Council praised during crucial Peer Challenge

BARROW Borough Council has secured praise for its vision and enthusiasm following a Peer Challenge.

A team of senior local government officers and member peers from councils across the country concluded the authority is staffed by committed and enthusiastic teams who want to make a difference for residents across the area.

The findings of the peer group - put together following interviews with 42 people and information and views on 31 meetings - were received this week following their visit to Barrow in February.

Councillor Ann Thomson, Barrow Borough Council leader, said: “The team arrived in February, before we went into lockdown as a nation, and they were clearly impressed by the drive and enthusiasm they found within the teams, something that has increased even further over the last six months.

“While this is evident to all of us involved in the work of the council, it’s superb to have it reaffirmed in an external assessment like this. To say I am proud is an understatement. 

“The team also set out a series of recommendations for the council. This is hugely valuable learning for us as we strengthen as an organisation for the benefit of all those who live and work in Barrow.”

Barrow Borough Council underwent its first peer review in 2013.

The findings of this latest review are set out in a report to be discussed at a meeting of Barrow’s executive committee on September 16. 

The peer review team acknowledged challenges faced by the borough council as a result of a decade of austerity.

They went on to recognise its ambition to reshape services to best meet the needs of residents in the future.

The peer challenge team found: 

- The Council Plan, adopted in January, enjoys ‘wide awareness and support amongst members, officers and partners, and there is good-will, positivity and enthusiasm for change’.

- Staff selected for interview by the peer review team said ‘We are all here because we want to make a difference’ and ‘we know there is lots we need to do. We are ready to be a team.’

- There exists ‘a climate of pride, optimism and positivity’ within teams of ‘committed, high calibre and motivated’ staff and members.

A series of recommendations laid out in the report include:

- Ensuring Barrow Borough Council has the capacity and resources to play a leading role on strategic partnerships, harnessing new funding opportunities.

- Agreeing the timeline and sequencing of key work programmes that support delivery of the Council Plan.

- Continuing to ensure the budget and Medium-Term Financial Plan are aligned to the priorities within the new Council Plan.

Sam Plum, Barrow Borough Council chief executive, said: “A peer challenge provides really helpful information about where we are as an organisation and how effectively we are moving towards where we want to be.

“It also provides us with a powerful opportunity to place focus on areas that will make us a stronger council in the future.

“These are things we are already working on through our Council Plan and now also Growing Forward, our report on how we need to adapt the way we support our communities in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“My thanks go to the peer review team for their insight and expertise as well as to our officers and members who give their all and are dedicated to doing their best for the entire borough of Barrow.”