Fenland District Council has “done well in recent years to manage the significant reduction in Government core funding without major cuts of frontline services.” This is according to an in-depth review of its performance by a team of independent outsiders.
The review also concluded that the council has a “record of a highly performing Council” and “leadership is supported by a vibrant ‘can do’ style that is keen to make a positive difference to people’s lives.”
The Peer Review was carried out over three days in October by an experienced team from a range of local government backgrounds from right across the country. This review, facilitated by the Local Government Association, is entirely voluntary, but aims to replace the previously abolished Audit Commission inspection regime to ensure Councils continue to strive for high standards in service delivery.
In a 17-page report submitted to the council, the team said that “the council has a positive ‘one-team’ culture that underpins its focus on good quality service delivery and an effective customer experience.”
Furthermore, they recognised that “despite the financial challenges, staff and Members are determined to marshal resources to match ambition for positive change.” This was accompanied by a 10-point list of suggestions for consideration to further strengthen the Council into the future.
The Peer Team congratulated the Council on its investment of £1.5million in the College of West Anglia Engineering Skills Centre, the Nene Waterfront Regeneration Project and Fenland Enterprise in Education programme, a project linking businesses and young people, helping them to be ready to enter the workplace.
The Peer Team also provided some helpful feedback on how the Council can continue to improve, especially in light of continued financial pressures. This included how we can continue to boost economic growth in the area, respond to future funding challenges through transformation and improve the planning process.
To meet these challenges the Peer Team suggested there is an opportunity to “review the council’s unique selling point for local economic growth,” and “review the council’s corporate vision and priorities with a clearer focus on outcomes”.
Work is now commencing to address the key issues identified within the report. As part of this, the council will be working closely with the Local Government Association (LGA) in order to draw on any further support that might assist it.
Council Leader Alan Melton said: “I am pleased with this report. It is a tribute to the hard work both of Members and especially of our officers, who are still doing a fantastic job despite having to cope with the big cuts that have been imposed on everyone in local government.
“It is particularly welcome to have positive comments from people from outside who fully understand the pressures we are all under. Economic growth remains a firm priority, and we will continue to work with partners to deliver projects that will improve the quality of life for our residents.”
Paul Medd, FDC’s Chief Executive said: “We are happy with the peer team’s findings. Overall they show that we are continuing to serve the people of Fenland very well. That is good to hear but we always want to do better.
“Naturally, along with all the good things they have highlighted, they have identified some ways we could improve and meet the future needs of our residents. We will be looking at how we can review our current approaches to meet the challenges set out by the Peer Team.”
* The full report can be viewed at www.fenland.gov.uk/news/peerchallenge