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Review highlights progress at pace 21 May 2024 (Braunston Parish Council) Review highlights progress at pace for West Northamptonshire Council

An independent review of how West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) is working three years after its inception has highlighted a strong positive start as a new unitary authority with ‘much achieved at pace’.

Feedback from the Local Government Association’s (LGA) recent Corporate Peer Challenge also emphasised the ‘positive culture’ and ‘tangible upbeat energy’ of staff at WNC, who it said took a ‘thoughtful people-centred approach’ to engaging with residents, with many examples of frontline workers ‘going the extra mile’ to support their needs. It cited ‘good and constructive working relationships between all councillors and officers, having ‘mutual respect and support’ particularly observable between the senior management team and Cabinet members.

A report of the peer challenge’s findings published today West Northamptonshire Corporate Peer Challenge | West Northamptonshire Council (westnorthants.gov.uk) said that external partner organisations described relationships with the Council as ‘the best they have ever been’ and WNC now needed to work more closely and strategically with them to shape the future of the area, including developing a long-term Place vision.

The Corporate Peer Challenge took place in March by a team of senior officers and members from other councils across the country, who looked in detail at how effective WNC is at providing services, measuring its own ability to deliver upon its plans and vision for improving West Northants and in terms of governance and leadership. The LGA carried out the review at no cost as part of its improvement programme.

During their four-day visit they held more than 40 sessions to gather information and views of over 110 people including staff, councillors and external partners from the business, health, community and education sectors.

The Peers also recognised the development of the Council so far had been focused on bringing together the many services, staff and complex systems and processes from the four previous councils, stating ‘a huge amount has been achieved and this has concentrated effort and energy’. They recognise the scale of effort required to do this and that staff needed to take stock of their achievements.

They added that WNC had done this ‘under the shadow of the county council’s failure and government intervention’ with still more work to do, but moving forward the Council ‘cannot be an apologist for the past for things that did or didn’t happen prior to its existence’ and should now start to ‘look outwards and explore with partners what it wants for West Northamptonshire’. This aligns with the Council’s own vision and purpose for the next stage of its journey.

The report also highlights how staff told the Peer Team they liked working for the Council, which was also developing a reputation of being a good place to work for potential employees both with and without previous local government experience. Staff felt they had the right support, tools and equipment to do their jobs effectively and that the approach of the Executive Leadership Team was open and accessible. Peers also witnessed shared ownership and energetic leadership of governance and culture at the council’s main offices in Angel Square, Northampton.

The report published today puts forward eight recommendations from the review and the Council will now develop and publish an action plan on how it plans to progress them. They focus on issues such as doing more to raise the wider profile of West Northants and engaging better with partners to produce a long-term vision, developing how the Council plans for its medium to longer term budget pressures and reviewing financial risks in line with corporate ambitions.  Other recommendations include developing overview and scrutiny and improving customer transactions and the Council’s website.

Councillor Adam Brown, Leader of West Northamptonshire Council, said: “We welcome the findings of the LGA’s Corporate Peer Challenge as an excellent test of our organisation’s priorities, strengths, challenges and culture.

“This report recognises the incredible journey of change our Council has experienced in its formative years and their recommendations will be key to helping us to shape our next chapter for better services and outcomes for people across West Northamptonshire.

“It reflects the substantial amount of work we have done at pace to build strong foundations for our new council and create a positive can-do culture of energy and enthusiasm amongst staff and members, which will be crucial to our success in the years ahead. We know there is still much more to do but this review reaffirms that we now need to look forward, not back as we enter our fourth year.

"It’s encouraging to know our partners share our aspirations for the area and are keen to join us on our journey ahead and we will welcome their closer working and the invaluable involvement they will bring towards shaping a long-term vision for West Northamptonshire. I would like to thank everyone who was involved or contributed to this peer challenge.”

West Northamptonshire Council was formed as a new unitary authority on 1 April 2021 as part of major local government reorganisation in Northamptonshire, replacing the previous county council and Daventry, Northampton and South Northants councils.

The Report can be viewed on WNC’s website here West Northamptonshire Corporate Peer Challenge | West Northamptonshire Council (westnorthants.gov.uk).

The LGA Corporate Peer Challenge took place from 4-7 March at WNC’s office in One Angel Square, Northampton.? The peer team considered the core themes looked at by all corporate peer ?challenges, namely: local priorities and outcomes, organisational ?and place leadership, governance and culture, financial planning ? and management and capacity for improvement.?

Find out more about the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge on their website

Contact Information

West Northamptonshire Council Communications Team
[email protected]

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