Torbay Council is viable now and can be in the future. That is one of the key findings in an independent report, released today, which explores the wide range of opportunities and significant challenges the council faces.

The Corporate Peer Challenge report highlights positive findings and offers recommendations on how the council can move forward. An action plan is now being finalised by the council to help it capture these recommendations and help shape the future of the local authority.

Torbay Council’s Mayor, Gordon Oliver, invited the Local Government Association to undertake the review, which took place over four days in November and December last year.

A team of seven officers with a wealth of local government experience spoke to more than 180 people, including officers, members, external partners and stakeholders. They collectively spent more than 260 hours to determine their findings and focused on five areas that are critical to the council’s performance and improvement.

The Peer Challenge team’s clear and unequivocal feedback is that the council is viable now and can be in the future providing it addresses some of the core issues at pace. It found the council has a good understanding of the challenges for Torbay, which have been “translated into clear priorities for action for the council and its partners”. The team recognised that there is “a range of existing progressive and inspiring partnerships, notably in health and social care integration” and that “admirable core values for its managerial leadership and staff” had been put in place.

“Truly inspiring staff members who are eager to improve life in Torbay for its residents and visitors” were singled out for praise and the report says the council has done well to make the savings required in the last five years.

The report also has a number of key recommendations. These include developing with key stakeholders a longer term, sustainable, strategic vision for the next 10-20 years in Torbay. The council needs to deliver upon its Children’s Services five year plan. It should also improve its “purposeful political engagement with partners” and address governance working practices, “in respect of transparency and political decision making”.

The Peer Challenge Team concludes that the council must be positive as to its future, be bold, make decisions at pace and put Torbay on the map on a regional and national stage.

Torbay’s elected Mayor, Gordon Oliver, said: “It’s so important to seek independent external challenge as this helps us to clarify what we are doing right, what we need to change and what we should focus our attention on. That is why I invited the LGA to carry out this review.

“It is reassuring that the Peer Team found so many positive attributes, particularly with the challenges we face along with other local authorities. We are a viable council and we have progressive partnerships – these are things to celebrate. Our strengths are down to the hard work of our staff, members and partners and I thank them for their commitment.

“Now the hard work must begin on building on this work and driving forward sustained improvement, not just for the medium future, but for many years to come, so Torbay can continue to offer value for money services which matter the most to our residents. I am committed to prioritising our action so we address improvements within the council and work with our stakeholders to create a clear, joined up plan for the whole of Torbay to help us achieve our ambitions.”

Torbay Council’s Executive Director, Steve Parrock, said: “I’d like to thank the all the members of the Peer Team for coming to Torbay; it was a very positive experience. I am pleased that they recognised our achievements and the work we have been doing to create a sustainable council. Their report outlined many of our successes, but also areas where we could be doing more and doing it faster.

“The Action Plan will ensure that we are well equipped for the future and provide our residents, partners, investors and other stakeholders with a clearer sense of direction.”

The final report will be presented to Full Council for consideration on Wednesday 3 February and can be found at www.torbay.gov.uk/cpc

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