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'THUMBS UP FOR MID BEDS' FROM IDeA TEAM

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Mid Bedfordshre DC hosted a visit by a local government improvement team last week. This snapshot healthcheck revea...
Mid Bedfordshre DC hosted a visit by a local government improvement team last week. This snapshot healthcheck revealed Mid Beds strengths and identified ways it can continue to improve. Organised by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) the team consisted of councillors and senior staff from other local authorities led by Richard Sheard, chief executive of Salisbury DC [a full list of members is below].

They assessed Mid Beds under three categories: leadership, democratic and community engagement and performance management. The review team examined Mid Beds vision and strategy, its ability to manage change, and its strengths in motivation, innovation and creativity, and alliance building.

So far the IDeA's teams have visited 120 local authorities out of the 400 in England and Wales, making Mid Beds one of the first district councils to be part of the Local Improvement Plan process. Mid Beds chief executive Jaki Salisbury will herself be leading a similar team later this year.

The experienced and knowledgeable team of councillors and senior staff arrived prepared by a pack of information supplied by Mid Beds. Ahead was an intensive weeklong programme of over 40 meetings and workshops where they met councillors and staff from all levels of Mid Beds as well as town and parish councillors, local businesses, voluntary groups and other stakeholders.

Council leader Brian Collier said: 'It's like having a critical friend give you some constructive advice and helpful hints on how to do things better. It's an opportunity to get the views of a cross section of people from local government and those of local people, to find out what they want from the council in the future.

'Our visitors gave a flavour of their findings at the presentation to councillors and staff on Friday (26 April) - a full written report will be produced within the next six weeks.'

The team's findings included:

- Mid Beds vision is to be a 'community led' council

- Its financial strength gives it an opportunity to adapt and develop

- It is a good employer which sees its staff as its most valuable asset

- Mid Beds has the trust of its partners in the community

- It accepts the need for change and also recognises that change means risk

Clearly there is always room for improvement and the 'healthcheck' has highlighted the need:

- for clear objectives and a joint vision for the future of the area

- to balance risks against the need to fulfil objectives

- to begin to apply the results of best value reviews

- to improve communications

- to communicate better with local businesses and involve them move.

Mr Collier went on: 'Occasionally you need someone outside your organisation to tell you how well you are doing. This past week has highlighted many areas where the council has achieved a great deal. Our task now is to build upon our strengths and strive to improve where necessary. In this process, we needto get even closer to our communities and to their needs and aspirations.'

Team leader Mr Sheard said: 'Mid Beds is in transition at the moment and shows great promise for the future. It provides excellent services and is committed to community governance. Its sound financial position gives it a strong and enviable position from which to improve the quality of life of the local community. A lot of hard work has been done by councillors and staff to create a firm platform for the future and the next 18 months are crucial for the council if it is to succeed in its endeavours.'

The full IDeA team were:

--Richard Sheard (chief executive, Salisbury DC)

--Cllr Pam Priestly (Conservative councillor and former leader, Wycombe DC)

--Cllr Bill Dixon (Labour councillor and deputy leader, Darlington BC)

--Elaine Taylor (director of corporate services, Dorset CC)

--Stephen Hopwood (management consultant)

--Richard Masters (IDeA review manager)

--Christine Ascott (IDeA project officer)

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