Every few years we invite experienced members and officers from other councils to visit us so they can assess how we are doing and provide feedback about how we can continue to improve. These ‘peer challenges’ are not inspections but tools for improvement as part of an industry recognised commitment to improving performance.
The Peer Challenge team review documents to familiarise themselves with local issues, then gather more information by meeting with residents, council staff, members, external partners and stakeholders and listening to their views.
Our most recent peer challenge was conducted in 2016. This followed a previous peer challenge in 2013 and a review in late 2014 concerning member behaviour. We also participated in an equality-focused challenge in 2015 to assess our progress towards 'Excellent' in the Equality Framework for Local Government.
Peer Challenge 2016
The 2016 Peer Challenge team included members and officers from Southampton, Trafford, Oldham, Sunderland and Preston councils alongside a representative from the Local Government Association.
We asked the Peer Challenge team to look at 3 areas:
- progress since the 2013 and 2014 peer challenges
- behaviour and relationships
- future plans
The findings and recommendations from the peer challenge have been used to develop a new corporate action plan which sets out the short and long term steps we will take to improve how we deliver for the people of York.
Peer Review 2014
The 2014 review was delivered by members from Plymouth, Northumberland, Newcastle and Bedford councils alongside the regional lead officer from the Local Government Association.
The review was undertaken following a motion at Full Council which stated:
“Council notes with concern the results of the Organisational Development Action Plan, in particular the Leadership section and the current position re ‘Concern about the Behaviour of some Members’. This follows last year’s Peer Challenge review which also expressed concern regarding members’ understanding of council priorities and the lack of clarity within the council.
Council requests that an independent body be appointed to report back to the Audit and Governance Committee no later than its meeting of 10 December 2014 and that the report is delivered directly to this committee, investigating these concerns and whether Members have acted in a manner which falls below that which staff and residents expect.
This report should take into account the personalised politics being exhibited within York by elected members and their supporters – most notably on social media.”
The findings and recommendations from the review were reported to Audit and Governance Committee in January 2015 following a presentation of early feedback at their meeting in December 2014.
Peer Challenge 2013
The 2013 peer challenge was delivered by members and officers from Sunderland, Nottingham, Wirral, Plymouth and Lambeth councils alongside representatives from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education and the Local Government Association.
At our request the review focused on 6 key areas:
- understanding the local context and priority setting
- financial planning and viability
- political and managerial leadership
- governance and decision-making
- being a responsive and innovative organisation
- community infrastructure and capacity building
The Peer Challenge team's report and findings, alongside the results from the Big York Survey and staff survey, fed into a report to Cabinet in October 2013 which led to the creation of a new transformation programme to drive improvements to services.