Sandwell Council has made “significant progress” in a year, according to an independent review.
A Local Government Association (LGA) peer challenge team returned to Sandwell in January this year to assess progress on recommendations it made in January 2018.
The team met around 120 people from across the council and partner organisations.
The team’s feedback confirms the council is improving in all areas.
The LGA team said: “The Peer Team recognise that significant progress has been made against many of the recommendations and there has been progress on all fronts which is commendable given it is only 12 months since the original review.”
The team said Sandwell’s Vision 2030 “feels more embedded within the council” and has “empowered staff” and highlighted excellent performance in highways maintenance, youth offending and reducing ‘bed-blocking’ at hospitals.
Among its wide-ranging feedback, the team praised several areas including the council’s “strong track record of delivering balanced budgets” and work to engage young people in schools through the Aspire Sandwell scheme.
Deputy council leader Councillor Syeda Khatun said: “We invited the LGA team back to look at how we’re doing one year on and the feedback we’ve received has been excellent.
“We are pleased the review team has acknowledged all the efforts made over the past year and the pace of improvement across many areas, all aimed at improving services for people who live and work in Sandwell.”
Councillor Steve Trow, cabinet member for culture and core council services, said: “This feedback shows we are making progress on our Vision 2030 aims and ambitions, maintaining a strong budget despite national cuts and protecting the services that matter most to Sandwell people across our six towns.”
The review team highlighted “good relationships” between the council and Sandwell Children’s Trust and praised “strong partnerships” with other areas in the region on public health and regeneration.
The team also said the council had “finalised the historical standards issues” and that “governance has gone ‘back to basics’ to ensure there are robust processes in place – with plans in place for delivery”.
Councillor Trow added: “The LGA team made very positive comments about our ongoing governance review, our member development programme and our innovations in ICT.
“The review team clearly recognised that we’ve tackled issues that have arisen head-on.”
The LGA team also highlighted that “a full senior management team is now in place and this capacity represents an opportunity to move at pace to deliver the council’s plans”.
Sandwell Council’s chief executive Jan Britton said: “The really great part of the feedback was to hear the sense they got of a council that is stronger than it was last year – a council that is more confident and that’s transforming itself while continuing to take pride in the way we protect frontline services that have all but disappeared in most councils.
“I want to thank all staff for the great progress we’ve made in the past 12 months.”
The LGA team made six recommendations to help the council maintain progress and continue improving to deliver ambitions. You can read the LGA’s Corporate Peer Challenge follow-up visit report and recommendations at www.sandwell.gov.uk/peerreviewfeedback