Local authorities and the wider public services in Wales face unprecedented challenges and change. Local authorities are having to make increasingly difficult decisions around finances and the delivery of key services. Peer reviews provide an expert external perspective, to identify strengths and challenge areas for improvement.
Peer reviews, also known as peer challenges, are a key part of the WLGA’s improvement offer for local authorities. They have been tried and tested in authorities across Wales and have built on the successful LGA model in England.
Peer reviews are cost effective – a team of up to 6 experts are onsite 4 days, providing feedback, peer support and a detailed improvement report for a typical fee of £10,000 plus VAT;
Peer reviews provide authorities with access to unrivalled experience and expertise – The team of up to 6, including senior councillors and local government professionals have years of collective public service experience and all understand the challenges faced and each bring a specific set of knowledge and skills;
Peer reviews are voluntary – local authorities ask the WLGA to provide a peer review. The council is in control of whether to have a review, when to have a review, what the focus of the review should be and who should be involved in the review. There is however a WLGA Council commitment that all authorities will undergo a peer review as part of a four-year rolling programme and all authorities are expected to publish the peer review report;
Peer reviews are not inspections – they are a tool for improvement. Peer reviews are provided by ‘critical friends’ who understand the challenges and pressures of running a local authority. Ongoing targeted support is often available afterwards;
Peer reviews are adaptable – although there are typically core elements focusing on leadership, strategic direction and corporate arrangements, peer reviews are tailored to reflect councils’ local needs and specific requirements;
Peer reviews are reciprocally beneficial – whilst the authority benefits from the peers’ expertise and experience, the peers themselves learn new approaches, ideas and responses to challenges from the authority which they can take back to their own authorities; and
Peer reviews are highly regarded and respected – both by the authorities that have received a review in the past but, crucially, by partners including the Wales Audit Office and Welsh Government. Requesting a peer review is regarded as a sign of organisational maturity and an indication of a council’s commitment to improvement; peer reviews are regarded as honest and impartial contribution to councils’ self awareness and approach to self-improvement.
The WLGA Council agreed in September 2013 that all councils in Wales should undertake a peer review once every four years. The Welsh Government’s ‘Power to Local People’ White Paper in 2015 promoted peer review as a key feature of self-assessment and sector-led improvement and it is anticipated that peer review will form an integral element of the Welsh Government’s anticipated reforms of the local government improvement regime.
For more information contact: Daniel Hurford