Only two years after the then Labour controlled Thanet District Council was panned in a similar report the Local Government Association independent Corporate Peer Challenge has commended the Council for significant progress in its follow up Peer Review report.
The review described the new UKIP controlled Council under Cllr Chris Wells as having, ‘Strong and capable senior management’, ‘respected political leadership’, ‘improved cross-party relationships’ and had made a ‘serious effort to equip new Councillors with the knowledge and skills to discharge their roles’.
The improvements were so marked and the situation so improved over the past 18 months that the council’s Improvement Board, which was set up following the original review chose to step down its work with one final report to come, but no longer providing quarterly monitoring.
External Chair of Thanet’s Improvement Board, Ian Lowrie said: “It’s been my pleasure to chair the improvement board over the past 18 months and I would like to acknowledge the highly positive way in which councillors of all parties and offices have engaged in our work. This is not to say the improvement journey for Thanet is complete, let alone the task of addressing the challenges faced by all councils in England today. I know the council is not complacent though and am heartened by the commitment to continue to improve.”
Cllr Wells, said: “External endorsement for the positive work we know is taking place here at Thanet should not be taken lightly. I’d like to thank all of those who have contributed to this progress, officers, Councillors across all parties and our external Improvement Board members. This is not the end of our drive to improve. As the report acknowledges, there are challenging times ahead and areas we can all continue to focus on and improve further. A refreshed council Improvement Plan, continuing to work closely with the Local Government Association and meeting with our external Improvement Board members in a year’s time will help us to keep this focus. For now though we should be reassured by this feedback and continue on our journey to improve services for Thanet.”
Even the Leader of the Opposition on the District Council and Improvement Board member, Cllr Bob Bayford, has recognised the changes, “It is encouraging that significant improvement has been seen by the Peer Review team... I believe the changes over the past two years have been helped by political parties having a less confrontational approach which will only be sustained if the leadership of Thanet Council, regardless of political party, continues to operate in an inclusive fashion.”
Labour's Group Leader and Improvement Board member, Cllr Jenny Matterface, said: “As a newcomer to the Improvement Board but a Councillor since 2011, I would agree that we have seen a dramatic improvement in Thanet. The follow up report is a fair reflection of the significant work taking place behind the scenes to support new and long-standing Councillors, for example with far more training and guidance provided to help us in our roles. There is still more to be done, but I’m looking forward to meeting with the Board in a year’s time to reflect on how much further we’ve come.”