In-depth report emphasises positive achievements, and suggests key issues for future work
“Challenge us”. “Review our work”. That was the invite Burnley Council recently put to a high-powered team from the Local Government Association.
Their ‘peer challenge’ report has just been published. Key findings include:
· Burnley Council has strong political and managerial leadership in place
· On this basis, its work makes a positive difference to the borough
· The council has put significant energy into supporting the growth of the local economy, and enabled or supported the expansion of local businesses and helped to draw new employers to the borough
· Collectively, the elected councillors have a strong understanding of the different aspects of Burnley
· They have provided a clear steer on priorities and managers are focussed on these
· The performance of many core council services is good. Staff are committed and loyal despite the workforce experiencing challenging reductions in their number
Though the council's future funding position is "challenging", it has "clear plans in place" and "a record of strong financial management"
· The council works closely with a wide range of other partner agencies to deal with shared issues
Arranging the review was part of Burnley Council’s commitment to “continually test and improve our performance as we maintain our services in changing times”.
The review team was made up of senior people, including Norwich City’s Chief Executive, a former leader of Bradford Council, a finance director from Lancaster, and a district manager from JobCentre Plus, visited Burnley over three days during September, collectively spending over 120 hours in the council. They talked to over sixty councillors and officers, and people from organisations from the police to local businesses. They also looked in-depth at council documents and financial information.
Their report includes detailed discussion of the council’s high-performing services – both those delivered directly such as the management of parks and green spaces, and those now delivered through contractors, such as waste collection and street cleansing.
Reviewers scrutinised the way that Burnley’s large-scale contract with Liberata is being “used as an opportunity to re-design services and engage with residents to a greater extent online for a wider range of its services” and noted that “the transition to Liberata appears to have been managed effectively”.
Council Leader Mark Townsend said “we were clear that we wanted the Local Government Association team to give us an honest appraisal – warts and all. They focussed on themes that are important to Burnley residents: economic prosperity and a more inclusive borough.
“It is very gratifying that they found that – in their words – Burnley is a council with a ‘can do’ attitude which punches above its weight as a small borough in attracting inward investment and growth.
“I was particularly pleased to see the report highlight the hard work and dedication of council workers.
“The report does underline challenges and issues we face, including the ongoing financial cuts from national government. And the reviewers have done Burnley a good service by pointing out areas we should look at more closely over the next period, including doing all that we can to ensure that local people benefit from the town’s economic growth. Their detailed points on securing the benefits from the Lancashire Combined Authority will also be helpful to us”.
The report - which can be read in full by clicking here - will now be considered in detail by the council’s Scrutiny and Executive committees, to identify all the relevant points for action arising from the report, which will be fed into the council’s work plans going forward.