The comments were made by the Local Government Association (LGA) as part of an ongoing support session, following the recommendations that were made in the LGA’s Corporate Peer Challenge in 2019, and most recently in a LGA Recovery and Renewal Panel in September last year.
Reflecting on the previous recommendations, the council were able to demonstrate in several areas that significant progression has been made, including:
- A significant organisational restructure was completed between November 2020 and January 2021. A new senior leadership team is now in place and a programme of employee engagement developed.
- Improvements within Children’s Services with progress seen through the feedback from the most recent OFSTED virtual monitoring visit in August 2020
- Addressing the pressing financial position with an agreed budget, and a Medium-Term Financial Strategy for 2021/22 and a Capital and Investment Strategy approved
- Ensuring the council’s strategy engages all stakeholders, and that policy and strategic decision making is now being shaped through the use of a clear set of corporately owned priorities
- Developing and investing in proactive external communications including an organisation rebrand.
The LGA summary report from the session highlighted the significant amount of progress achieved in the last 12 months, which has been all the more remarkable set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the council’s role in leading the local response to it. During this period, the council also managed to recruit and establish an almost entirely new senior management team, with 5 out of 6 senior officers joining the council in the last 12 months.
In addition, the council also embraced the opportunity for a LGA Recovery and Renewal Panel to be carried out in September 2020, which focuses on how the council intends to reset existing ways of working post -Covid. The summary report highlighted the progression on a number of the recommendations including the development of detailed recovery roadmaps, a new Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise Strategy, an agreed Economic Recovery Plan, the development of an Integrated Care Partnership structure and the progression of a new model for locality working.
The LGA singled out the recent achievements of the council in winning national recognition for its Transforming and Innovating Public Services Award – for the Ways of Working programme, and the Covid-19 Response and Partner Excellence Awards – for the St Helens Together campaign.
The LGA also commented that positive changes have been brought about by the setting of clear goals, a positive, honest and collaborative working relationship between Elected Members and officers, and greater clarity in decision making.
Commenting on the summary report, Cllr David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council, said: “The LGA have been clear that the extent of the improvements within the council has been significant since the corporate peer challenge which took place in 2019 before I became Leader, and I thank all those councillors and staff members who have worked together to make the changes we needed.
“What is even more astonishing is the pace at which these improvements have been made, all while fighting a national pandemic and working to support residents, businesses and essential services.
“It is clear that the new senior officer team we’ve appointed with a clearer recognition of roles, a collaborative working relationship and greater clarity in decision making has put the council in a much stronger position and has laid the foundations from which we can go from strength to strength.”
You can read the full version of the LGA Peer Support Summary Report here.