Council praised for its recent progress
Royal Borough: Report recommendations accepted
Councillors have voted to accept the recommendations of an external report which sought to scrutinise the council’s operations.
The Local Government Authority’s Corporate Peer Challenge (CPC) was initially published in February, with its final findings and recommendations presented to cabinet on Thursday.
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 praised the council’s ‘people’ services; performance metrics for looked after children are ‘better than the average for councils in the South East’, while 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, 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 11 recommendations were submitted in the CPC, all-but two of which were accepted in full by cabinet, while 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 the 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 Express 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 plan was 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.”
Cllr Johnson said parish councils were ‘an integral part’ of the council’s partnership working, and that the administration was
‘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.”