Richmondshire District Council needs to do more to achieve ambitions, review team concludes

Increased demand means Richmondshire District Council is struggling to deliver the current level of services and needs to do more to achieve its ambitions, an independent review has found.

The Peer Review team concluded that the authority had highly committed staff and a culture that was very positive.

“People like working for the council and there is an enthusiastic buzz amongst the workforce which made it a pleasure to visit,” the review team concluded.

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The team added that the council had a new focus on development and growth as part of its approach to mitigate the forthcoming financial challenges, including economic and housing development.

However, it added: “Evidence suggests that currently it is focused more on aspirations than action.

“Clearer priorities and plans for action will be needed to realise the council’s potential and to encourage wider stakeholders to engage in the process.”

Inspectors said previous efficiency drives and other measures had led to capacity being stretched which would impact on the council’s ability to reach its ambitions.

“It is already appears difficult for officers to deliver the current level of services due to increased demand, and RDC is an ambitious council wanting to increase what it can to support local residents (for example housing support and benefits).”

It later added: “The council has stated that it wishes to be an ‘enabling’ council especially in relation to its new area of focus: growth.

“However, we heard several different views of what that means.

“There is little evidence of proactive work enabling others to deliver services on RDC’s behalf, with the exception of extra care housing, where the Council has been very proactive.

“Without good, clear communications, it could appear that RDC is not taking a lead in the service areas where it could act.”

The council invited the Local Government Association to conduct the review to look at ways in which it could improve and grow.

The five members of the review team spent a week with the authority last November talking to council staff, councillors, partners and stakeholders.

Their findings have now been published and an action plan to address findings will be considered by members of the authority’s corporate board in June.

“The Peer Review has confirmed a good deal of what we know – people like working for the council and we are ambitious,” said council leader,” Councillor Yvonne Peacock.

“Now we need to take stock of the finer details of the report and agree a plan of action to move things forward. That includes looking at maximising our influence with existing and potential partners, considering further income generation options and prioritising the use of our funds to meet our key objectives.”

“The review team also suggested the council developed its work with outside agencies and looked to other bodies that worked with the MOD and National Parks to improve learning.

“The review team recognised that we have leverage to maximise the benefits of partnership working for our residents and communities – but found people did not know about our work,” added Councillor Peacock.

“We need to ensure we improve this and get the recognition we deserve.”

“She said the team praised the council’s work with housing partners – the willingness to facilitate new housing schemes and the provision of affordable homes in deeply rural areas. And while there is a healthy financial balance now, there are challenges ahead with strategic decisions needed to ensure continuity in service delivery.”