THE poor behaviour of some councillors, partisan politics, and uncertainty over the future are damaging the effectiveness of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, and having an adverse impact on staff morale.
The council should also consider moving to all-out elections every four years in order to achieve greater stability, and to break out of a cycle of being in almost permanent ‘election mode’.
Those are just some of the key verdicts of a team of external local government experts who spent four days carrying out a ‘health-check’ of the borough council.
At the invitation of council leaders, the six-strong Peer Challenge Team focused on five key areas including political and managerial leadership, governance and decision-making, and financial planning and viability.
On a positive note, the experts concluded: “Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council provides excellent services to its residents. It has effective partnership relations and this is an area of real strength.”
The team also praised the council’s “excellent general approach to economic development and innovative partnerships”, its “good, positive and productive relationships with the business community”, its senior leadership, and the fact that BDBC is debt-free and has high levels of investment property and cash resources.
However, the team added: “Notwithstanding these notable achievements, the politics at the council are partisan and are obstructing good governance of the council. The current culture is detrimental to staff and member relations.
“Many staff recognise that this is a problem for the council, and we urge you to consider addressing this a top priority for resolution.
“In addition, we observed bureaucracy across areas of the council business that causes decision-making to be slow, hidebound by unnecessary process and adding limited or no value to the quality of decision-making in the council. It appears to be an inefficient use of staff and member time.”
The team added: “Within the context of the governance review, we would like to see two specific proposals. The first is that the council considers moving to all-out elections every four years in order to achieve greater stability.
“The second is that it considers including in the constitution that a member of the opposition should chair any scrutiny committee, as is the case in many other councils.”
While being generally “very impressed” with the staff they met, the Peer Challenge Team said they were “surprised to find morale is not as good as might be expected. The political environment combined with uncertainty about potential future change is having a negative effect on the feelings of staff.”
The report team added: “We did not find anyone outside of SLT (senior leadership team) who, during our visit, could tell us what is the council’s top priority, creating the impression that everything is a priority. This approach must ultimately be inefficient and frustrating for staff.”
Clink on the link below to read the review and see today's Gazette for more on this story.