LGA review praises resilience, passion and commitment of Council

A recent Corporate Peer Challenge report conducted by the Local Government Association (LGA) has given an upbeat assessment of Forest of Dean District Council, highlighting the commitment of elected members and officers and noting their passion about the people and the communities they serve.

The delivery of many core services is described as good and the report praises the Council’s resilience and willingness to change so that it can continue to meet the needs of residents. In this regard, the Council has made steady progress in finding different ways to deliver services, either through commissioning work, entering into partnerships, or looking at being more commercially minded. This is especially evident in the decision to join with other local authorities - from Cheltenham, Cotswold and West Oxfordshire – to form the Publica joint venture company for the provision of services. The company is on track to deliver savings of £5.7 million per year (£1.4 million per year for Forest of Dean alone) by 2019 while maintaining a full range of services for local residents, and enabling each partner Council to retain their independence on key decision making.

There is also praise for the greater emphasis on regeneration, helping to promote local economic growth and the development of new housing. The creation of the Forest Economic Partnership is welcomed as a very positive move to boost the District’s unique profile and assets and help bid for inward investment in future.

On the strategic front, the report notes that the current council was established just over a year ago and strongly recommends that a refreshed, ambitious and realistic Corporate Plan should be put in place to help the Council maintain its focus on its short and medium-term priorities and set a clear direction so that resources and capacity can be focused to best effect on key priorities.
Looking to the future, the LGA makes the following key recommendations:

- Focus on priorities and put in adequate resources – human and financial – to support delivery

- Review the capacity required to deliver opportunities within regeneration

- Ensure a robust approach to strategic oversight and risk management, including how risks are elevated from individual projects and partnership

- Develop the relationship with the Gloucestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, Gloucestershire County Council and other strategic partners

- Ensure everything is being done to ensure the ongoing development of elected members and officers so that they can all fulfil their roles and achieve the outcomes for the people of the Forest as described in the Corporate Plan

- Communication and engagement methods with staff regarding the Publica transformation programme should be initiated

- Celebrate success and shout about the Forest’s strengths and the opportunities.

Commenting on the report, FODDC Leader Cllr Tim Gwilliam says:
“I am very pleased that this independent LGA peer review has acknowledged our delivery of services as good at a time when many local authorities are finding it hard to make ends meet. They have endorsed our decision to save on running costs by joining the Publica partnership, and are also very complimentary about the progress we are making in the areas of regeneration, housing and economic growth.

“I am also delighted – but not surprised – that our officers and councillors have been commended for their passion, resilience and commitment. Against a backdrop of government cutbacks over many years, they have shown flexibility and imagination to maintain services, and we are now looking to improve them, as well as embarking on new challenges aimed at increasing the prosperity of the District.

“I agree that a new Corporate Plan is needed to help us continue the good progress that we have made and the Council will be working towards this aim as we plan for the future.”


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