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Agenda item

Corporate Peer Challenge - Progress of Action Plan

To consider the progress made in delivering the corporate peer challenge action plan.  

Minutes:

14.1          The report of the Head of Corporate Services, circulated at Pages No. 127-152, provided an update on the progress that had been made in delivering the corporate peer challenge action plan.  Members were asked to consider the report.

14.2          The Head of Corporate Services reminded Members that Tewkesbury Borough Council had undergone a Local Government Association corporate peer challenge during March 2020 and the final report was attached at Appendix 1 to the Committee report.  Whilst the report was very positive about the Council’s performance, as with all challenges, areas for improvement had been identified and an internal action plan comprising the five key recommendations had been approved by Council in December 2020 where responsibility for monitoring delivery of the actions had been delegated to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  The action plan was attached at Appendix 2 to the Committee report with progress to date set out in the final column.  It was noted that the actions were at various stages of delivery with some actions having been completed, some making good progress and others being deferred.  It was hoped that all actions would be complete when the report was brought back to the Committee on 23 November 2021.

14.3          A Member felt that the Communications team should be congratulated as there had been a notable increase in the amount of communications about what was happening at the Council.  He drew attention to Page No. 149 of the report, recommendation 5, which related to reviewing the timings of meetings so that all Members could contribute effectively and he questioned whether now was an appropriate time to consider whether Members were happy with the timing of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  In response, the Head of Democratic Services advised that, should Members wish to discuss the timing of the Committee, an item could be put on the Agenda for the next meeting in order for that debate to take place.  The Chief Executive explained that officers had been surprised this had come forward as a peer review recommendation; he clarified that there were no formal start times for Committee meetings - the timing was down to the individual Committee or Working Group to determine the best time to meet.  He recognised there had been a couple of occasions when the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Agenda had been quite heavy, which was not helpful to anyone, so officers were aware of the need to take care not to overload Agenda and to discuss management of the meetings with the Chair.  It was recognised that the timing of meetings was unlikely to suit every Member of the Committee.  The Chair hoped that Members would approach him if they had any issues with the timing or length of meetings; he provided assurance that careful consideration was given to the work programme and the weighting of Agenda but there were inevitably times when a longer Agenda was unavoidable.  One Member indicated that he liked the fact that Council and Committee meetings were at a variety of times as this gave options for different Members to attend – he had opted to sit on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee partly as the timing of the meetings suited him best.

14.4          In terms of Page No. 144, recommendation 1, a Member noted that the final column stated that the Council would need to budget for the shortfall in housing reward in the coming years following the phasing out of New Homes Bonus, and he questioned whether the net position of the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy was known as yet.  The Head of Finance and Asset Management advised that the last Medium Term Financial Strategy was approved in January 2021 and this had highlighted the withdrawal of New Homes Bonus; however, the replacement scheme and its value to Tewkesbury Borough Council was still unknown – consultation had closed in April and officers were awaiting feedback from the government.  The Member drew attention to the recommendation around the Garden Town Programme and the Council being dependent on the funding being secured in order to deliver the bridge and he questioned whether the first draw down had happened by December 2020 as expected.  The Head of Finance and Asset Management confirmed that the first draw down had occurred, albeit slightly late but still within the financial year.  With regard to recommendation 2, the Member noted that Page No. 147 stated that thought should be given to succession planning in order to fulfil the Council’s leadership responsibilities and he queried whether any progress had been made in that regard.  In response, the Chief Executive explained that a report was being taken to the Council meeting on 22 June 2021 which would address some of those issues.  Finally, the Member noted that recommendation 7 included an action to hold a session with the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to obtain its views on how to maximise the value of the Committee and he questioned whether the implementation date could be brought forward from December 2021.  The Head of Corporate Services clarified that he had intended that this would be delivered by December 2021 at the latest and he planned to hold the session towards the end of the summer. 

12.5           It was

RESOLVED          That the progress made in delivering the corporate peer challenge action plan be NOTED.

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