An independent review of Rotherham Council by the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Corporate Peer Challenge has praised improvements at the organisation, saying it is now “in a very good place”.
The independent LGA peer challenge team visited Rotherham in June 2023 and gathered information from staff, elected members and partners. The team was made up of leading local government figures, including former Rotherham Commissioner Mary Ney.
A final report has now been published, which recognises that Rotherham Council has undergone an impressive transformation, saying; “It is ambitious and has well-established and robust foundations, along with several notable and commendable practices that other councils can learn from.”
The report praises the Council’s staff, saying; “The peer team met some really good quality staff from across the council. They were motivated, dedicated and determined to deliver the best outcomes for residents. They knew the priorities of the council and wanted to do their best to deliver against them.” It notes that “excellent and effective Member [councillor] and officer relationships built on mutual trust.”
The authors noted the significant investment that the Council has secured, seen through an extensive £610m investment programme, it has a “stable financial position” and a clear ambition and plan to achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating in future OFSTED assessments for children’s services.
The report concluded that “Rotherham Council serves the town well and is today an impressive organisation.”
The report makes a number of recommendations for further development, including celebrating achievements, and using the investments already underway to attract private sector investment “at scale” to support a more inclusive economic future. In response to this, an Action Plan has been developed that Cabinet will be asked to approve.
Councillor Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council, said: “This report is testament to the hard work that council staff and elected councillors have been undertaking over the last few years; determined to improve the Council and the services it provides to residents, even at a time when funding has been taken away from us in a way councils have never seen before. Based on hundreds of conversations with our staff and partners, as well as examining our data and how it compares to other councils, it provides an important independent assessment of how far we have come. But it is also points us in the right direction for the future and continuing to create more opportunities for our residents.”
Sharon Kemp, Chief Executive at Rotherham Council, said: “The Corporate Peer Challenge provided the opportunity to gain an external view on what is working well as well as to consider our plans and ambitions going forward. So many people work so hard for our community, week in and week out, often in difficult circumstances, so it’s great to see our brilliant Council staff receiving this feedback from experts from across the country, including from Mary Ney who has known Rotherham right back to the 2014 inspection. Over the coming weeks and months we will be considering how we best use the feedback to continue to improve.”
This endorsement comes on the back of the Council being named the ‘Most Improved Council’ in the country at the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Awards in 2022.
The peer challenge team considered five themes, which form the core components of all Corporate Peer Challenges: local priorities and outcomes, organisational and place leadership, governance and culture, financial planning and management, and capacity for improvement.
You can view the Corporate Peer Challenge Cabinet Report on the Rotherham Council website.