over 100 councillors, officers and people from organisations who work closely with the Council over four days. They considered five standard themes which are critical to councils’ performance and improvement. These were:

  • local priorities and outcomes
  • organisational and place leadership
  • governance and culture,
  • financial planning and management
  • and capacity for improvement.

The final report with the findings of the Corporate Peer Challenge has now been published alongside an action plan which the Council developed in response to the recommendations. It will be discussed by Councillors at Council Forum on October 5. The insight from the Peer Challenge will be used to further develop core strategies and plans.

The report highlights the Council as:

  • Having a strong, visible and well respected political and managerial leadership with senior leaders having a clear understanding of Blackburn with Darwen as a place, its opportunities and challenges.
  • Having a high level of ambition and determination to think big and unlock the borough’s potential including a £1billion vision for the future for investment and commitment to growing the cultural offer with a well-crafted Corporate Plan with missions for both the Council and the wider borough.
  • Showing an impressive track record of managing significant challenges including the ongoing reductions in spending power since 2010 and robust financial monitoring arrangements in place.
  • Demonstrating many examples of projects which are testing new ways of working and which have been recognised on a national scale and an impressive entrepreneurial spirit in the borough.
  • Showing clear commitment to tackling inequalities and strengthening equality, diversity and inclusion across the council and borough.
  • Having a working culture that is very supportive with opportunities for staff to participate in learning and development.

The report also makes some recommendations for areas where improvement could be made. These include considerations to:

  • Enhance public consultation and engagement on the budget to build understanding of the challenges ahead and maintain focus on delivering the savings needed.
  • Reduce, align and prioritise strategies in support of the Council’s core missions and report on progress and achievements against agreed performance measures.
  • Give a greater focus on transformation and how it will lead to measurable improvements.
  • Ensure the narrative relating to regeneration schemes including showing how they improve the lives of residents and continue with strong focus on core social care services to children and adults.
  • Increase the visibility of core governance practices and effective scrutiny.

Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

I’m really pleased that our clear focus on being outward looking and ambitious regardless of the challenges comes through loud and clear in this report.

Being seen as a force for good by those we work in partnership with was highlighted and this is something we never take for granted.

Growing the cultural offer was recognised as a big strength and is something we are rightly proud of and further developing. This will certainly remain a priority.

Denise Park, Chief Executive of Blackburn with Darwen Council, added:

We have a real desire to keep reviewing and improving so the Peer Challenge feedback is really important to keep us on track. Getting these recommendations has given us a clear and positive focus. The whole process also reminded us of the importance of reflecting on our achievements and celebrating successes which includes many projects which have received national attention.

It’s particularly pleasing to read that our workforce has spoken so highly of our passion and ambitions and what it’s like to work at the Council. We can only achieve the Council’s vision for every single resident, no matter who they are, to have a good quality of life with the full support of our staff.

View the full report on our democracy website.

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