When people use the word 'Council' they tend to mean one of two things. The first is the body of 51 elected Councillors. The second is the workforce employed to deliver and commission local services. Below is a brief outline of how these two groups of people work to improve Calderdale.
Councillors are elected by the people in their ward to serve for four years before further elections take place. The role is demanding. Councillors have many responsibilities but they can be broken down into broadly four areas:
- Representing local citizens.
- Overseeing Council compliance with the laws, regulations and statutory guidance set down by parliament and ministers.
- Within the framework of law to establish local policies for Council services.
- Monitoring the performance of services provided by private sector contractors and the Council's own staff.
Councillors operate through four types of committee:
- Full Council - this sets the local policies and the Council's budgets.
- Cabinet - this group of seven Councillors are charged with political oversight and decision-making within the policies set down by the full Council of 51 members.
- 5 Scrutiny Panels - the largest number of Councillors sit on one or more of the panels charged with analysing the policies and practices of the Council and making recommendations for improvements.
- Quasi-judicial committees - these deal with specific legal responsibilities for such things as planning and licensing.
Membership of a political party is not required in order to be elected as a Councillor but, in practice, most are. This reflects the general picture of local authorities throughout the country.
The second group of people often referred to as the Council are its workforce. I head this workforce of some 7,400 people. As with all similar local authorities this is made up of a mix of full-time, part-time and contract staff.
The workforce delivers or commissions the services you receive. In addition to my office there are five groups, each headed by a director. Within the budgets and policies set by the Council and Cabinet officers have delegated authority to progress the hundreds of individual services.
How are we doing and how do we know?
The simple answer backed by empirical evidence is that services are better today than they were in the past. Equally importantly they will be even better in the future. Like all local authorities the Council is subject to external independent inspection by a range of agencies.
"The Council is well managed and is widely acknowledged to have come a long way in recent years"(Improvement and Development Agency).
- Ofsted said -
the Council's Education Service was now good, praised the improvements that have been made and described us as a self-critical authority committed to further improvement.
- On a scale of 0 to 3 Calderdale's Social Services are rated at 2-star authority by the Social Services Inspectorate in relation to the Council's performance for the provision of Adult and Children's Services.
"We are pleased to report that the Authority has improved its scores in relation to financial standing, financial statements and the legality of significant financial transactions"- PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Council's external auditors. The Council now rate the maximum 4 in financial scoring.
"The political leadership has developed a strong strategic approach and is backed by good management and direction"- Audit Commission.
Pleasing as these independent judgements are, they are no grounds for complacency. There are areas of service which need to be improved. Some of these are delivered directly by the Council and others through private companies. The Council is committed to improvement throughout.
Calderdale Council is a large organisation responsible for a complex range of services. Nevertheless we have lean management structures by comparison to other similar Councils. We continue to develop our approach to value for money. We operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We get things right most of the time, but inevitably sometimes things can go wrong. When they do we will try to put them right quickly.
I would like you to feel free to contact officers of the Council who will be happy to help you with your enquiry. Also your ward councillors are there to help you. Their contact details are on the web site or through the Council's switchboard (telephone: 01422 288001).
This website contains a lot more information about the Council. It is intended to give you an improved understanding about how your Council works for your borough. I hope you find it helpful.