Bristol City Council is emerging from a period of challenge with purpose and ambition according to independent review: new College Green Bristol Design cb

09 Nov 2018

Bristol City Council is emerging from a period of challenge with purpose and ambition according to independent review

Bristol City Council is an outward-looking, innovative council which is emerging from a time of challenge, according to an independent review.

A shift in culture within the council coupled with a drive to push out ideas and become a ‘catalyst for change,’ is amongst the findings from the LGA (Local Government Association) Corporate Peer Challenge published today (Friday 9 November 2018).

The review was undertaken in September by a team of councillors and senior officers from local authorities around the UK who examined the council’s leadership, governance, financial planning and capacity to deliver its priorities.

The review found that following a period of demanding change, the council has worked hard to put numerous building blocks in place for long term improvement, including:

  • the establishment of a new Executive team structure, offering visible leadership and saving £1 million per year;
  • rigorous budget management and stronger financial grip, in line with recommendations in the council commissioned Bundred report (February 2017) and evidenced by its medium term financial plan (available here).

Reviewers also showcased examples of the council’s dynamism and innovation to help it meet its priorities and set out a sustainable, long term vision for the city such as: 

  • the ‘One City Approach’, and soon to be launched ‘One City Plan’ in which the council and city partners collectively express ambitions and priorities for Bristol up to 2050
  • the City Leap Prospectus which has drawn interest from investors and innovators to join the council in building a city-wide sustainable energy system;
  • the Operations Centre which by co-locating traffic management, emergency control and First bus acts as the ‘brain of the city’;
  • accelerating Housing Delivery
  • the Smart City Bristol initiative which leverages technological know-how and infrastructure to support the city’s growth.

The Peer Challenge also noted that the council has more work to do to embed changes, consolidate emerging stability in the workforce and ensure there is consistency of learning and innovation across the organisation.  

Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees who, the report states, has set a new tone for collaborative leadership in the city said:

“In September we opened our doors to a Local Government Association Peer Challenge. We wanted an objective and expert assessment of the council undertaken at the midpoint of my administration. They spent more than 460 hours talking with over 200 people including staff, local and national partners and opposition councillors.

“The LGA have stated the Council has a real sense of ambition for the City and it has a new and impressive senior officer leadership team ready to deliver change. Of course there remain serious challenges and areas for improvement, but they find the council is now in a stronger position to take the critical decisions the city of Bristol needs to fulfill its exceptional potential.

“I am grateful LGA for their support. We continue to build upon the foundations we have established to deliver real change for Bristol.”

Sir Steve Bullock, member of the LGA Peer Challenge team and former Mayor of the London Borough of Lewisham, added:

“Meeting and working with the energetic, creative and committed people at Bristol City Council a few weeks ago it was clear that the organisation has come a very long way on their journey of improvement.

“The council’s financial management and grip is stronger. The mayor is setting a new tone for leadership and collaboration across the city – working with partners to prioritise and deliver on major strategic ambitions. And internally, it now has a dynamic new leadership team and a strong set of values being established across the organisation. The challenge now will be to keep up the momentum in order to deliver on its ambitions.”

James Durie, Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative at Business West commented:

“We much welcome that the council leadership chose to commission this peer challenge process to get an impartial and expert view on their current position and what they might do to improve. It shows an openness and transparency together with a commitment to continuously improve; but also a level of growing confidence in what we recognise is a really challenging current environment for local government. Bristol needs strong, high performing local government and we concur with the peer challenge colleagues that Bristol City Council has made some significant strides to make improvements, from strengthening its financial management to working with partners on ambitious strategic projects. There is still a lot more to do together with the role of the council continuing to change, and we look forward to seeing further progress.”

Mike Jackson, Bristol City Council’s Head of Paid Service added:

 “It is testament to the hard work and dedication of council staff that the Review recognises their ability to be outward-looking and innovative - despite facing significant challenges in recent years.   We have made real progress in a short time, however, we all recognise there is more to do so our workforce feel supported to do their best each and every day for the citizens of Bristol. We need to continually reassess our own performance and effectiveness as council leaders and officers.”

The report can be viewed in full on the Bristol City Council website -