Sector-led improvement (SLI) works and is a success story for the sector.
Between 2012 and 2014, a wide-ranging evaluation of sector-led improvement and the LGA's offer was carried out.
The high level findings of this first phase of research - which have been confirmed during further subsequent research - demonstrate that:
- Residents remained satisfied with and continued to trust their local council, despite the increasing financial constraints being faced by the sector. Our February 2017 public opinion survey demonstrates that 65% of residents remain “very” or “fairly” satisfied with the way their local council runs things.
- Councils are continuing to improve performance. Our May 2017 research report demonstrates that two thirds of a basket of performance indicators commonly used by the sector continue to improve since 2010.
- Councils value the support the LGA is making available and it has been helpful to their improvement journey. 87% of Leaders and Chief Executives responding to the LGA Perceptions Survey 2016/17 say support from the LGA has a positive impact on their authority.
This is a considerable achievement for the sector against a backdrop of councils nationally having their funding cut by 37% in real terms since 2010/11 at the same time as increased demographic pressures and national policy changes.
The sector’s commitment to the approach is evidenced by take up of the support offer and the contribution of peer days. Since 2011 councils have contributed more than 15,000 days of senior councillor and officer time to peer challenges, representing a considerable investment by the sector in its own improvement.
Phase two evaluation
The approach to sector led improvement and the offer has developed since 2011 and we are now in the process of conducting a second phase of evaluation in two parts:
- An overall evaluation of the progress of the SLI approach since phase one
- Evaluation of individual elements of the LGA’s support offer to the sector.
The following work has been published to date:
Peer challenge evaluation
An independent evaluation by Cardiff University which demonstrates that Corporate Peer challenge is a highly effective tool; has a positive impact for councils and provides value for money.
Leadership programmes evaluation
Our offer reflects councillors journey from initially becoming a councillor through to support for Council Leaders. During 2016/17 we undertook a wide-ranging evaluation of our leadership programmes. The top line finding is that 96 per cent or responding participants felt more confident in their role as a councillor either ‘to a great extent’ or ‘to a moderate extent’, having participated in our leadership programmes.
Further work is underway and we envisage publishing an interim report in 2018 and a final report in 2020.
Phase One Evaluation 2012 – 2014
This evaluation ran over a two year period up until early 2014, with the main aim of understanding whether, in the context of reduced resources within local government:
- The approach to sector-led improvement has the confidence of the sector and the government, and the trust of the public
- The sector has been able to strengthen local accountability
- The sector is adopting the sector-led improvement approach and continues to improve with a reduced burden of inspection, and in the absence of top down performance assessment
- The tools offered to the sector have had a positive impact on the sector's capacity to improve itself.
A further key aim of the evaluation was to provide information that will enable the LGA to continue to refine and improve the approach and support offer to local authorities.
This evaluation was extensive and consisted of 16 individual pieces of work that measured the perception of and support for SLI, including online surveys of directors and lead members, in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, user surveys for YouChoose and Knowledge Hub, as well as evaluations of SLI support such as the Leadership Academy and Corporate Peer Challenges.
Throughout the report there are references to 'companion reports', which outline specific aspects of the evaluation activity in further detail.