Thursday, April 24, 2008

If only more Councils were like this

This week, I've been working as part of a team undertaking a "peer review" of Wychavon District Council for the Improvement and Development Agency. You won't find Wychavon on a map - it's the name of the council serving three areas - Evesham, Droitwich and Pershore, and host of rural villages in Worcestershire.

I don't know what I was expecting, but what I found was a true star in the local government firmament. A District Council who had expanded its services, when other authorities up and down the country were reducing theirs; a council which, even though it has the eight lowest District Council Tax level in the country, had not increased its charges for years - just found more and more efficiencies throughout its organisation. And a council whose Leader and Managing Director (rather than Chief Executive, reflecting the ethos that residents were their "shareholders") were truly visionary, and whose elected members were stunning in the breadth of their knowledge and commitment.

Winner of the LGC Council of The Year Award in 2007, Wychavon also came second place in The Times' 2007 Best Councils To Work For awards. As an employer, they're amazing - staff are offered a private healthcare scheme, exemplary personal development opportunities, even access to a council "cycle pool" which they can use to travel more healthily to meetings around the area.

Among the real innovation we saw was the Pershore Hospital that Wychavon built and rented to the NHS. This in addition to the supermarket in Droitwich they built to bring jobs to that area. A "choice-based lettings" initiative to make the most of housing stock in the area; Abi, the full-time Occupational Therapist Wychavon recruited to clear the log-jam of disabled and vulnerable residents waiting to be assessed for aids and adaptations to their homes.

Everywhere we looked this week we heard another great story; saw another example of great innovation.

If only more Councils were like this...

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