An independent review has found that the council is making “significant progress” in tackling its financial challenges and is confident of balancing its budget this year.
The rapid non-statutory review commissioned by the council and undertaken by Chris Wood and Alan Gay – the government-appointed officers who reviewed the council a year ago – noted that all of their initial recommendations had been met but that there was still much to do to turn around the organisation.
The council is clear that it is at the start of a four-year journey to deliver its renewal improvement plans to get back on a sustainable financial footing. Its focus is on improving finance and governance processes and culture change while delivering vital value for money services that residents rely on.
Lead reviewer Chris Wood, an experienced former local government director and chief executive, told Monday’s cabinet that since his first visit the council had taken some very difficult decisions and had demonstrated a good level of governance in making those changes. As a result the council has much greater stability than a year ago, and is making good financial progress, particularly in high-cost services such as children’s and adult social care.
He said the council was self-aware of its challenges, despite them being greater than previously thought. As is often the case, in the process of resolving initial challenges the council has uncovered further serious issues, particularly with housing services, which leaders have pledged to improve as quickly as possible.
He noted good progress was being achieved through ‘emergency measures’, and the next step was for Croydon to move towards a transformational approach like other well-performing authorities. This could include redesigning services and sharing some with other councils, and adopting a digital first approach to delivering value for money services to residents.
Councillor Hamida Ali, leader of the council
“I am really pleased that the review has found that we have made significant progress in how we are managing our finances and that we are in a much more positive place than a year ago. I hope residents and staff will find reassurance in the reviewers’ confidence that our finance and governance are improving and that we are on track to balance our budget this year.
“We know that the changes we need to make will not happen overnight and we still have so much to do, but it is reassuring to know that we are moving forwards in lots of areas. As we know, we still have a lot to put right including our housing services, which we are determined to do for our residents as quickly as possible.”
Lead reviewer Chris Wood said: “One year on from our initial review it’s clear that Croydon has made significant progress. There are encouraging signs that the council’s financial management, organisational culture and quality of decision making have improved markedly.
“While there remain areas of concern, including a need to accelerate improvements to the housing service, we found a hive of activity across the council and a clear recognition of the scale and seriousness of the challenge. Croydon Council’s turnaround will be a three to four year project but the first twelve months of progress suggest the recovery effort is well under way.”