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Review shows council's commitment to locals and identifies improvements

Published: 19 March 2024

Teignbridge Logo with Blue Background Teignbridge District Council Logo

Services could be improved if working relationships, governance and decision making was improved at Teignbridge District Council.

That’s the conclusion of a Peer Review carried out by the Local Government Association at the invitation of the council as part of its efforts to improve performance.

The Review concludes that “councillors and officers of Teignbridge District Council are clearly committed to delivering the best possible services for local people “and that “senior managers and senior councillors are clearly respected” and seen as “committed, passionate for their place and highly competent”.

But it is critical of their joint performance, saying there are “obvious tensions between the Executive and the Senior Leadership Team” which is “inhibiting progress and damaging the council’s reputation.”  The team blame past behaviour which “led to an atmosphere of mistrust and a deterioration in the relationship between councillors and officers”.

Feedback on partnership working was generally viewed positively although the Review concludes that more needs to be done to improve relationships with parish councils and to encourage greater interaction and engagement with communities.

The Review was carried out over three days in January where a five strong team from other councils spoke to almost 100 people including a range of council staff, councillors and external stakeholders and gathered information and views from more than 36 meetings.

The Review team focused on five key areas – local priorities and outcomes; organisational and place leadership; governance and culture, financial planning and management and capacity for improvement.

Members of the team, which was led by Jon McGinty, Managing Director Gloucester City Council act as “critical friends” and use their experience to advise how the council can improve its overall performance.

Key recommendations from the Review include:

  • Agreeing and adopting a councillor/officer protocol to improve behaviour and relationships
  • Allowing time for robust policy formulation ahead of committee decision making
  • Setting out of an interim direction of travel pending completion of the Council’s new One Teignbridge strategy
  • Creating a narrative which defines a “community powered council”
  • Introducing a new financial system
  • Creating space for councillors to work and interact with officers within Forde House
  • Developing a forward work programme around a governance framework
  • Strengthening relationships with Town and Parish Councils.
  • Resourcing the Modern 25 transformation programme which aims to deliver £2.6m of phased benefit savings by April 2026

Since the Review was carried out a conference has been held, organised in conjunction with Devon Association of Local Councils, to improve relationships with town and parish councils. Engagement is taking place on the council’s new One Teignbridge strategy, a new finance system is being implemented, office space has been created for councillors and discussions to improve relationships between senior councillors and officers are underway.

Managing Director Phil Shears welcomed the Peer Group’s conclusions and said an action plan was being prepared to implement the suggested improvements. “Having an external perspective from a senior team on changes that we could make to improve the way we operate is invaluable and both councillors and officers are committed to implementing the recommendations as swiftly as possible.”

Leader of the Council Martin Wrigley said it was important that the council built on the examples of good practice highlighted in the Review to deliver the best possible services for local communities.

“We are collectively committed to implementing our vision of a community powered council and tackling some of the staff shortages which has held up progress in some areas.”
Leader of the Council, Martin Wrigley
Leader of the Council, Martin Wrigley

The Review Team will return in 12 months to evaluate the progress that has been made.

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