The Chief Executive presented a report on the subject of the Local Government Association Corporate Peer Challenge that had been undertaken at the start of the calendar year and the action plan that had been developed to address the issues raised during the challenge. The challenge had been undertaken by colleagues from other local authorities and it had been conducted as a critical friend exercise. Members were asked to note that the Corporate Peer Challenge had been a joint exercise reviewing services delivered by Redditch Borough and Bromsgrove District Councils.
The feedback report, which had been produced at the end of the Corporate Peer Challenge, had been sent to the Council in the previous municipal year. However, a decision had been taken to postpone consideration of the report until the local elections had taken place and then there had been a further delay to enable the new political administration to settle in before discussing the matter further.
The feedback report contained a range of recommendations to enhance services across the two Councils. One of the key proposals had been for the Council to introduce a single workforce for the two authorities. The Corporate Management Team (CMT) had reviewed this proposal and, having undertaken a lot of work on staff harmonisation and being in the process of a review of the two Councils’ job evaluation schemes, senior officers had concluded that a single workforce was not viable at this stage. However, it was possible that this proposal would be revisited in the future.
Members were asked to note that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had pre-scrutinised the report at their meeting on 18th October. During their discussions the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had concluded that actions 10 and 11 in the Corporate Peer Challenge action plan should only apply to Bromsgrove District Council and that this should be clarified within the plan. The Chief Executive explained that recommendation 8 related specifically to Bromsgrove District Council, with regards to the conduct of the political debate at that authority. Recommendations 9, 10 and 11 all related to updating the Councils’ constitutions, which was already happening in Redditch.
Members discussed the report and commented on the following matters during this debate:
· The “Lead Officer” column and the references to the “Leader” within this column. Officers confirmed that this was referring to the Leaders of the Councils in Redditch and Bromsgrove rather than to political party group leaders.
· The references in the same column to “Cabinet” and whether this applied just to Bromsgrove District Council. Officers advised that in the majority of cases this should have involved referring to both the Executive Committee and Cabinet.
· The reference in the action plan to regular meetings between the Executive Committee and Bromsgrove District Council’s Cabinet starting in November. Members questioned when these meetings would start to take place and whether those who were not Portfolio Holders would be attending.
· The value of retaining workforces for both Redditch Borough Council and Bromsgrove District Council.
· The current decision making process in Redditch whereby many decisions were taken by Council rather than the Executive Committee. Members commented that this ensured that the decision making process was inclusive.
During consideration of this matter Councillor Hartnett proposed an amendment. This proposal was seconded by Councillor Greg Chance.
The amendment stated the following:
“Agree to note the action plan with the following amendments. Not to support recommendations 9, 10 and 11.”
In proposing the amendment Councillor Hartnett commented that he did not feel a fundamental review of Redditch Borough Council’s constitution was required. He explained that he agreed with the conclusions that had been reached by the Overview and Committee that recommendations 10 and 11 should not apply to Redditch but were more relevant to Bromsgrove District Council. Councillor Hartnett informed Members that he did not support the assumption in recommendation 10 that boundaries between officers and Members needed clarifying in Redditch nor did he feel that the Council’s procedures needed to be reviewed to support constructive debate at Council meetings as he felt that this was already working well.
In responding to the proposed amendment Members considered the work that had been undertaken during the Corporate Peer Challenge. Members commented that in order to make the most of the Corporate Peer Challenge the Council needed to take into account any advice that had been given and to learn lessons. It was also noted that a review of the constitution could be useful as it helped to make the decision making process more efficient.
The Chief Executive advised that recommendations 10 and 11 related to the review of the constitution and it was recognised by Officers that these were more relevant to Bromsgrove District Council than to Redditch Borough Council. Members were asked to note that the action plan had been drafted some months ago. Since the document was produced a significant number of changes had been agreed to the Council’s constitution at the September meeting of Council. The Council had been advised to review the constitution as those undertaking the Corporate Peer Challenge had suggested that by taking everything to Council this could stymie the speed of the decision making process.
On being put to the vote the amendment was lost.
the letter and action plan arising from the Local Government Association Corporate Peer Challenge, which took place in January and February 2018, be noted.