Harrogate Borough Council is “a well-performing organisation with highly-visible and engaging leadership at political and managerial level”.
That’s according to a review facilitated by the Local Government Association (LGA).
A group of peer reviewers – led by a council chief executive from Hampshire – spent three days at Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) in September.
Feedback also noted the council is an “open, friendly and welcoming organisation with a can-do attitude”. The reviewers said: “staff are motivated and have a positive approach to delivering the best” for the district and its residents.
As well as judging HBC’s performance to be excellent, they concluded the council “has dedicated and committed staff and councillors who feel empowered and supported in their roles”.
The council’s decision to move from five separate offices, to a new civic centre building has “broken down silos” according to the review panel. They also noted the council had improved, modernised and that there was better cross-working.
Other comments from the review team included:
- The council is focussed on the main challenges the district faces such as demographic change, the affordability of housing, congestion and securing higher paid jobs.
- The leadership provided by councillors and officers is strong and there is a good understanding of the urban and rural setting in the district.
- The council’s ‘My Neighbourhood’ community development scheme’ was “innovative” and “very impressive”.
- The voluntary and community sector is “vibrant and the recent launch of a district lottery was a “good example of creativity”.
Stakeholders and partner organisations interviewed by the review panel consistently spoke very highly of their relationship with the council and “are aligned with its ambitions for the area”.
On the wider regional front, the review found there is good engagement with the two Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and the council is aware of the potential of these strategic bodies.
Councillor Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said:
I am really pleased by the outcomes of this review and glad to hear staff feel empowered and supported in their roles.
I am grateful to the local charities and groups that highlighted how well we work together. It was also good to see such strong recognition of the excellent services the council delivers.
This is down to our fantastic teams throughout the organisation and the public with whom and for whom we work.
That partnership between the council and the public is what makes our area a great place to live, to work and to visit. And now – following this independent report – that’s official.
As expected, the review recommended close attention be given to the delivery of the council’s 2024 programme with a focus on its borough-wide reach.
It also said there should be a shared understanding both internally and externally of the council’s commercial strategy with successes, and what has been achieved so far, being celebrated.
The peer challenge review report will be considered at meeting of the council’s cabinet next Wednesday (12 December).
If approved, the council will create a work plan based on the peer challenge improvement plan. The review includes a follow-up visit to assess its impact and demonstrate progress. It is expected that this will be within two years.
The final report will be made available on the council’s website in the coming weeks.
The peer team was made up of senior members of staff and a councillor from other local authorities as well as colleagues from the LGA.
During their review they interviewed more than 80 people, including a range of council staff together with councillors, external partner organisations and stakeholders.
There were more than 60 meetings and visits to key sites in the district.
Peer reviews involve a small team of local government officers and councillors spending time at local authorities as peers to provide challenge and shared learning.
Since 2011 the LGA has delivered over 700 reviews and has a target of every council having participated by March 2022.