Enabling learning, development and improvement: being a peer as part of the LGA peer challenge programme.
At the heart of the peer challenge process are local government officers and councillors (and others) who voluntarily spend their time as ‘peers' at a council they have no direct association with, to contribute to its improvement and learning. It is an incredibly powerful demonstration of a ‘sector-led' approach. As fellow local government practitioners, peers bring an immediate credibility, trust and mutual respect to the challenge process.
An independent external evaluation of the Corporate Peer Challenge programme in 2014 (‘Supporting Councils to Succeed') made the point that the sustained success of the peer challenge programme relies upon the participation of high-quality peers. It stressed the importance of councils continuing to understand the benefits of releasing their senior officers and councillors to participate in peer challenges. A more recent evaluation (‘Rising to the Challenge’ 2017) again stresses the importance of peers.
So, what are those benefits? Those who have been peers suggest the benefits are wide, varied and sometimes personal.
You can read about the experiences of local government officers, elected members and others who have participated as peers in the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge Programme:
A call for peers
To deliver the corporate peer challenge programme we need your help. We need you to make available senior officers to participate as peers. Our need for specific peers changes. At the moment we particularly welcome expressions of interest from chief executives, and from directors or senior officers with current roles and/or experience of one or more of the following:
- commissioning and procurement
- economic growth
What do peers do?
Peer challenges are managed and delivered by the sector for the sector. Peers are at the heart of the peer challenge process. They provide a 'practitioner perspective' and 'critical friend' challenge. Working as a team, and supported by an experienced LGA peer challenge manager, peers spend time onsite at a council, fire and rescue service or organisation to help with it with its improvement and learning. Peers help build capacity, confidence and sustainability by challenging practice and sharing knowledge and experience. A role description summarises the officer peer role and responsibilities:
What peers have said
Feedback from peers about their experiences of peer challenge is positive:
Clarence Barrett, Cabinet Member for Financial Management, IT (client) & Transformation, London Borough of Havering
As a Member Peer, the opportunity to work alongside senior officer peers as part of a team offers a unique and valuable opportunity to not only participate in a given assignment, but to gain valuable experience and knowledge in terms of personal and professional development.
Perry Holmes, Chief Legal Officer, Medway Council
This is the richest form of personal development I have experienced to date, being part of a Corporate Peer Challenge team for a week, taking part in an intensive sector led improvement initiative, facilitated by a superb LGA peer challenge manager led by an exceptional Chief Executive and with a strong peer team of public sector colleagues. I would recommend being part of the process to anyone seeking to improve their own practice, broaden their sector knowledge and keen to share their skills, insight and knowledge with other Councils.
Paul Wilson, Corporate Director and Deputy Chief Executive, Derbyshire Dales District Council:
The Peer Challenge programme is an excellent development opportunity for all members of the review team. The knowledge that you gain from discussions with your peers is invaluable and can be used to benefit your own organisation. I can thoroughly recommend the experience.
Ken Poole, Head of Economic Development, Cardiff City Council:
An experience I would recommend and endorse for any senior local government officer.
Jackie Smith, Director of Environmental and Customer Services, South Staffordshire Council:
I found being part of the whole process really useful in developing my skills and working with colleagues from other authorities.
Councillor Tom Beattie, Leader of Corby Borough Council:
The peer challenge was stimulating and very enjoyable. The ability to look at what another authority is doing and to share experiences with other members of the peer team was extremely useful.
Jane Burns, Director of Strategy and Challenge, Gloucestershire County Council:
I have been fortunate enough to take part in two peer challenges. They were like intensive refresher courses in local government. It's hard work but really motivational and great fun.
Councillor Paul James, Leader of Gloucester City Council:
As an elected member, taking part in a peer challenge is hugely rewarding. The opportunity to visit other councils, to learn from their successes and to help them along their journey of improvement is something I greatly value...
Gavin Handford, Head of Policy, Performance and Parking, Reigate & Banstead Borough Council:
Being part of a peer review challenge team was a challenging, rewarding and unique development opportunity which you can't find anywhere else. It was also a great way to learn from others and share your own best practice within local government. Win-win.
Fiona Marshall, Chief Executive, Maldon District Council
“I am a strong supporter of the peer challenge process. Not only does it provide an opportunity for Council’s to hear an objective and positive viewpoint of the effectiveness of their approach to delivering services to their community, but it gives peer team members the opportunity to learn from others. At the same time, during the short but intense time you spend with your fellow peer team members, you can build some really positive working relationships with colleagues from across the sector. I found it a really valuable and worthwhile experience”.
For further information about the peer challenge programme and role of peers, please contact:
Paul Clarke, Programme Manager