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News release from: 14/12/2023

Corporate Peer Challenge report published

Corporate Peer Challenge report published

A Local Government Association review has described South Cambridgeshire District Council as being in a positive financial position – with a comprehensive and innovative response to the cost-of-living crisis.

The District Council has recently taken part in a Corporate Peer Challenge, which is run by the Local Government Association (LGA) and designed to provide robust, strategic and credible challenge and support to councils. Typically, every Council has a Peer Review every five years; the Council’s last Peer Review was on its Planning Committee in 2020. This latest review was of the whole Council.

The District Council invited the team of Peers, made-up of councillors and officers from other councils, to visit South Cambridgeshire District Council in late October / early November. They spoke with staff, councillors, and local partners, and their report has now been published.

It outlines how South Cambridgeshire is a thriving economic area which has enabled the Council to plan for a balanced budget through to 2024/25 – with limited investment risk.

With cost of living pressures continuing to impact on the country, the peer team report also says, “The Council’s cost of living response has been comprehensive, innovative and is well funded with good mechanisms in place to listen to residents’ concerns, and the joining up with key partners including the Integrated Care System has produced positive outcomes for communities.”

The report adds that the District Council performs above average for household recycling rates. It highlights respectful member and officer relationships and says the Audit and Governance Committee was consistently described as being effective. It also praises recent work to examine how the Council can improve how it interacts with younger people.

As with all Corporate Peer Challenges by the LGA, the report contains recommendations to help the Council improve. These include the need to better convey a vision for South Cambridgeshire and resetting and defining relationships at local and regional levels with key partners.  

Peers recommended the Council accelerates the closure of its outstanding accounts. Since their visit, the 2020/21 accounts have been signed-off by the Audit and Corporate Governance Committee, and work is underway to complete the next set of accounts as soon as possible.

Peers also say that developing a community strategy will enable a structured focus around enabling and supporting communities, and further build on the relationship with the voluntary and community sector and parishes, helping them work even closer with the Council.

The full report can be read online.

The Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Bridget Smith, said: “We welcome the findings in this report and are grateful to the peers for giving up their time to help us improve. There are always ways that we can do better and things that we can learn for the benefit of our residents and businesses. It is extremely helpful to have a critical friend giving a fresh perspective.”

“The report is very clear that we are on a sound financial footing, which is a huge achievement given the financial pressures that councils up and down the country continue to face. However, times remain tough as we are asked to do more with less. We know we always need to be focused on ensuring local taxpayers get the very best value for money. Through our ambitious transformation programme, we are working to identify at least £2 million in savings by April 2026."