Calderdale Council has received a clean bill of health from local government experts who undertook a four day review of the authority in June 2015.
The Council worked with the Local Government Association (LGA) to set up the peer review, which is designed to make sure the local authority is adapting effectively to the rapid changes in local government whilst continuing to improve the lives of residents.
The team interviewed Councillors, senior officers and partners, including the voluntary and community sector and held focus groups with middle managers, front line staff and residents. Their findings are summarised in a letter published on the Council’s website.
The Council has clear strengths, which were identified within the Peer Review letter, including the financial management of the Council, the commitment of staff and Councillors to Calderdale, work on commercialism, social cohesion and driving economic growth through the Economic Strategy.
Neighbouring local authorities spoke highly of their relationship with Calderdale and saw the Council as a good partner who regularly ‘punched above its weight’. Despite the size of the authority, the Peer Review recognised that Calderdale is a key player at both City Region level and within the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. The report highlighted that the Council has a strong presence in discussions across the area and is working effectively with neighbouring authorities.
The Peer Review acknowledged the significant progress made by the Children’s Services directorate, thanks to the hard work and leadership of officers and elected members, which was confirmed by the Ofsted inspection in January 2015.
The stunning local scenery, the diversity of the community and the array of heritage buildings were also singled out in the final letter, where they were described as a ‘significant asset for Calderdale’.
Leader of Calderdale Council, Cllr Tim Swift said:
“This has been a valuable exercise, giving us an independent view of both our strengths and of the areas where there’s potential for us to develop. These are challenging times and local authorities are under pressure to adapt their services to meet the needs of their communities.
“The Peer Review has provided a useful focus for much of our future strategy making. I’m keen to incorporate their ideas on our vision for Calderdale and our role in the wider region, particularly with the opportunities and potential of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and devolution.”
The report outlined key areas which will now be the focus for improvement within the Council and the services it provides.
The Council needs to develop, with its partners, a clear vision for Calderdale as a place. This will allow the Council – officers and Councillors – to focus on its priorities to deliver effective services.
The Peer Review identified that the Council needs to determine its approach to localities, develop its communications work and identify further scope for collaboration with partner agencies.