Sector-led improvement – a success story

Councils are very supportive of the approach of helping each other to improve their performance, according to an independent report.

We recently commissioned an independent review of the past three years of the LGA’s sector-led improvement offer. I’m delighted to say that the vast majority of you – our member councils – believe it is the right approach to improving local government.

Sector-led improvement (SLI) is about councils helping each other to improve. It’s based on the principles that we are responsible for our own performance, accountable locally, not nationally, and have a collective responsibility for the performance of the sector as a whole.

The role of the LGA is to provide the tools and support needed, which we do through our comprehensive and wide-ranging SLI offer. This includes: free corporate peer challenges; a range of subject-specific peer reviews, covering everything from children’s services to council communications; leadership and training support for councillors and officers; expert consultancy and advice on a range of issues, including productivity, digital and behavioural insights; and benchmarking data and analysis via LG Inform.

Between April 2017 and April 2020, more than 4,000 instances of sector-led improvement support were delivered to councils, including 447 peer reviews and follow-up visits. All councils received at least six parts of the SLI offer. 

The independent review of all this, from Shared Intelligence, found very high levels of satisfaction with SLI, with 80 per cent of councils believing that the LGA’s offer added value to the sector.

The take-up of the variety of SLI offers is high, while satisfaction levels are “remarkably high”, according to the report. The proportion of senior leaders within the sector who consider that SLI is the right approach has increased.

There is extensive and very positive evidence of the impact of SLI on councils’ effectiveness, improvement and innovation, and the LGA’s support offer has strengthened the sector’s capacity to improve itself.

During these challenging times, it was no surprise to find that councils are using our SLI offer, including COVID-19 refocused support, to find the best solutions to support their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

This report has been published alongside another independent report on the LGA’s SLI programme for children’s services, which highlights the “significantly positive impact on improvements in council children’s services” that this offer has made. 

So what now, for the future? These independent reviews show that sector-led improvement is a local government success story. The evidence and feedback collected demonstrate overwhelming support for SLI among councils and very high levels of satisfaction with our offer – clearly showing that SLI remains a valid approach and an important tool for support within the sector. 

The review of our SLI offer also highlights that councils are keen for there to be a longer-term funding arrangement for the SLI programme (currently funded annually by government). A longer-term funding arrangement would help to ensure that councils can receive the improvement support they need, while leading local recovery and renewal over the next three years. 

As we look ahead to the post-coronavirus recovery period, we will continue to work closely with the Government and councils to embed sector-led strengths, bringing fresh ideas and innovation, and using clear data and evidence to build resilience and meet sector needs. 

These reports provide helpful reflections that point to the inherent value of the programme and will help to enhance SLI in the future. We’ll be working closely with all councils over the coming months to ensure that SLI fully reflects your needs over the next three years.

 ‘An independent evaluation of sector-led improvement in local government’ and ‘Evaluation of the LGA sector-led improvement programme for children’s services’ can be downloaded for free at www.local.gov.uk/our-support/our-improvement-offer/sector-led-improvement-reviews. For more information about the LGA’s SLI offer, please visit www.local.gov.uk/our-support.

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