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Corporate Peer Challenge 2023

The Corporate Peer Challenge (CPC) invites a small team of officers and political members from councils across the UK. Their goal is to provide challenge and support to Calderdale Council. 


Progress review

The Corporate Peer Challenge (CPC) team made a return visit to Calderdale Council on 30 November 2023. This was nine months after our CPC in February. We looked at our progress on the six CPC recommendations and the changes we have made since their initial visit.

The progress review is an important part of the Corporate Peer Challenge process. It is an opportunity for the Council’s senior leadership to update the peers on early progress that has been made. They will then receive feedback on this progress. This includes the Peer team’s reflections on any new opportunities and challenges that may have arisen since the original CPC.

On the day the LGA Peer team had a number of information gathering meetings. These involved lead Councillors and officers from the Council and also representatives from some of our partner organisations. The Peer team then provided colleagues with its feedback and observations from the day’s meetings. 

We have now received a feedback report from the Peer Challenge team’s visit in November:

The report praises the Council’s “willingness and drive” to improve. It also praises its “clear and impressive progress” and its ambitious approach to transformation. In addition, the report highlights the following:

  • The borough’s Year of Culture 2024 is being “embraced by Calderdale”. “Exciting progress [has been] made at a regional and national level in telling the Calderdale story”. “Key partners stand fully behind this exciting time and the ambition to maximise the opportunity”.
  • Appointing a new Council Director of Resources and Transformation role has been welcomed by all. This role has aligned people, finance, digital and transformation.
  • Despite the growing challenges facing all local authorities, the Council manages its finances well. The Council uses this strength, combined with its ambition, to make big, bold and difficult decisions now to have future benefits for Calderdale.
  • Adopting the Local Plan, and significantly reducing planning turnaround times by investing in performance improvement. This has built stronger relationships with developers.
  • There is growing confidence in Calderdale’s delivery of projects and ambitions in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

What is a Corporate Peer Challenge

A small team of officers and political members from councils across the UK are invited to take part. They will challenge and support us. This is set up by the Local Government Association (LGA)

  • A CPC is tailored to the specific needs of each council.
  • They are improvement driven and aim to provide strategic feedback to help us move forward and overcome current issues.

Every CPC covers five core elements:

  • Local priorities and outcomes;
  • Organisational and place leadership;
  • Governance and culture;
  • Financial planning and management
  • Capacity for improvement.

We also asked the team to focus on:

  • Prioritisation of our emphasis on our ambitions to develop our towns, while proactively tackling deprivation in these communities.
  • Our work on inequalities. In particular, to consider the impact on our communities of the cost of living challenges.
  • The resilience of our workforce. Also, how we work in place and with partners, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Our wider role in West Yorkshire within the context of the sub-region's Mayoral Combined Authority arrangements.

A peer challenge is a rigorous assessment, evaluating our performance as a Council.

  • We will get written and verbal feedback at the end of the challenge.
  • Six months later, we will meet with the LGA to look at our progress and the changes we have made.


This took place from 21st to 24th February 2023.

The team spoke with:

  • Several councillors;
  • Senior officers;
  • Representatives from partners across the borough;
  • Focus groups made up of staff and other relevant people.

Members of the team also visited areas and projects around the borough.

The team also:

  • Gathered information and views from more than 58 meetings, in addition to further research and reading. 
  • Spoke to more than 160 people including a range of staff together external partners and stakeholders. 

The peer challenge team members were:

  • Ali Griffin, Head of the peer challenge team (Chief Executive of London Councils).
  • Councillor Eamonn O'Brien (Labour Leader of Bury Council).
  • Samantha Mowbray (Chief Operating Officer at Swindon Council).
  • Helen Kemp (Group Director of Business and Skills at Tees Valley CA).
  • Councillor Rob Waltham (Conservative Peer from North Lincolnshire Council).

Our position statement

Prior to the team coming to visit, a position statement was submitted to the LGA.

  • This is our story and it served as the terms of reference for the CPC.
  • It was also a brief to the peer team in terms of what we wanted them to focus on.

It summarises the key enablers, issues, challenges, context and current thinking in relation to the areas of focus. It informed the on-site activity and additional background information required. Once finalised the Position Statement was shared with all those taking part in the Peer Challenge.

Recommendations and our action plan for improvement

The CPC is not a formal inspection. Although, a report is made public at the end and we have received our final report.

  • A detailed analysis of the five core elements listed above was provided. This highlights our strengths and areas for improvement.
  • The report also includes a list of key suggestions to consider. To respond to this, we have created an action plan.

CPC action plan

Below are the recommendations for improvement that came out of our peer review.

This action plan serves as a placeholder to monitor our progress and record our achievement of delivery against them.

1: Bring your progressive practice with partners and apply it to your internal transformation

... Consider how CMBC teams might be encouraged to work more closely together. Working cross-functionally on internal projects (such as digital transformation/IT) would provide greater benefit across the organisation.

