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Financially stable, balanced budgets, working well in the current challenging climate and ambitious plans are just some of the headlines from a report which followed a visit to Redditch from critical friends.

Redditch Borough Council requested a Peer Review which, a couple of weeks ago, saw eight representatives from local authorities across the country (including 3 Councillors  from across the political spectrum) speak to 130 staff, members and partners.

The peers used their experience and knowledge of local government to reflect on the information presented to them by people they met, things they saw and material that they read. 

After taking part in 55 meetings the peers have drafted a report with feedback which the Council will consider as part of its continued journey of improvement.

The peers noted that shared services with Bromsgrove District Council, which was also a part of the joint review, was working well and that both authorities had good relationships with partners.

Both Councils were also felt to be working well in the current challenging environments and were commended for their strong response during the pandemic.

Redditch Borough Council Leader Matt Dormer said: “As the peers recognised we haven’t taken a post-pandemic rest as we plough on to make our ambitious plans a reality – not least the £40m investment in our housing stock and the Redditch Regeneration programme including the creation of a Community Hub at the Town Hall.

“It was encouraging that this group of peers, which included Labour and Conservative councillors were supportive of our plans and, as well as recognising our ambitions also confirmed we were moving in the right direction particularly with the regeneration of Redditch with the community hub and the library.

“We supported this peer review as soon as it was suggested because it’s a perfect opportunity to stop and take a moment to see what we have achieved and gain that reassurance that we have the financial stability and expertise to realise our ambitions.

“While I agree we need to engage more rather than just consult, I am proud that residents were broadly positive about their Council as we don’t often hear from the silent majority.

“I will ensure that this Council takes the time to reflect on what the peers have told us and use this research to ensure we continue to work towards delivering the best for our residents.” 

The peers, which included the Leader of a Council, a council chief executive and a representative from the Local Government Association, urged the Council not to take its eye off the ball as staffing issues in the financial department remained a risk (given the national shortage) and that the finance recovery plan which was developed to address the recommendations from the auditors around the Section 24 notice and the Interim Annual Audit Report should be delivered.

Chief Executive Kevin Dicks said: “Although the peers felt we needed to engage with communities more, I was delighted that residents identified strongly with their areas and were broadly positive about the Councils.

“The review is designed to complement and add value to a Council’s own performance and improvement focus and we will consider the feedback in its entirety and develop an action plan to address the key recommendation and build upon our successes.”

Here is the report.