Sandwell Council's improvement plan annual report

Sandwell Council’s Cabinet received an annual update detailing the progress made on delivering the council’s Improvement Plan.

The Government has intervened in the running of Sandwell Council and appointed commissioners to take charge of the trouble-hit authority in early 2022. The Commissioners appointed to support Sandwell Council will be submitting their third status update to the Secretary of State this month. At their second update in December 2022 they reported ‘considerable progress’ had been made.

The Improvement Plan was approved a year ago and represents the council’s response to the recommendations made in external reviews carried out by Grant Thornton, CIPFA and an LGA peer challenge team in 2021, and the statutory directions made by the Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in March 2022. Cllr Kerrie Carmichael, Leader of the Council said:

“A year on from the approval of our Improvement Plan, we are proud to look back at the progress made.

“We have embarked on whole-scale organisational change at the same time as delivering on our long-term priorities for Sandwell and responding to other major challenges like the cost of living emergency.

“The long-standing service issues raised by external reviews in 2021 have now either been addressed or are well-progressed with robust delivery plans in place. This has enabled the council to shift its focus to longer-term planning.

“This would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our staff, and I am pleased that our progress has been recognised by a series of external reviews and reports submitted to Government by the Commissioners.

“Our focus remains delivering the best possible outcomes for our residents, so whilst we are confident we are on the right path we will not be complacent about the importance of continuing to improve. “Our ambition is not just simply to be good enough to end Government intervention; we are now striving for excellence.”

The Improvement Plan annual report sets out key changes that have been made to the way the council operates over the last year: strengthening governance arrangements; developing a number of strategies, including a corporate asset management strategy and 30-year housing revenue account plan; and establishing a performance management framework to better track the impact of the council’s work on improving outcomes for residents.

Alongside this, the Sandwell Aquatics Centre was delivered on time to host the swimming and diving events at the Commonwealth Games, the council successfully bid for levelling up funds for schemes in Tipton and Rowley Regis and is entering into a Levelling Up Partnership with the Government, and Children’s Services in Sandwell moved from an Ofsted rating of ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’ for the first time in a decade.

A new permanent Chief Executive, Shokat Lal, joined the council in February, and the focus now is to embed and build on the changes that have been made to date so that a culture of continuous improvement becomes part of normal business.

This includes a refresh of the Sandwell Council Corporate Plan which contains a total of 145 pledges on how the council will improve lives for its residents. From giving children the best start in life to helping adults live well for longer, the pledges cover all key areas of the services the council provides.

Alongside the main corporate plan, children and young people have developed their own set of priorities and aspirations in creating the Young People’s Corporate Plan focusing on areas such as crime and safety, life skills, mental health support and climate change. Improvements for the council have also meant a strengthened approach to working in consultation with residents.

This has included a residents’ survey carried out in 2022 and a budget consultation first carried out in summer 2022 with residents due to be consulted again this summer. Councillor Carmichael added:

“It is vital we look at the changing needs of our residents and continue to deliver services that meet expectations.

“Consultations carried out so far have given us an insight into what is important to them and where we need to continue to make improvements according to their priorities.

“We’ve found it especially important to also involve young people with our future plans and pledges as they are key to the future of our borough.

“These reports set out very clearly the goals we want to achieve. I want to take this opportunity to thank our partners for supporting us as we have laid the foundations over the last year through our Improvement Plan to set us up to deliver on our ambitious agenda for Sandwell.”


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