Agenda item

Call ins

The Chair of the Overview Scrutiny Committee has called in the following Item from the Cabinet agenda (3 February 2020)


Item 10. Corporate Peer Challenge Feedback Report  


Reason:          To provide Members with an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness                   of Appendix 3 - GBC's Response to the LGA Corporate Peer                                   Challenge Key Recommendations (January 2020).

                        With a particular focus on Section Two of Appendix 3 - "Introduce a                       clear improvement plan for Planning" 


Officers:        Director (Planning and Development)


Members:       Cabinet Member for Strategic Environment Portfolio

                        – Cllr Brian Sangha



The Director (Corporate Services) advised that the last GBC Peer Challenge had taken place in 2013 and it is best practice to have one every 5 years. On this occasion the Council decided to postpone the Peer Challenge until after the May 2019 Borough Election.


In October 2019, the Council welcomed a Peer Challenge Team onsite in order for them to undertake a Local Government Association (LGA) Corporate Peer Challenge of the Council. The team was onsite for three days (between 15 October and 17 October) and undertook a number of interviews and focus groups with various officers, Members, residents and external partners of the organisation.


The purpose of the Peer Challenge was to focus on the five core areas of business that make up a Peer Challenge:-


·         understanding of the local place and priority setting;

·         leadership of place;

·         financial planning and viability;

·         organisational leadership and governance; and

·         capacity to deliver.


In addition, the team was also asked to consider additional areas of scope identified by the Council, in the areas of housing and housing delivery and planning and the planning service.


The Peer Challenge team had prepared a report setting out their findings and key recommendations; the report was attached at appendix two of the report for Members’ information.


In addressing each of the key recommendations, a detailed action plan had now been developed and was attached at appendix three of the report for Member review and approval.


It was also proposed that a report be brought back to the Cabinet in 12 months’ time (February 2021) to provide an update on progress against the action plan. In addition, the LGA Peer Challenge process included a follow-up visit from the LGA. The purpose of the visit will be to assess the impact of the peer challenge and to review the progress that has been made in delivering the action plan. The follow-up visit will be in two years’ time (February 2022).


The Chair explained that he had called in the item to provide Members with an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of Appendix 3 - GBC's Response to the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge Key Recommendations (January 2020) with a particular focus on Section Two of Appendix 3 - "Introduce a clear improvement plan for Planning"



The Director (Planning & Development) highlighted the relevant section of Appendix 3 in relation to Planning:

Introduce a clear improvement plan for Planning, which is jointly developed and owned by Cabinet and Management Team, to establish clear targets and deadlines for improvement. This should include member training about their role in planning, inviting in the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) and improving processes and procedures


Complete the internal business process review project that is currently underway within the planning service.

Director (Planning & Regeneration)

June 2020


Develop a service improvement plan as part of the internal business process review process and include provisions for subsequent monitoring and review.

Director (Planning & Regeneration)

August 2020


Member Training – explore the opportunities presented from the Planning Advisory Service in respect of the training opportunities.

Director (Planning & Regeneration)

March 2020




The Director (Planning & Development) advised the Committee of the following:


·         The Planning service was not evolving and performance was dipping, and so officers focused on clearing the backlog - the service provision to customers was suffering.

·         Processes and procedures were reviewed and the following put in place:

-       Recruitment: new staff members have improved the situation with new ideas and a fresh approach.

-       Improved report preparation / summarising

-       Made sure policy framework is being analysed

-       Considered the pre-application service.

-       Looked at cost recovery – set a fee that permits a service consistent with need.

-       Improved team working

-       Invested in technology – Microsoft Surface Pros for staff to facilitate mobile working / gone paperless

-       Looking at improving the planning section of the GBC website so more information is available to customers at any given time.

-       Consultation on local validation list – moving forward in April 2020

-       Consultation on design guides

-       Working with the Corporate Change Team to help the department work more efficiently

-       Consideration of a Peer Review of the Planning Committee

-       This will all be carefully monitored and reviewed on a regular basis with reports coming back to Members on progress.


The Director (Planning & Development) and Director (Corporate Services) fielded questions from the Committee and highlighted the following:


·         The deadlines on the action plan are ‘backstops’ and it is envisaged that the actions will be implemented at the earliest opportunity.

·         It is envisioned that the service improvement plan will go through the Committee system.

·         The Peer Challenge recommendations re-affirm that GBC is moving in the right direction and formalises the actions that the Council was already pursuing. The Peer Challenge did not find anything fundamentally wrong with GBC which the Council should be very proud of. The Peer Challenge Group also took away some good ideas / best practice from GBC.

·         The pre-application service starts from approximately £60 for householder development advice. It is a good service at a realistic rate.

·         There was no direct Member request for the planning process review but it does tackle some of the issues Members have raised (e.g. more concise reports).

·         In-house Member Training is effective but external training can be beneficial when dealing with specialised subjects/skills.

·         The ‘Planning Portal’ is run by central government and not controlled by GBC.




The Committee thanked the officers for their good work on this matter.



Resolved that the findings from the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Corporate Peer Challenge report be noted along with the actions plan developed by the Council in response to the recommendations.


Supporting documents: