For the sector by the sector 

Corporate Peer Challenge is a highly valued improvement and assurance tool that is delivered by local government for local government.

The fact that it is sector-led is what makes it unique, special and exclusive, and what makes it stand out from anything else available to local authorities.  

Who else understands the challenges and opportunities facing councils better than fellow local government leaders and councillors, chief executives, directors, monitoring officers and section 151 officers?  

Together, they volunteer their time as peers to deliver Corporate Peer Challenges (CPCs) and support improvement and assurance across the sector.  

This is why CPC continues to be one of the most valued improvement and assurance tools we offer to all English councils, with feedback continuing to highlight just what a positive impact it can have.  

In the 2022/23 evaluation of our peer support programmes, 100 per cent of respondents indicated that the process of preparing for and participating in a Corporate or Finance Peer Challenge (FPC) had a positive impact on their council, with 98 per cent stating they were satisfied with their CPC or FPC. 

It is why, as Chair of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, I am so committed to and passionate about CPC and why, over the past year, I have been working with fellow board members and sector colleagues to review, strengthen and develop peer challenge so it continues to meet the needs of the sector and government, and is the best it can be. 

“100 per cent of respondents indicated that the challenge had a positive impact on their council”

This drive to adapt and strengthen CPC is more important than ever. 

The establishment of the Office for Local Government (Oflog) and a small number of high-profile cases involving challenged councils have led to an increased spotlight on council governance and performance, and sparked a debate about the effectiveness of CPC. 

This includes dissenting voices in the media that have challenged the robustness of CPC as an improvement and assurance tool. I strongly believe that we need to hear this feedback and act now.  

In April, we are launching an improved, strengthened and more robust CPC offer for local government.

The changes we have already made over the past year to strengthen CPCs go some way to addressing the concerns of our critics. These include stronger requirements around publication of reports and action plans and a clear requirement for councils to have a ‘progress review’ 12 months after the CPC and to publish the report that follows.

But there is more still to do. 

It is why our recently refreshed LGA Business Plan 2022-2025 includes a key commitment to ‘strengthen our CPC offer to make it more robust and consistent as well as continuing to improve our wider sector-led improvement offers to maximise impact and continue to deliver value for money’.

This is paramount in the current financial climate. 

A programme of work is under way that builds on the changes we’ve already made.  

As we all know, the success of our CPC programme lies in the peer team.  

To ensure we have the best people, we are continuing to invest in our peers through an enhanced programme of face-to-face training. 

We will also ensure that each peer team is independent and includes member peers that reflect the political make-up of your councils.

There will be a greater focus on finance, data and evidence, with a strong assessment of council performance and productivity.

The five core areas of assessment will remain as before – local priorities and outcomes; organisational and place leadership; governance and culture; financial planning and management; and capacity for improvement.

“We are investing in our peers with enhanced face-to-face training”

But there will be a stronger focus on performance, governance and culture, while fully reflecting current challenges to the sector and the current draft statutory guide for best value authorities, ‘Best Value Standards and Intervention’.

We will be introducing a new report structure, style and format, including report writing that will be more authoritative and direct in content with a stronger focus on performance and finance. 

Councils will only be invited to input into the final report by addressing any factual errors or inaccuracies, with all reports being published in a timely manner, alongside an action plan.

Following on from a CPC, our ‘progress review’ will include a full review of a council’s action plan with updates against each action or recommendation to date. 

And, as ever, all evidence, knowledge and good practice will be captured for the sector, to enable better understanding and sharing of good practice.

To ensure our preparedness to swiftly deliver an urgent CPC to any council deemed as ‘high risk’, we are also working at pace to identify and develop a small cohort of both LGA officer and member peers and peer challenge managers who can be allocated to a council at very short notice, if urgently required.

Also, as part of our refreshed government grant-funded offer to the sector, it is now expected that all councils will have a CPC every five years. 

To help with the timing of your CPC, we will work quickly to introduce a detailed timetable for all councils that will highlight a timeframe window to assist you in your planning.  

The LGA’s chair and group leaders will write to you in due course and in good time ahead of your own CPC as a reminder, and information will also be included in your annual LGA membership pack.

The new and robust CPC offer will launch in April 2024 and ensure that Corporate Peer Challenge remains the best in class as an improvement, assurance and prevention tool for councils.

It will run alongside our wide-ranging improvement and assurance support that aims to ensure your local authority is in the best shape possible and able to adapt to rapidly changing conditions, as well as to work now being carried out by Oflog.

For more information about the LGA’s council assurance and peer support programmes, including Corporate Peer Challenge, please visit our website.


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