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Local Government Association (LGA) Peer Review

Preston lamb

Peer Challenge Review

In September 2023, Preston City Council invited the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge Team to visit our city as part of our commitment to continued development and improvement.

The Local Government Association's Corporate Peer Challenge (CPC) is a voluntary, tried and trusted method of improvement. It is designed to support the Council's performance by identifying its areas of strength and areas for development and we put ourselves forward to take part.

The challenge generally follows a five year cycle, with our last review taking place in 2016. The Challenge aims to look at the Council's vision, ambition and aspirations for Preston and its people, how we tailor our actions for our communities and how we understand local needs, pressures and opportunities.  How we work with partners and how we, as an organisation, are best equipped to deliver for our city and its diverse communities.

Staff and key stakeholders from across our networks and anchor partners participated in a series of individual interviews and small group discussions with members of the review panel.

The CPC was conducted by a team of people from outside the NW region with a wide range of experience and knowledge about local government. It included three senior councillors, one serving council leader, a serving local authority chief executive and another senior officer.

The team was facilitated by a member of the LGA's staff with experience of the CPC process.

The Review Panel

Members of the review panel are:

We also produced Preston's Position Statement, a document that 'set the scene' and provided a comprehensive introduction to Preston City Council for the Peers ahead of the Challenge.

You can download a copy of Our Position Statement for the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge. (PDF) [7MB]

It set out key areas as detailed above, ahead of the review process, in order for staff and key stakeholders to also understand where we are looking for support, and areas of potential improvement and development.

The Peer Team followed five themes which form the core components of all Corporate Peer Challenges. These areas are critical to Councils' performance and improvement.

  1. Local priorities and outcomes - Are the council's priorities clear and informed by the local context? Is the council delivering effectively on its priorities?
  2. Organisational and place leadership - Does the council provide effective local leadership? Are there good relationships with partner organisations and local communities?
  3. Governance and culture - Are there clear and robust governance arrangements? Is there a culture of challenge and scrutiny?
  4. Financial planning and management - Does the council have a grip on its current financial position? Does the council have a strategy and a plan to address its financial challenges?
  5. Capacity for improvement - Is the organisation able to support delivery of local priorities? Does the council have the capacity to improve?

We asked the team to pay particular focus and provide feedback on staff capacity and resilience, which was picked up during theme 5. In addition, as part of theme 2, the challenge considered the role of partners in enabling city growth and Community Wealth Building (CWB).

Throughout the Peer Review Challenge, the team gathered information and views from more than 49 meetings and focus groups, in addition to further research and reading. Collectively they also spoke to more than 100 people including a range of Council staff together with members and external stakeholders.

Following an intensive three-day schedule, the Peer team presented their initial findings to the staff of Preston City Council, with a follow up report to follow.

You can read the report in full by downloading a copy of the Feedback Report. (PDF) [255KB]

The Summary

In summary, the Council was praised for its commitment to CWB and its achievements including increases in procurement spend, being the first Local Authority in the North of England to be accredited by the Living Wage Foundation, and generating local employment, training and skills opportunities through the Council's planning process.

The Council was also commended on its political maturity and cross-party working, and on the pride, passion, loyalty and commitment that the staff have for the Council, and our strength of positive partnerships we have built with our anchor networks.

The Council will now focus on raising further awareness and understanding of what Community Wealth Building is and what is means to the people of Preston and to demonstrate and evaluate the positive impact of CWB activity.

We will also be focusing on communicating effectively the wider ambitions and priorities of the city and creating a strong, clear vision and corporate narrative that that will be aligned with a corporately led communications, engagement and marketing strategy. We will also be implementing a more consistent approach with new infrastructure to support and engage with the community faith and voluntary sectors in line with CWB principles and wider Council priorities.

Greater focus will also be given to data and performance management to support strategic direction and decision making and we will be looking at how we can improve our capacity, both organisationally and within our workforce, to support our regeneration ambitions and maximise opportunities.

Key to this will be continuing to work together with our anchor network and strengthening new strategic partnerships to cement our role as a place leader. Other areas of focus will be to strengthen our longer-term financial sustainability, consider our approach to financial risk, and to implement a strategic asset management plan to support the transformation agenda.

Next Steps

You can download the LGA Peer Challenge response plan. (PDF) [114KB]

The Peer Team are due to return to Preston City Council for an update on the progress made in June 2024.

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