The Minister for Local Government, Simon Hoare MP, has today (Thursday 7 March) confirmed that Government intervention at Sandwell Council will come to an end.

The Leader of Sandwell Council, Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, said: “We are delighted ministers have concluded that the directions can be lifted. To have achieved this within two years is testament to the huge amount of work that has got us to this point.

“From the outset of this process we accepted that we needed to make significant improvements. Our focus throughout has been to make sure we are set up to deliver the best possible outcomes for our residents, and that has meant changing the way we operate.

“This is not the end of our journey. We are really pleased to have made sufficient progress to get out of intervention but are determined to continue this trajectory and are striving for excellence. I want to thank council officers for their efforts and the Commissioners for the constructive way in which they have approached their role.”

Kim Bromley-Derry and Jim Taylor, Government Commissioners appointed to Sandwell Council concluded in their fourth report to ministers: “The Council we see now is a far cry from the organisation we first encountered: the staff, the elected members, and most importantly, the residents, have all noted the changes. The improvement work which was once seen as a standalone priority has now been interwoven with the ‘business as usual’ strategic planning of the Council.  In short, we believe the Council is now meeting its Best Value duty and is capable of taking forward its improvement independently.”

In a letter to Sandwell Council, Simon Hoare MP, Minister for Local Government states: “We very much welcome the progress your Council has made over the duration of the intervention. The Commissioners’ report to the Secretary of State outlines many positive developments; it is clear they have considerable confidence in the Chief Executive and the leadership team and welcome the “continued and significant political stability” and the increased support to members. It is clear the Council has continued to make significant changes, and that there has been considerable progress since the third report.”

“Shokat Lal, Chief Executive of Sandwell Council, said: “It is great to see the hard work of our staff paying off, alongside the political leadership of Cllr Kerrie Carmichael and her Cabinet, with the significant improvements we’ve made being recognised in this decision to end intervention.

“Our ambition is to become an outstanding council, so we are not going to be complacent with intervention ending and see this only as the end of the beginning.

“The first phase of our improvement journey has been about responding to the issues raised through external reviews and intervention, and we’ve had a real focus on becoming brilliant at the basics.

“Part of that has been about fixing some of our governance processes; but fundamentally we know that it’s not simply new policies, strategies or procedures that help you deliver excellent services, it’s about people and our organisational culture and making sure we’re all working together to make a difference and help change people’s lives for the better.

“We are now moving to a second phase of our journey which is about fully embedding a culture of continuous improvement, embracing transformational change and becoming a modern, efficient and agile organisation that has consistent high customer service standards.

“We have much to be proud of, including our outstanding track record in attracting funding into our borough and the incredible Sandwell Aquatics Centre which is the best community leisure facility in the country.

“Sandwell is at the heart of the West Midlands and we have a young, diverse and rapidly growing population. So there are opportunities for us to really build on these foundations and ensure we re-establish our rightful place in the West Midlands and in the country, and tell a new story about Sandwell so we’re spoken about for very different reasons than we have in recent years.”

The Leader of Sandwell Council, Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, went on to say: “This year marks the 50th anniversary of Sandwell Council, when our six towns were brought together under our current boundaries.

“Sandwell is a great place full of people who look out for each other and get things done. We’re down to earth and proud of our heritage as a powerhouse of the industrial revolution.

“We want Sandwell to create the opportunities that will help everyone in Sandwell realise their potential. We are in a relatively healthy financial position and have an ambitious programme of regeneration projects that will transform our borough but will also be maintaining our focus on becoming brilliant at the basics. That means getting things right for our residents – making our services easy to use and working for the people who need them.

“As we mark our 50th anniversary there are so many reasons for us to be proud of our borough and be confident that together, we can deliver a great future for Sandwell.”

Government intervention at Sandwell Council started on 22 March 2022, with Commissioners appointed for a two-year period.

This follows the recent decision by Sandwell Council’s external auditors, Grant Thornton, to lift three statutory recommendations due to the progress that has been made since their Value for Money Governance review carried out in Autumn 2021.

In June 2022, the council approved a single improvement plan that brought together the council’s planned actions in response to the Government directions and recommendations made in external reviews.

Much of this activity has now been incorporated in the council’s regular business planning process, to ensure there is a focus on delivering services as efficiently and effectively as possible through continuous improvement. The council will be working with the Local Government Association to help maintain this improvement journey after intervention ends.

Source: Sandwell Council Press Office

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