York Council Praised by Other Councils in Review
5:14pm 22nd July 2013
City of York Council has this week gained the results of a Peer Review challenge, requested by the council as part of an industry recognised commitment to improving performance, which highlights a ‘clear ambition amongst councillors and officers to do the best for the people of York’ and ‘a strong desire for improvement and innovation’.
The Peer Review was delivered by experienced elected members and officer peers from Sunderland, Nottingham, Wirral, Plymouth and Lambeth council’s, alongside the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE)and the Local Government Association, over a one week period in June. The Review team were asked by the council to focus on six key areas including the authority’s; priority setting, financial planning, political and managerial leadership, governance and decision-making, innovative practice and community infrastructure.
The team highlighted specific achievements in the council’s excellent partnership working across the city, key service provision for residents such as its nationally recognised Children’s Service, and its practical commitment to building a fair and equal city for all. Its financial planning was praised as ‘clearly set out and balanced’ with opportunities being maximised ‘including building up the council tax base in the long term’, given the ‘council has the lowest Band D council tax charges in the country’.
The consolidation from 17 to two council offices was seen as having a ‘significant impact on enabling improved communication’ between staff and external partners, alongside ‘improved customer reception arrangements’. The team however expressed a need for the authority to commit to further efforts in its ‘approach to neighbourhood engagement and capacity building to ensure that relationships with communities are maintained’, reflecting the council’s focus in recent months, and clear guidance as to what services and budgets are available at this level.
The team praised the ‘strong and visible’ leadership from the leader and the chief executive with city partners being ‘positive about working with the council’, alongside a need for further direct engagement with senior officers across the authority and the development of the scrutiny process so that it is focussed on ‘the significant key strategic issues facing the city’ with a stronger sense of purpose and impact.
Cllr Alexander, leader of City of York Council said: “I would like to thank the Peer Review team for their thorough work and thoughtful recommendations. It’s good to see that the ambition of the Council to grow the prosperity of everyone in York - and significant recent achievements against that ambition - are widely recognised and welcomed.
“We asked the team to focus on areas in which we believe we need to strengthen and deepen our work and we are grateful for their very specific and practical response. I have asked the chief executive to work with the senior management team to take action to address these action points, as part of our continuous drive to get the best for our residents and the city as a whole. Where approval is required for investment in additional capacity, this will be brought to Cabinet in October”.
Kersten England, chief executive of City of York Council added: “The team have reflected the need to tackle the issue facing all councils currently and that is one of continuing to secure the delivery of key services, despite an ever decreasing budget and resource base. I’m pleased to see a recognition that our financial planning is sound and that we are already on the path to delivering innovative ways of delivering services with this in mind. We are in full agreement that these need to be expanded, built upon and sustainable to ensure York residents continue to benefit long-term and will continue to strive throughout the budget process to ensure residents are fully aware of the impact to front line services of any decisions made”.
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