Peer Challenge – July 2011
What is the peer challenge?
The peer challenge is a review of the councils carried out by a group of senior people from within the local government ‘community’. It is entirely voluntary and is designed to support continuous improvement within councils. It is not an inspection such as those carried out by the audit Commission previously. The challenge will is both backward-looking at the councils’ recent performance, and forward-looking in identifying the areas which the council could seek to improve further on in future. It consisted of two parts:
- completion of a self assessment
- a fact-finding visit by the peer challenge team
The self assessment
This is our response to a number of standard questions, which the peer challenge team explored during their visit. It included examples/case studies and key documents to support our examples. In summary the key questions included:
- How well are the councils delivering against their key priorities and those of local residents and how can it demonstrate this good performance?
- How do we ensure effective political, managerial and community leadership?
- How do we maximise our own and partners resources to achieve maximum outputs for the local area?
- How innovative are we, including innovation through joint working?
The challenge team visit
They visited on 18–21 July 2011. As part of their visit the team asked us to set up a number of 1 to 1 interviews and focus groups with key people including councillors, staff, contractors, partners and residents.
Peer challenge results
Quote from final letters:
"There is a story of good progress on many priority areas within [ South Oxfordshire/Vale of White Horse], with this having been achieved at the same time as delivering a challenging and innovative agenda centred on the implementation of the shared arrangements. Performance improvement has been delivered in priority areas and the council is held in high regard by citizens and partners."
The team saw particular strengths in:
- The way we had improved performance in key areas like waste and benefits
- our very strong focus on efficiency
- sound financial management
- being leading edge on shared working arrangements
- managing organisational and cultural change in difficult circumstances.
Their suggestions for areas that we could focus on in the future included:
- fully engaging councillors in the change toward shared services as an approach to service delivery
- re-invigorating the role of councillors as local representatives and in their scrutiny role
- maintaining a balance between achieving continuing efficiencies on the one hand, and the need to tackle social issues such as deprivation
The letter from the assessor team sets out in full the results of the peer challenge
Last reviewed: 06 - 02 - 2013