Peer challenge is a core element of our sector-led improvement offer to local authorities. A fully funded Corporate Peer Challenge is available to all councils every four to five years.
There are some design principles that it is important to understand as these lie at the very heart of our offer:
Peer challenge is not an inspection, it is a tool for improvement and it works. Our latest annual feedback for 2018/19 shows that commitment continues to be demonstrated by the levels of take-up, with 71 councils having engaged in Corporate Peer Challenge, Finance Peer Review, or a Corporate Peer Challenge Follow Up Visit during 2018/19 - which equates to nearly a fifth of the sector. This is an slight increase on 2017/18. Peer challenge is carried out to your specification aimed at improving, not judging, your council.
- Peer challenge should be undertaken at a time which most suits a council and focus on what is of most importance to a council.
- A scoping meeting at the outset involving a visit by LGA representatives will be an essential feature. The council’s specific needs, the areas it wants to focus on, the makeup of the team and the results it wants to achieve will be discussed and agreed.
- Peer Challenge should include some focus on leadership, governance, corporate capacity and financial resilience. These will form a core component of all corporate peer challenges.
- The process should be proportionate – minimising the burden (rather than making unnecessary demands that absorb capacity and divert attention) focusing on making appropriate preparation and maximising the benefits.
The corporate peer challenge will be pitched at a strategic organisational level and we would not expect them to include in-depth service reviews since this would duplicate other services we provide. There is significant flexibility to enable the peer challenge to focus on those local priorities, outcomes and ambitions which are important locally.
A corporate peer challenge will focus on the following key areas in discussion with the council:
- understanding of the local place and priority setting
- leadership of place
- financial planning and viability
- organisational leadership and governance
- capacity to deliver.
If you want to discuss a peer challenge in your council then please contact your regional LGA Principal Adviser.
"I’m proud to have been part of the LGA Peers Team invited into Staffordshire County Council in 2018. The Team brought experience and insights from across the country to bring challenge and share learning with colleagues in Staffordshire as they planned the delivery of their ambitious vision and medium term budget. Like many councils, Staffordshire had a lot of successful practice to share and also areas of improvement. Peer review is such a powerful tool both for those being reviewed but also for the review team who gain new learning and time to reflect with peers about the challenges we face in our own councils."
Adrian Smith, Corporate Director – Place, Nottinghamshire County Council