Colchester City Council’s response to the recommendations of a wide-ranging Local Government Association (LGA) peer review is set to be examined by the Scrutiny Panel next week, before Cabinet meets to approve the action plan on Wednesday, 25 January.
The LGA peer challenge, which took place in September, was led by a group of public sector experts and leaders drawing on their own experiences in other local authorities both from a political and operational perspective.
The review focused on the council’s performance, governance, relationships, and financial resilience, and provided the council with an opportunity to discuss its strengths, as well as areas for improvement. The council was praised for its high-quality services, strong fiscal management, and robust governance, with the review concluding that the council has a positive future with opportunities to put Colchester on a regional and national stage.
The council welcomed the team’s constructive feedback and advice on key areas for review and improvement and has drawn up and already begun implementing strategies to address the eight key recommendations* before April.
Measures in the action plan will focus on:
- the economic and cultural opportunities provided by city status
- a full review of the capital programme
- a new business case for strengthened corporate services
- exploring alternative electoral arrangements to the current election by thirds cycle
- providing clear ‘hybrid working’ guidance, and
- commissioning an independent review of Colchester Commercial Holdings Ltd to assess whether the companies are realising the benefits they were established to deliver.
Pam Donnelly, Chief Executive of Colchester City Council, said: “I’d once again like to thank all the members of the peer review team for visiting Colchester and for such an incredibly positive experience.
“Their report highlights a substantial number of strengths but also some key areas for review and improvement, which our action plan will address in the coming months.
“We are a well-run and ambitious council with an established track record of providing high quality, award-winning services, strong fiscal management, and robust governance. Addressing the review team’s recommendations will put us in a better position to deliver for our communities, as we navigate some extremely challenging times ahead.”
Cllr David King, Leader of the Council, added: “As this experienced review team have said, there are many reasons to be optimistic and excited about Colchester’s future. But we have a great deal to do to make the most of that future and to ensure, given high inflation and financial pressures, that we do so in a sustainable way, balancing the books year on year.
“The action plan response to the recommendations for the council acknowledges the scale of challenge we must address with others. We see this as an opportunity to do even better: to reinforce transformation and change already well underway; to help us make our services more efficient and cost-effective; to help us build on the great work we already do with other organisations, as we continue to manage a tough economic climate, intense pressure on resources, and increased demands on our services.”
* The key Peer Review recommendations:
- Focus on city status. Use this as an opportunity to galvanise partners, improve the city's economic and cultural strength and raise the voice of Colchester
- Get a firmer grip on the capital programme – manage all risks and improve planning to ensure the council has appropriate strategic finance, programme and project capacity and the resources to deliver
- Co-design a compelling and longer-term place-based narrative/city vision to define Colchester for the future
- Strengthen political and officer ‘leaders of place’ roles and look beyond Colchester – map anchor institutions, partners and stakeholders
- Review priorities and projects and refocus on delivering ‘Brilliant Business As Usual’ and strengthen corporate resources
- Strongly consider whether changing the election cycle will help achieve goals and ambitions and deliver improved services for Colchester’s communities
- Better define with staff what ‘hybrid working’ means and provide a clear definition. Also, clarify how the council's new values will be designed and embedded, communicating to staff how these define the council and will help achieve Colchester’s ambition, and
- Commission an independent review of Colchester Commercial Holdings Ltd, and its subsidiaries, also undertake an internal review of Colchester Borough Homes to assess whether the companies are realising the benefits they were established to deliver.
Page last reviewed: 11 January 2023