What are we going to do

Develop an organisational Transformation strategy with corporate oversight.

To ensure we address elements of this specific recommendation, this strategy will need to reflect/incorporate the following principles;

  • Our existing strengths-based approach.
  • Using the excellent partnership work and approach that we have established through Calderdale Cares and Calderdale Leaders network, and the wider Integrated Care Board (ICB) to identify opportunities for our internal transformation.
  • Our future Digital infrastructure/Artificial Intelligence (AI) capacity and capability.
  • Alignment with our Workforce Strategy to ensure our organisation plan supports the Transformation ambitions and culture of the Council.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Resources & Transformation/People Assets Systems (PAS) /People Board

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Transformation Strategy/Plan defined and will be aligned with the Vision 2034 and refresh of the Corporate Plan.

2: Repurpose resources within the council to ensure you have the capacity and expertise to step up a gear for the next phases of your ambition

... take a Whole Council approach if it is to make the best use of all its resources. Repurposing some and developing others to ensure it has the skills and capacity to support the next phase of regeneration and service transformation.

What are we going to do

Existing Head Of Finance post repurposed to create a new/expanded Director role (development from existing Head of Finance and S151 responsibilities).

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Chief Executive/Leader

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Recruitment approved by Governance and Business Committee.

What are we going to do

Appoint a Director of Resources & Transformation to set strategic direction and lead the next phase of regeneration and service transformation.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Chief Executive/Leader

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Recruitment concluded June 2023; appointment made. Director commenced September 2023.

What are we going to do

We will undertake a Budget Rebasing exercise to support outcome-based budgeting in the next budget setting round.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Head of Finance/CLT/Cabinet (Budget Performance Challenge)

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Rebasing exercise informed financial planning process 2024/25.

What are we going to do

We will increase participation in an enhanced employee reference group and staff networks and undertake key consultation over the next 6 months with these groups. This enhanced engagement will seek to inform the future shape of council services and improve their delivery.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: CLT/People Board

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Employee engagement element of transformation Programme. Work to enhance our employee engagement has commenced - examples include Leadership strand – Julie Jenkins CLT Lead. Equalities theme identified – Ian Day – CLT Lead. Further work will continue to help the employee reference group to become more empowered and seize elements of this agenda going forward.

3: Ensure that you are making most of your enabling services so they can support the council effectively in taking a Whole Council approach

... be clear in the expectations and the collaboration required across all its support services so that their strategic direction and activity align with the council’s ambitions.

What are we going to do

Develop a corporate transformation model to align all key support services under the leadership of the new Director of Resources & Transformation.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Chief Executive/Leader

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Role appointed September 2023.

What are we going to do

Undertake initial drafting of Business Plans by all services to inform as baseline data including support function(scope). These will be subject to ongoing and scheduled (annual) review and/or organisational change e.g., appointment of new Director of Resources & Transformation.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: CLT/ELT

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Initial Business Plans scoped/completed – May 2023 and Updated April 2024.

What are we going to do

Review and remodel support functions through the Workforce Strategy to achieve priority outcomes of the council.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Resources & Transformation/Head of HR & OD/Cabinet Portfolio Lead – Resources

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Workforce Strategy published, in implementation phase.

4: Choose wisely and build effective relationships with investors and developers

... Ensure that CMBC is developing trusted partnerships with investors and developers. This is key to delivering some of the housing, economic and infrastructure projects that Calderdale has ambition for (e.g. the Clifton Enterprise Zone).

What are we going to do

We will deliver effective engagement strategies with the following key sectors to positively influence greater local investment, development and future sustainable economic growth;

  • Tech/Creative Digital
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Hospitality
  • Health & Care
  • Housing providers

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Regeneration & Strategy

Timescale: Completed

Comments: The business engagement team are building relationships with key sectors, from a strong base on their previous relationships with the hospitality sector. There will continue to be ongoing engagement throughout 2024. Collaboration via Year of Culture and at a West Yorkshire level to enhance relationships and grow capacity within the creative industries. Developing a clear strategy for employment support in health and care sectors, working closely with Calderdale College and CHFT. Calderdale Housing forum held on 5 September 2023 and collaborating with Together Housing Group on placemaking in North Halifax. Increased capacity in place to support business start-up in Calderdale, building on business growth offer. Recruitment progressing for supporting stronger sectoral engagement and inward investment, with funding in place. Commenced procurement of Developer Partner for Clifton Business Park.

What are we going to do

We will complete the ongoing review of our Inclusive Economic Strategy and implement its recommendations.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Regeneration & Strategy

Timescale: Completed

Comments: A Refreshed Inclusive Economy Strategy and new Employment and Skills Framework have been developed, which will provide the strategic direction for the Calderdale economy over the next 5 years. Both were approved by Cabinet at their meeting on 11th March 2024. Launch activities will take place with business and employers in summer 2024. Ongoing engagement in the development of WY Economic Strategy.

What are we going to do

Following the adoption of our Local Plan we will rapidly progress key investor and developer relationships and complete the Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs).

