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17 December 2019

LGA Peer report reveals Cumbria County Council’s performance as good with significant progress being made

Following a Corporate Peer Challenge by the Local Government Association in June 2019, Cumbria County Council has today welcomed their final report. Overwhelmingly the report found that the council’s performance is very good with significant progress made.

The report highlights achievements including:

  • The Leader and Cabinet have a clear vision for the council
  • The council has strong relationships with stakeholder organisations
  • The council has a proud, committed workforce who feel valued
  • The council has a good track record of managing its finances - achieving savings of £249m to date
  • As a council used to operating under No Overall Control it has established a system of governance founded upon collaboration and mutual respect across the political groups
  • There has been significant cultural change within the council, resulting from concerted effort and a willingness to invest in people
  • The council has extremely proud, passionate, committed staff of a very high calibre
  • Staff feel well engaged and valued by the organisation - they are well informed, they are able to contribute thoughts and ideas, they have the tools to do the job and they are invested in
  • Improvements are evident in Children’s Services
  • The response to, and recovery from, the Cumbrian floods was excellent
  • The council has a programme of significant capital investment to deliver service improvements such as Campus Whitehaven and three new state of that art residential care homes
  • There has been good progress on the Integrated Care Communities for health and social care
  • Evidence of innovation such as the testing of new highways technology
  • Successful regional engagement - Northern Powerhouse, Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, and Transport for the North
  • Area working is very well understood and supported both internally and externally and is aiding joined-up working
  • Elected members and staff are passionate and knowledgeable about the places and people they serve and are able to highlight tangible examples of the way in which the area working approach is making a difference to people’s lives

The report also outlined a few areas for improvement including the opportunity to:

  • Further develop a strong ‘resident voice’ to help inform the council’s approach,
  • Accelerate the council’s digital programme 
  • Develop a longer-time horizon for financial planning

The county council’s Chief Executive, Katherine Fairclough reflecting on the report’s findings, said:

“The Corporate Peer Challenge has highlighted some real strengths for Cumbria County Council and our approach. It recognises that the direction of the council is well understood and supported, both internally and externally. It also confirmed that the area working approach is making a difference to people’s lives, in particular it acknowledged the dedication of elected members and council staff in understanding the communities they serve and demonstrating the ‘Cumbrian spirit.’

“We welcome this external view on the council, especially in relation to our engagement with communities, area working, and financial sustainability. The report also shows that as an organisation we look outwards and that we play a key role at a county, regional and national level. 

“Going forward, our focus remains on continuing to deliver real change and benefits to the people and communities of Cumbria. The council welcomes the Peer Challenge feedback and I’d like to personally thank everyone who took part and supported the process.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) Peer Challenge allowed the council to invite a panel of external local government expert peers into the council to look at how it is performing across a number of different areas. This review focused on six key themes;

  • Understanding of the local place and priority setting
  • Leadership of place
  • Capacity to deliver
  • Organisational leadership and governance
  • Financial planning and viability
  • Area Working

The LGA team spent four days at Cumbria County Council in June 2019, speaking to more than 200 people, and gathering information from more than 35 interviews and focus groups. Collectively, the team spent more than 450 hours to determine their findings - the equivalent of one person spending thirteen weeks in Cumbria. Peer challenges are managed and delivered by the sector for the sector and they are improvement focused and tailored to reflect the local needs and specific requirements of the ‘host’ council. It involved a group of public sector experts who drew from their own experiences in other local authorities, both from a political and operational perspective.

Following a Corporate Peer Challenge by the Local Government Association in June 2019, Cumbria County Council has today welcomed their final report.