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Craven District Council is punching above its weight

Craven District Council is a high-achieving, successful council, with good quality services and is punching above its weight, according to a review carried out by senior officers from other councils.

The Corporate Peer Challenge found that the Leader and Chief Executive of the council were well-recognised and well-respected, and there is considerable expertise and talent in the authority.

The report says: "CDC has got a really good story to tell as a successful council with good quality services, particularly in leisure and culture. These enhance the wellbeing of residents and showcase the location, boosting the visitor economy and inward investment.

"The public also need to know what good work you are doing in partnership with others, such as economic development across the whole region not just Craven."

Councillor Richard Foster, leader of Craven District Council, said: "We're delighted with the outcome of this peer review, which shows what an excellent job the council is doing for the community of Craven.

"The report highlights our key strengths - we are achieving a great deal for our residents, delivering high quality services while maintaining financial stability.

"The fantastic work we are doing to transform Skipton Town Hall, the events we help deliver such as the Tour de Yorkshire, and our skills in attracting funding to the district are all underlined in the report.

"This peer review is incredibly useful as it also points out some of the ways we can improve in the future. We must seize the opportunities ahead of us and look to our longer-term ambitions beyond 2020. We must also make sure that the public recognises the efforts we are making as a council to improve lives in the district, now and for future generations."

Paul Shevlin, Chief Executive of Craven District Council, said: "It's really pleasing to see how much we have improved as a council since our last peer review in 2012.

"We have taken huge strides forward but this report shows we can do even more. This is not just about congratulating ourselves for our achievements; it's about helping us to create a robust, clear plan for the future."

The review highlights the need for the council to be even more ambitious, while recognising that resources are limited, with staff numbers having been reduced from just below 300FTE to around 200FTE whilst maintaining a similar level of service delivery. "Although there is no doubt that resources are limited, you are still able to achieve a great deal," says the report.

"With further programme and project management, and considering more proactive communications, your communities, residents and partners will be able to recognise your achievements and work with you to continue to deliver good services."

The report also stresses the great work being done in delivering good quality leisure and culture services for residents. "CDC recognises the benefits tourism, leisure and culture offer its local economy. It understands the value of a culture and leisure offer that not only enhances the local area, but also contributes to driving the local economy," says the report.

"There are considerable plans and work underway at Skipton Town Hall which will bring many of these threads together: enhancing the museum, performance venue and community space through education facilities and improving disability access, as well as generating income by letting retail units."

The council's strength in delivering and supporting large scale events is also mentioned, with the Tour de France, Tour de Yorkshire, Skipton Triathlon and Skipton Cycle Races highlighted.

The report suggests a number of measures the council can take to be even more successful in the future.

These include:

1) Establish a new narrative around the council. "Craven District Council is achieving a significant amount with limited resources," says the report. "Ensure partners and the public know and understand your considerable contribution to the local community and economy within this financial context."

2) Don't let financial concerns become a heavy anchor that slows the council down.

3) Ensure that there is clear understanding of the impact of the current governance arrangements on commercial activity in future.

4) Identify quick wins and priority projects with maximum impact.

5) Consider expanding strategic capacity to ensure that strategic partnerships and discussions (regional and sub-regional) are not compromised by capacity.

6) Establish a Corporate Programme Office to lead on the Income and Savings Plan.

7) Improve operational capacity by streamlining the governance of projects, setting clear project priorities, and re-aligning resources more directly to council priorities.

8) Consider the development of a corporate strategy setting out a clear vision beyond 2020 and the necessary approach to achieve this ambition.

The report concludes: "Within a few days of the peer challenge, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its annual 'Happiness of the Nation' report. Craven residents reported the highest levels of happiness and life satisfaction in the country, along with the lowest levels of anxiety. Craven District Council is clearly doing something right, albeit often in the background, in order to achieve this result."