Published on 31st October 2014


Positive findings from a ‘peer challenge’ have been presented to Cheltenham Borough Council.

Between 16 and 19 September 2014, the review – facilitated by the Local Government Association (LGA) – was conducted by colleagues from neighbouring authorities with the aim of helping to shape and improve future plans.

Their feedback has been very positive, saying how the council has clear ambitions in place which are driven by the needs of the customer and community. The findings from the peer review team will be considered by overview and scrutiny committee at their meeting on 3 November and cabinet on 11 November.

A peer review is when colleagues from other local authorities, use 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.  Peer challenges are improvement-focussed and tailored to meet individual council’s needs. They are designed to complement and add value to a council’s own performance and improvement focus.

There are a number of positive observations which the peer team identified and it is important that the council maintains these strengths whilst undergoing a period of change. Some of these include:

• Clear ambitions for place and council
• A council that is outcome focused and is recognised by partners in delivering big projects
• Strong partnership focus - £2.9m pa
• Collaborative working with communities
• Clear political leadership from leader and cabinet
• Clear demonstration of community leadership by members
• A determined focus on regeneration and growth
• An empowered organisational culture
• Sound financial planning

The team did also make a number of suggestions as to how the council could improve its performance particularly bearing in mind the pace of change and challenges that the council faces. These findings have been reviewed by the senior leadership team and an action plan has been prepared to address these issues. Some of these include:

• Align strategies and plans in line with the council’s new corporate plan and then effectively communicate to all
• Consider longer term financial planning, greater level of sensitivity analysis and scenario planning
• Reflect how the council utilises the considerable talents that members bring
• Consider how Scrutiny might reappraise its work programme with particular reference to the opportunity to play a part in scrutinising the progress of critical projects
• Consider a fundamental review of project management, risk management and procurement
• Consider ways to engage and consult more widely the public and customer through consultation

Andrew North, chief executive at Cheltenham Borough Council, said: “We are grateful for the work of the review team, and were impressed with the way in which they managed the review. We would also like to thank all those individuals who gave up their time to meet with the peer review team.

“The peers reviewed a range of information to ensure that they were familiar with the council, the challenges it is facing and its plans for the future. During the 3.5 days they spoke to over 90 people including a range of council staff together with councillors and external stakeholders, they gathered information and views from more than 30 meetings, telephone calls, visits to key sites and additional research and reading.

“They collectively spent more than 220 hours to determine their findings. The peer review has been a positive experience and has provided the council will an opportunity to reflect on what it is doing. We welcome hearing the positive outcomes as well as where improvements can be made. The recommendations within the report have been considered by cabinet and officers and a response to the recommendations along with proposed actions has been drawn up.”

You can read the cabinet report and findings on the council’s website under agenda item eight.

For council press enquiries contact: Laura Carter, communications officer, telephone 01242 264154 or email [email protected].


The peer review team comprised Dr Pav Ramewal, Chief Executive, Sevenoaks District Council, Councillor Stuart Bray, Leader of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council (Liberal Democrat), Councillor Tony Jackson, Leader of East Hertfordshire District Council (Conservative), Laura Taylor, Director of Commissioning and Governance, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Paul Clarke, LGA Programme Manager.