This case study describes how High Peak Borough Council and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council have embedded performance management at all levels within both councils.
High Peak Borough Council and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council operate as strategic partners, with a shared management structure and joint workforce. Responsibility for performance management forms an intrinsic part of the role of councillors, senior leaders and all employees. This approach is embedded through the councils’ performance framework, which ensures all-party political involvement in corporate planning.
The information team is central to the development, implementation and monitoring of the performance framework and works jointly across both councils. It produces monthly performance reports for senior leaders which are discussed at management team and quarterly performance reports for both sets of scrutiny committees. The public-facing reports, which form part of a wider integrated finance and procurement report, include analysis from the customer feedback system for compliments, comments and complaints.
Annual three-year target-setting takes place through both councils’ service planning processes – where all heads of service are tasked with reviewing and refreshing their performance targets which link back to corporate plan priorities.
The councils have embedded value for money in their performance targets with measures around cost, quality and process for each objective.
At High Peak Borough Council, members of the corporate select committee play an active role in challenging the targets proposed, through an annual performance framework sub-committee which examines each target in detail, in addition to the routine scrutiny process.
The councils use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to collect data, monitor and analyse their performance framework. All data is required early in the month for the previous month’s performance and is uploaded from each service area to a centrally held database.
Performance measures are set using value for money criteria with requirements around input, output, and outcomes linked back to specific corporate plan objectives.
Benchmarking is embedded within the performance framework and in annual reports. The councils participate in near neighbour benchmarking groups; the LGA benchmarking group on LG Inform; and also subscribe to Grant Thornton’s 'CFO Insights' and 'Place Analytics' platforms. Annual value for money analyses are used to ascertain each council’s relative position both regionally and nationally. Further, process benchmarking has been conducted in the past to understand relative costs more fully.
Values are also embedded within the performance framework and form part of the appraisal process to ensure behaviours and performance are aligned and supportive of one another.
Based on member feedback the councils have recently moved towards a different reporting style for their public facing member reports. The reports now include more narration, mini case studies and project updates, and less statistical analysis and action planning (although these aspects remain active in the background). This new style also features the use of infographics to celebrate success.
The councils’ approach to performance management has had a number of positive impacts, including:
- ownership of performance targets at all levels, including at employee level through the performance appraisal scheme
- the annual performance framework subcommittee has helped councillors to better understand the reasons for the targets, the definitions of the metrics, and any barriers to enhanced performance
- the framework has enabled both councils to measure their success in delivering on their purpose and ambitions for each area
- the new, more accessible, reporting style has been well received by members; and the team continues to incorporate feedback to ensure that elected councillors have the information they require in a format suited to their needs.
The impact of the performance management approach is also highlighted in the councils’ annual achievements publication which celebrates successes and is published internally and circulated to all staff and councillors. This encourages teams to talk about and celebrate achievements from the previous year and to take a moment to reflect on their positive contribution. The councils now also feature some of these achievements in their annual reports.
Working across two councils has presented some challenges but these have been overcome by making processes as joined up and simple as possible. This has involved joint service plans, clear deadlines, a partner approach to performance management, and a supportive senior leadership team who help maintain the can-do culture across the organisation.
Developing a simple, streamlined, collaborative and inclusive approach in terms of process across both councils has proved beneficial in developing targets and measures of success.