A successful first four years with clear vision, strong leadership and a community-focused culture were just some of the findings from a Local Government Association review of Wiltshire Council.
Following local elections in May 2013 and the development of the new Business Plan for 2013-17, Wiltshire Council invited the Local Government Association to undertake a Corporate Peer Challenge in September 2013.
It involved a team of six local authority peers visiting the council for a week, meeting a wide range of partners and staff at all levels and observing a number of council and partnership meetings.
The review was very positive with the peer challenge team concluding that the council is in a good position since becoming a unitary authority in April 2009.
A strong vision to ensure the transition from five councils to one was easy and seamless for customers was delivered and the new unitary council presented an opportunity to re-think how the council works with its communities and partners.
This was said to have resulted in active and vibrant engagement in local decisions and service delivery and ground-breaking partnership working.
The council’s transformation programme to reduce from 95 inherited buildings to three main hubs including County Hall was viewed as forward thinking and impressive; demonstrating how public buildings can be transformed to create a modern, fit-for-purpose community space that delivers significant annual savings.
Corporate peer challenges are arranged by the Local Government Association and are designed to highlight strengths and identify areas for further improvement and learning.
The council’s key strengths were identified as:
• A strong respect and high regard for the council leader. Her clarity and strength of vision, commitment and hard work was recognised. A strong sense of loyalty among officers and partners and the leader is an effective ambassador for the council and Wiltshire.
• A robust management team and a trusted relationship between officers and elected members with a clear appreciation that the council has good leadership in its management team and is strongly member led.
• The council has a good reputation in the community. Its vision ‘to create stronger and more resilient communities’ has resonance locally. Parish and town councils, volunteers and voluntary sector organisations speak positively about the purposeful intent of the council to delegate responsibilities and enable local people and groups to do more for themselves.
• A highly engaged workforce with a real sense of pride in the organisation. Staff consistent that they are proud to work for the council:
Following the review an action plan to address the areas which the peers highlighted for development has been drawn up, and includes:
• Addressing the budget gap for 2015/16 and beyond;
• Clarifying the outcomes that area boards will achieve and their relationship with the centre;
• Work with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to ensure there is a shared vision and plans;
• Working with Local Enterprise Partnership partners to develop a stronger vision and delivery mechanism for the future;
• Continuously reviewing the corporate capacity to deliver major transformation programmes.
Coun Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “The peer review provided a great opportunity to reflect on our achievements in the first four years, and to look ahead at the challenges we face in the future, and how we plan to manage these.
"The feedback has helped us to focus on where we can improve and develop and build on what we do well.
"It has been a valuable experience and it’s always good to hold up the mirror and find out how others see what you do.
"It was extremely positive to have external assurance and affirmation that our staff are aware and focused on the council’s vision and that they visibly demonstrate a can-do attitude and commitment to making Wiltshire a better place.”
A report on the Corporate Peer Challenge will be presented at the council's cabinet meeting tomorrow.