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Regeneration & Strategy

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Excellent progress has been made towards adoption of SPDs. Custom & Self Build Housing, Garden Communities SPDs are now adopted. Affordable Housing, Masterplanning & Design Code, Biodiversity Net Gain, and Sustainable Drainage SPDs are all at various stages of the formal decision-making process. Full Council approved the SE Calderdale infrastructure funding strategy in February. Pre-application discussions have either been carried out or are underway with several important developers of Local Plan allocations, including the Garden Communities. Work also ongoing to ensure effective landowner collaboration for the Garden Communities. The Council has entered Planning Performance Agreements with several residential developers.

5: Be confident and clear with West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) about Calderdale’s strategic asks

... Develop a pipeline of projects which support WYCA ambitions as this will allow Calderdale to maximise opportunities with the Combined Authority. Ensure CMBC is highlighting its work on delivering an inclusive economy with WYCA; this aligns well with the Mayor’s priorities and could provide further investment and delivery opportunities for Calderdale.

What are we going to do

Complete exercise to identify priorities to pursue at a regional level. To include key messages about Calderdale for amplification and covering both delivery priorities and ways of working to lever change. Ensure it is connected to borough level work on priorities and corporate planning in the following priority areas for Calderdale;

  • Deliver against our Climate Action Plan to ensure we protect our residents and businesses from the worst impacts of climate change in particular future flooding, through our ongoing partnership working and investment, locally and regionally.
  • Local Plan delivery
  • Housing Development
  • Business Growth

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Regeneration & Strategy /Leader, Head of Communications

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Initial priorities identified and being adapted into a live document that: a) maps our strategic alignment with the WY suite of strategy documents and b) outlines our current activities, priorities and asks under key themes. Ongoing refinement with input from lead officers. Used priorities work to input into Level 4 Devolution submission. This application received Council approval via Cabinet at their March 11th 2024 meeting. Calderdale to host next WY team awayday.

What are we going to do

Map the scale of resources received by Calderdale over the recent period, and the forward plan of funding, in order to identify whether there are gaps in the scope of funding sought and received. Potential to identify where approaches have been unsuccessful as well as successful to support future learning.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Regeneration & Strategy / Assistant Director, Economy, Housing & Investment

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Initial phase of mapping exercise is complete - Capital and revenue funding from WYCA mapped from 2022 to 2026, with key information on Investment Priority alignment and directorate. Follow up work on this will look further at unsuccessful bids and funding that is passported to others.

What are we going to do

We will secure investment and ensure effective preparation for the Calderdale Year of Culture.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director Public Services

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Core investment secured through WYCA (£890,000), Arts Council England (£650,000) and Heritage Lottery Fund (£250,000). Soft Launch held (Jan 24). Commissions, grant schemes and event planning ongoing.

What are we going to do

We will enhance targeted communication and public affairs work to increase our profile at both a regional and national level.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Regeneration & Strategy /Head of Communications/Leader

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Communications Plan agreed with Cabinet. Strengthening relationships with WYCA and other West Yorkshire local authorities. Capitalise on regional / national opportunities e.g., UKREiiF. West Yorkshire Mayoral programme established and underway to highlight progress on Council priorities e.g., visit to Beech Hill and Ogden Water (Feb 24). Comms plan to celebrate Vision 2024 / Year of Culture / 50th anniversary underway, raising the profile of the place regionally and beyond. Plans developing for the launch of Vision 2034 to encourage people to live, work, visit and invest in the borough. Climate Action Plan launched and being implemented – complementing the Leader’s role as lead for delivery of sustainability mission in the Yorkshire Plan.

6: Prioritise CMBC’s development of the Voluntary Community Sector (VCS) strategy in recognition of the impact on tackling inequalities

... The development of the VCS strategy will provide the opportunity to address the inconsistencies in procurement practices the VCS have experienced and for the clear strategic CMBC commitment to working with the VCS to be reflected at every level of the council.

What are we going to do

Building upon our acknowledged strong relationships we have in place, we will develop and co-produce a new VCS Strategy.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Regeneration and Strategy/ Director of Public Services/Director of Public Health

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Cross directorate work commenced June 2023. VCSE co production approach established and resources in place via the ICB for external facilitation of the Strategy development working alongside the VSI Alliance partners. Clear feedback from the VCSE sector that we need to take a longer time to ensure genuine engagement and meaningful development of the strategy. This was supported by the Peer review team when they visited. Revised deadline for final production of Strategy and launch in Summer 2024.

What are we going to do

Provide improved support to the Voluntary and Community Sector to help deliver this revised strategy and ensure we have consistency and transparency in our engagement with the sector to achieve the required outcomes.

Lead officer(s)/Portfolio: Director of Regeneration and Strategy

Timescale: Completed

Comments: Strategic discussion has begun with the VCSE sector following presentations to Place Leaders and Health and Wellbeing Board. Key themes and actions to be confirmed via development of the VCSE strategy.

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