Our Plan for Barnet
A new independent report published by the Local Government Association (LGA) has praised Barnet Council for how it has “reset its relationship with residents” in the past 12 months, with a change in how decisions are made driven by the shift from a “Committee System to a ‘Strong Leader and Cabinet”.
Barnet Council commissioned the LGA to review every aspect of the organisation to ensure it is fit for purpose to deliver the council’s far-reaching Our Plan for Barnet 2023-2026. The peer review, conducted by a panel of councillors and council executives from outside of the borough, interviewed Barnet’s council leadership, senior members of the political administration, and representatives of community groups and organisations.
The review points to the council's accomplishments in partnering with community groups and residents to reshape its operations, with a strong emphasis on collaboration as a driving force behind its progress.
The report underlines the commitment of employees and “positive working culture” in Barnet, with staff citing support for their career development and equalities, diversity and inclusion. The review panel noted the increased “visibility” and openness demonstrated by the council's leadership, with many of those interviewed reporting that they feel “energised and invigorated” by the new direction for Barnet.
Another major focus is the shift from a Committee to Cabinet and Scrutiny governance system which is identified for bolstering transparency and accountability in decision-making processes.
Barnet Council Leader, Cllr Barry Rawlings, said:
"This review by our peers recognises our successes and identifies focal points for the next three years, as we improve how we care for people, our places, and the planet.
“It highlights that we have a strong and capable workforce, headed by a committed and passionate leadership, who preside over a culture focused on equality of opportunities. We have a strong grip on council finances, meaning we can continue to deliver despite a very challenging financial and economic climate.
“We are a council that embraces innovation and that listens to our residents and communities so that we go together on the journey to create a resilient, well-run, and fun borough that we can all be proud of.”
The report commends the council's dedication to providing essential services being “seen as an exemplar in many areas of its children’s practice” and demonstrating “good practice” in Adult Social Care. It also found a focus on integrating principles of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion into the “core ethos” of the council, and that the working culture in Barnet is “broadly positive”, with a “culture of respect and commitment”.
While the report acknowledges the council's prudent financial management, it also acknowledges ongoing challenges, such as the increasing costs of funding adult social care.
This is the first time the council has undergone a corporate peer review. The review was commissioned to help the council assess its progress, help drive performance and identify areas for improvement.
Barnet Council’s leadership team has taken on board the recommendations of the LGA’s report and has set out its action plan as part of its ongoing transformation programme to support the delivery of Our Plan for Barnet 2023-2026.
Link to full report: https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s79678/Appendix%20A%20-%20LGA%20Report.pdf
Notes for editors
1. The peer team visited at a significant time of change for Barnet, with the Council just over one year on from a change in administration
2. The peer team was selected on the basis of their relevant expertise. The peers were:
- Robin Tuddenham, Chief Executive, Calderdale Council
- Cllr Claire Holland, Leader, London Borough of Lambeth
- Alex Thompson, Director of Finance and Customer Services (S151 officer), Cheshire East Council
- Jonathan Lloyd, Director for Strategy and Change, London Borough of Waltham Forest
- Sadie East, Director of Transformation, London Borough of Brent
- Shadow – Dhanya Nair, NGDP, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
- Peer Challenge Manager – Helen Reeves, Senior Regional Adviser, LGA
3. The scope and focus of the peer team considered the following five themes which form the core components of all Corporate Peer Challenges:
- Local priorities and outcomes - Are the Council’s priorities clear and informed by the local context? Is the Council delivering effectively on its priorities?
- Organisational and place leadership - Does the Council provide effective local leadership? Are there good relationships with partner organisations and local communities?
- Governance and culture - Are there clear and robust governance arrangements? Is there a culture of challenge and scrutiny?
- 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?
- Capacity for improvement - Is the organisation able to support delivery of local priorities? Does the Council have the capacity to improve?