Council to make changes following external report

Shay Bottomley
Council to make changes following external report

Councillors have voted to accept the recommendations of an external report which sought to scrutinise the operation of the council’s operations.

The Local Government Authority’s Corporate Peer Challenge was initially published in February, with its final findings and recommendations presented to cabinet on Thursday (March 31).

In the report, officers and councillors from separate local authorities said ‘much has been achieved across governance and culture issues’ since the arrival of RBWM CEO Duncan Sharkey and council leader Andrew Johnson in 2019, adding praise for ‘clearly made progress’ in addressing financial issues.

Furthermore, the CPC celebrated the council’s ‘people’ services; performance metrics for looked after children are ‘better than the average for councils in the south-east’, whilst adult social care services ‘ranked in the top 15 authorities nationally in terms of value for money and good outcomes’.

However, it called for a ‘more pro-active strategy’ in improving working relationships between councillors, as well as the need for ‘work to be done in encouraging the executive to recognise the value of good scrutiny’.

Cabinet portfolios were also criticised as they ‘currently do not reflect the Corporate Plan, or executive leadership arrangements'; more still, the report states businesses ‘have said that they do not know who the lead member in cabinet for economic development is’ and that they do not feel ‘there is a strategy for Maidenhead for the next two to three years as regeneration happens’.

A total of eleven recommendations were submitted in the CPC, all-but two of which were accepted in full by cabinet, whilst recommendations to review cabinet portfolios and develop a localism strategy with town and parish councils and community groups were accepted in-part.

Council leader Andrew Johnson told Thursday’s meeting that Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) had recently been appointed replacing Cllr Gerry Clark (Con, Bisham & Cookham) on the cabinet.

Cllr Johnson previously told the Advertiser the changes would allow ‘refreshed portfolio holders the opportunity to take forward that corporate agenda and deliver the agreed priorities’ following the adoption of the corporate plan and the 2022/23 budget.

On the recommendation regarding a localism strategy, Cllr Johnson said the administration is to focus ‘not necessarily on localism per se, but developing and evolving our partnership arrangements with parishes and all of our partners’.

Opposition leaders welcomed the report. Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) said it ‘looked like [the council] was listening’ to the findings, whilst Cllr Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor) said the peer review had done ‘a very, very good job’.

Cllr Jones added: “Town and parish councils are elected tiers of local government, so I just want confirmation where it says ‘accepted in part’ that they are seen as a major partner within a localism strategy.

“That relationship, I believe, should be built on even further.”

In response, Cllr Johnson said parish councils were ‘an integral part’ of the council’s partnership working, and that the administration were ‘keen to explore further areas of co-operation’.

He added: “When we say accepted in part, it’s not necessarily a double devolution deal we’re looking for, it’s more co-operative and partnership working and indeed the build-up of the strengthening of relations.”

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