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Terry Parish ‘pleased’ with Peer Challenge review of West Norfolk Council through Local Government Association

West Norfolk Council is in “a good position to deliver for residents despite financial challenges”, according to a review of the authority.

The borough council's recent Peer Challenge has recognised positives such as its extra focus on financial and cost management, the strength of its partnership working, and the “can-do attitude” of its staff.

The Peer Challenge team also said that the borough has much to shout about and is the “envy of its neighbours”.

West Norfolk Council leader Terry Parish is ‘pleased with the report’. Picture: West Norfolk Council
West Norfolk Council leader Terry Parish is ‘pleased with the report’. Picture: West Norfolk Council

However, eight areas to improve have also been identified.

The review was undertaken through the Local Government Association's sector-led improvement programme, and was requested by the current Independent-led administration when in opposition.

Three-and-a-half days were spent gathering information and views from more than 55 meetings, while a range of documents and policies were read, with more than 160 people – including staff, members, and external stakeholders – spoken to.

The review found that the new administration has hit the ground running since the local elections earlier this year, and is perceived by staff and external partners as a “breath of fresh air”.

While understanding that the new corporate strategy had not yet been adopted, the review acknowledged that the council was in a “good position to deliver for its residents and work to regenerate the borough, despite its financial challenges”.

Cllr Terry Parish, leader of the borough council, said: "The purpose of a peer challenge is to get an external perspective on what's being done and to shine a spotlight not only on the excellent work of the council, its employees and members, but to find those areas where we could improve and better shape the organisation to meet the needs of our various communities.

"All in all, I welcome the report. It acknowledges our solid base, and the ambitions we have set out in our new corporate strategy and highlights this is an opportunity to reset the focus of the organisation.

“We will be developing a new annual plan which will demonstrate how we are delivering tangible outcomes for our residents and communities.”

The report made eight recommendations to the council. Two regard improving engagement with staff and engagement and consultation with residents in the development and delivery of services, while two relate to taking stock and making the council fit for the future.

Two relate to the budget and aligning resources around services people want and need, and the final two were about evaluation of performance and scrutiny.

The full peer review report can be read online at https://www.west-norfolk.gov.uk/peerchallenge

Lorraine Gore, chief executive of the council, said: "The review has highlighted some key areas for improvement, many of which we were already working on, so it is useful to know that we are heading in the right direction.

“I am pleased that the team positively acknowledged that we have strengthened our corporate governance and brought our legal team in house.

“I was particularly pleased to see the exceptional efforts made by staff, to provide services people need, were acknowledged.

“I was also pleased to note that staff here are both ready for and willing to change the way we do things. A planned staff survey in the new year will provide further insight.

"We are planning to improve our engagement with staff and the public over the budget and the corporate strategy in the coming months.

"We acknowledge the areas we need to work on and are in the process of putting together an action plan, which will address all the recommendations and will be considered by cabinet at their meeting on March 5.”

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