Developing peer challenge

The LGA’s peer challenge offer is effective and well regarded by the sector. A recent survey found that every council that had received a corporate peer challenge found the process for preparing for and participating in the peer challenge has had a positive impact on their council. Over 98 percent of respondents were satisfied with the corporate peer challenge that their council received.

By bringing together political and managerial leadership, through the use of member and officer peers, peer challenge provides robust, strategic and credible challenge and support to councils. Peer challenge also enhances the capacity of the sector and helps to avoid insularity within councils.

The LGA is keen to ensure that its peer challenge offer can continue to be enhanced to ensure it meets the evolving needs of the sector.

An internal peer challenge stocktake highlighted a number of areas of development for peer challenge. In addition, the independent evaluation of sector led improvement (SLI) has provided valuable learning, including on how peer challenge can make better use of technology.  

The lessons from the stocktake and other feedback have been used to make further improvements to our peer challenge programme. Key areas include:

  • Greater focus on performance and outcomes – with a focus on how the council is performing and what it is achieving for its communities  
  • Governance arrangements and structures as well as culture, relationships and values  
  • Peer training, peer team selection and diversity
  • Quality assurance and consistency in reports  
  • Strengthening our approach to the delivery of progress reviews.

Peer Challenge Stocktake – Executive Summary

This review has identified many strengths in terms of peer challenge reach, value and effectiveness.  It also notes that peer challenge exists as part of a suite of tools for improvement.   The review heard a number of ‘myths’ about peer challenge: these are explored and addressed (for example, it has been suggested that many reports are not published, yet in reality only one Corporate Peer Challenge report between April 2016 and October 2019 – 0.6% – was not published).

This review identified areas for development, some of which echo findings of Shared Intelligence’s evaluation of sector-led improvement.  These include:

  • Greater involvement of the sector in the development of the offer;
  • More effective communication of peer challenge and its benefits in the sector and beyond;
  • Greater and more systematic use of data to inform peer challenge recommendations;
  • An increased focus on follow-up action after peer reviews and demonstrating impact;
  • Further work to increase the consistency and quality of peer challenge
  • Increased training and support to peers;
  • More consistent and effective work to capture and disseminate learning for the sector arising from peer challenge.