Council Praised For Solid Response to Financial Warning
Published date: 03 August 2020
Published date: 03 August 2020
Redditch Borough Council’s “solid response” to a severe financial warning from its auditors has been highlighted in feedback from ‘critical friends’.
The Council volunteered to take part in a ‘Peer Challenge’ from the Local Government Association which is improvement focussed and looks at the Council’s leadership, governance, corporate capacity and financial resilience as well as local specific issues.
Cross-party Members, partners, staff and the Chief Executive were interviewed by the peers to give them insight into the Council’s successes and areas for improvements.
The first visit was in 2018 when a report of recommendations were presented and in February a follow-up visit ensued out of which this latest report was delivered.
Last year the Council received a section 24 notice from its auditors Grant Thornton, after losing thousands of pounds in Government grants, and which forced Members to make difficult decisions.
The report, which was delayed because of the global pandemic, said: “substantial work has been done on identifying savings and clarifying the council’s approach to financial sustainability.”
On the subject of Financial planning and viability, with the Council’s new systems in place the peers are confident that, once embedded that this will promote “a strengthened culture of financial accountability”.
Improved monitoring of outcomes and a bottom-up approach to the Council’s “ambitious change programmes” is also being put in place and was recognised.
Council Leader Matt Dormer said: “When we received the section 24 notice we had to make some tough decisions but we had to redirect our spending to services which we were directly responsible for delivering and consider lucrative moves which would see sustainable income, rather than a short term boost to coffers. I am really pleased this has been recognised in the feedback.
“Seeking feedback from ‘critical friends’ is invaluable for allowing us to pause and reflect on our journey so far and to enable us to continue in the right direction with confidence.
“When lockdown struck I believe we demonstrated our ability to act quickly, to make strong decisions at the height of an emergency situation and our flexibility and resilience came into play. A lot of the improvements we had planned came to fruition literally overnight and have already met some of the peer’s recommendations.
“I look forward to working with Council colleagues to further examine and action this report.”
The Council’s work with the Support Redditch community group at the height of the pandemic was highlighted
The report called for better two-way internal communications which the Council has already stepped up to with the enforced working from home, post lock-down.
As the Council is set to mark ten years, since it embarked on the Shared Services Project with Bromsgrove District Council, the feedback noted that “There is now a stronger sense of a single workforce serving two councils at the senior officer level.” And noted that “The councils now need to work to embed culture change from the bottom up to ensure all parts of the councils are engaged in moving towards a more dynamic and financially accountable culture”
Chief Executive Kevin Dicks said: “This Council was one of the first authorities in the country to embark on an extensive programme of Shared Services ten years ago and a decade later we are still pushing the boundaries of changes as we respond to the financial challenges which local government faces.
“Inviting the peers to visit us, to ask for their advice and feedback and in doing so hearing what our partners, members and staff think too, is invaluable to ensuring we move in the right direction.
“We have responded to the recommendations within the organisation and taking the time to stop and learn from our endeavours has seen us come up with other initiatives which enable us to embed improvement across the Council from the bottom, up.
“We still have a lot of work to do but will continue invigorated and as always, with our customers at the heart of everything we do.”
The report is available at redditchbc.gov.uk/peerfeedback