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Independent review praises Walsall Council

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Local government experts have praised the significant transformation and change at Walsall Council in recent years in a recently published report, stating that its excellent transformational approach has brought in new leadership, capacity, skills and ways of thinking to the organisation. 

Purple background with white text stating LGA Corporate Peer Challenge
Purple background with white text stating LGA Corporate Peer Challenge

The report sets out the findings from a visit to the Council in January 2023 by a team of senior local government representatives as part of a Local Government Association (LGA) Corporate Peer Challenge. 

The Peer team included Councillor Rob Waltham, the Leader of North Lincolnshire Council, and Alison McKenzie-Folan, the Chief Executive of Wigan Council. Over the course of four days, the Peer team conducted an independent review into the running of Walsall Council and spoke to more than 120 people including council staff, elected members, volunteers and external partner organisations through a mixture of one-to-ones and focus groups. 

A Corporate Peer Challenge is a voluntary assessment to check how the Council is performing and test its future plans. It is a proven tool for improvement and all councils will have one every five years. The last one at Walsall Council took place in 2017 and was the catalyst for its successful Proud transformation programme. 

This time, there was a specific focus on the Council’s three ‘Proud Promises’ to improve outcomes and customer experience; improve employee satisfaction and engagement; and improve service efficiency and performance.  

The Peer team praised the excellent transformational approach of the Proud programme over the last five years and the strong culture of improvement and learning that they witnessed within the Council during their visit. 

The report referred to the Council’s finances as being “highly effective” with “clear financial arrangements” and its Audit Committee was singled out as “one of the strongest they have seen”. 

The report also praised elected members for their broad local knowledge of the communities they serve and identified the effective relationship between officers and elected members, as well as recognising that the Council works collaboratively and positively with its partners. 

The positive performance of the Council in some highly challenging areas was also cited by the Peer team including the achievement of positive outcomes in areas of adult social care and health through Walsall Together, the delivery of children’s services and the work of the Council in developing integrated teams and enabling hospital discharge. 

Another area that was praised by the Peer team was the breadth and scale of the engagement undertaken for the We Are Walsall 2040 partnership programme, and it commended the Council on the progress that has been made on equalities and diversity across the workforce and in the Council’s delivery against the Public Sector Equality Duty. 

“ I’m proud to say that feedback from the corporate peer challenge has highlighted some very positive areas of work at Walsall Council.

This report recognises that Walsall Council is a well-run council with great staff, and the findings from this review show that continued progress is being made across the Council and that our approach is making a real difference to the wellbeing of our residents.

I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to this review. It’s been a really useful opportunity for us to share information, experience and expertise across the Local Government sector and we will continue to build on the progress that we have made in recent years.

This wasn’t an inspection but rather an opportunity for a team of our local government peers to come to Walsall to review and assess how we work and to help us to identify areas for improvement. It’s certainly helped to reaffirm that we are heading in the right direction, and we welcome the feedback on recommendations of areas for the Council to focus on to continue to improve. “

Councillor Mike Bird, Leader
Walsall Council

Summary of headline findings: 

  • “Walsall Council has undergone significant transformation and change in recent years. This has included the proactive design and delivery of the Council’s ‘Proud Programme’ but also the reactive response of the organisation to wider social changes and reforms.” (page 3) 

  • “Through the Peer Review process, the team were presented with evidence of strong governance arrangements and effective financial planning. This corporate core provides a strong foundation for services, engagement, ongoing transformation, and is underpinned by clear financial reporting, effective engagement with audit, and appropriate internal scrutiny.” (page 3) 
  • “The Council has a strong track record in financial management that as served the organisation well.” (page 4) 
  • “The Peer team heard evidence of effective partnership working in a number of service areas, and a wider Council approach of working “positively” and “collaboratively” with others. This included notable practice in areas such as health and social care, including the operation of seven integrated teams, OFSTED rating Children’s services as ‘good’, and praise for the organisational focus and approach to addressing delayed transfers of care.” (page 4) 
  • “Through the review process, the Peer team met with a broad range of local Councillors who showed an impressive knowledge regarding the borough and the communities that they serve.” (page 12). 
  • “To date, there has been excellent and extensive engagement on the development of the WAW [We Are Walsall] 2040 vision for the borough with 8,000 residents and 2,000 businesses inputting to the process through a broad range of engagement methods” (page 13).  
  • “The Peer team heard praise for the leading role of the Council in the borough’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.” (page 14) 
  • “There are good relationships across the organisation and a good understanding of the respective roles of officers and members which has been supported by a robust member development programme.” (page 16) 
  • “The Council’s work to date on EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] has included good progress through the introduction of the Corporate Equalities Group as well as staff network groups...” (page 17) 
  • “The Council’s capacity for improvement has been demonstrated through the Proud Programme (initiated in 2018), which has had a positive impact for staff and customers.” (page 19) 

A report outlining the findings from the Corporate Peer Challenge will be considered at Cabinet on Wednesday 22 March 2023 along with a high-level action plan to help the Council build on the report’s recommendations. This action plan is pending approval from Cabinet. 

Papers for the meeting can be found here: 

To view a copy of the report, visit: 

To view a copy of the action plan, visit: 

For more information about Corporate Peer Challenges, visit the LGA website at:  

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