All councils should sign up to peer review challenges

By Michael Burton | 06 September 2017
  • Michael Burton

Some 15 years ago I was invited to join a six-strong peer review team of senior councillors and officers that had been called in by the new administration of a unitary council to produce a warts and all report on its performance. David Clark, then director of SOLACE, told me: ‘You will all become utterly absorbed and think of nothing else for the entire week.’ He was right.

At the end of a full-on week we pooled our notes from numerous internal and external interviews. Between the six of us we had built up a clear picture of the council’s strengths and weaknesses. Our lead chief executive did not pull her punches in presenting our conclusions to the cabinet and one councillor said afterwards: ‘How did you manage to sum us up so accurately after just one week?’ The council’s chief executive added: ‘It’s not surprising. You are all experienced in the sector and you summarised and reflected back what we told you.’ One striking point was that our review was substantially more critical than the council’s own complacent earlier self-assessment.

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