Swindon’s leadership needs to improve quickly, report finds

More vision and focus and more visible leadership are needed at the top of Swindon Borough Council.

That’s the verdict of the Local Government Association, the national body which works for local councils throughout the country.

A report issued after a visit in March by the LGA, which has been seen by the LDRS, says the council has the building blocks in place to deliver the improvements it and the town wants.

But it needs greater focus and a more compelling vision for the future and emphasises that while the council has a real opportunity to improve the town, its leadership is lacking.

It will only put pressure on current and longstanding leader Coun David Rennard who faces a leadership contest this evening from within his party.

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The report, issued in March, says: “The council and the borough have the building blocks that are required to help to fulfill the potential and the ambitions of both the organization and the place.”

But it says the council under Conservative administration needs to: “develop a much clearer focus for the organization founded upon a more comprehensive evidence-base for decision-making.”

It also needs to: “develop a bold and compelling vision for Swindon that is easily understood by the public, partners and council staff.

A clear ‘golden thread’ is crucial, aligning ambitions and political imperatives with available resource and underpinned by robust mechanisms to manage and monitor the delivery of agreed objectives.

“We saw and heard that Cabinet and the wider Administration could be more visible in their collective leadership of both the council and Swindon as a place.”

While the report says the building blocks the council has “would be the envy of many” it says there is no time to lose to make necessary improvements.

“Things are at a key juncture in capitalising upon them, and this necessitates appropriate leadership responses politically and managerially.

“Increased engagement and collaboration, both internally and externally, are key.”

Another major challenge facing Euclid Street is its financial situation.

The LGA report says the council know where the funding gap is but: “Clear plans and leadership are required to deliver this, along with robust monitoring by both the managerial and political leadership.

“The council needs to ensure that it has the mechanisms in place to enable this.”

Council leader David Renard, who has been in charge at Euclid Street for nearly 10 years since 2013 said he didn’t see the report as critical of his leadership.

He said: “It’s a report which says we are doing very well but indicates where we can improve.

“That’s why we invited the review team to come and make an assessment.”

Coun Renard said the plan has been to publicise the report in the papers for the next cabinet meeting on June 20.

He said: “I am disappointed that someone has seen fit to leak this report to you because as part of those papers, there would be an action plan included showing what we’re going to do to make the improvements recommended by the LGA review team .”

The report has emerged on the same day that Coun Renard faces a challenge from cabinet member Vinay Manro for leadership of the Conservative group, and therefore the borough council.

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