Report Hails Strong And Visible Leadership At Council
Council Chairman Amanda Martin and Chief Executive Theo Leijser are both offering “strong and visible leadership” at the Town Hall. And since they’ve been in charge the positive culture within the authority is “tangible.”
That’s according to a report written by local authority experts who visited Scilly at the end of September.
The consultants’ trip was arranged by the Local Government Association and the party included senior officers and members from councils in Swindon, Havering, Poole and the City of London.
They reviewed documents and interviewed around fifty council employees and members to compile their ‘peer challenge.’
It states that both Cllr Martin and Mr Leijser command “high levels of respect” from staff.
But it’s not all good news. There’s a cash crisis coming.
Based on future projections from the LGA, by 2019 Scilly Council’s income will only meet 62% of the authority’s outgoings. The average forecast for English unitary authorities is 85%.
The Council’s finance arrangements are a concern and have “significant areas for improvement.”
The report also says the Council needs to develop a meaningful medium-term financial strategy.
The assessors felt there hadn’t been much explanation of how savings will be made following Council restructuring, beyond the staff cost reduction and there wasn’t much detail on how the reorganisation of the authority would achieve growth.
Not all staff are too clear on the changes either. They are, “hungry for clarity about the future and their role in it.”
The reviewers accept that external money is needed to deliver schemes in our small authority but after learning about the airport overspend, the LGA group warns that the Council needs to strengthen its approach to capital investment.
And the Town Hall’s “savings” have been depleted. Council reserves are down to around £800,000 and that’s edging closer to their minimum level of £600,000.
Overall, the visitors found that the Council has a new “sense of energy” and purpose.
They also say that relationships between officers and councillors are based on a mutual understanding about respective roles and merits.
And their report says that councillor-officer dynamics have improved, although that appears to contradict last month’s Cornwall Council report, which highlighted difficult relations between some officers and members after a senior staff member lodged a complaint against former councillor Adrian Davis.
There was no case to answer by Dr Davis but the Council will have a staff member and senior councillor meet to discuss the working relationship.
The peer review team observed that housing and connections to the mainland were issues for the Council and these points are being addressed in the Town Hall’s new corporate plan. But they felt it hadn’t been widely communicated to staff or locals.
The LGA group has offered to consult the Council and help devise a more “sophisticated” strategy for getting Town Hall messages out to locals. They also offered their services in sorting out some IT and finance issues.
Senior members as well as Town Hall management should “invest in themselves” and take time to devise strategy, which the consultants say is as essential as managing day-to-day services.
They also recommend that councillors take greater ownership of projects being delivered by their committees and that they should drop the term ‘Chairman,’ which suggests that the role only requires chairing meetings, and replace it with ‘Leader.’
And there should be a set of indicators to gauge how the Council is doing, including the number of complaints, staff absences and the number of Freedom of Information requests.
Councillors were not able to comment on or debate the peer report. It was presented in the Full Council meeting “for information only.”