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We are a cross-party, member-led network, providing a single voice for our member councils

Independence for Oflog ‘will boost improvement’

Published: 16 April 2024

Independence from Government will ensure a fuller role for Oflog driving the improvement of councils, Trevor Holden, the DCN’s lead chief executive, told MPs on 15 April.

Mr Holden, Chairman of the DCN’s Chief Executives Group, appeared before the Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee as part of its inquiry into the setting up of Oflog.

The managing director of Broadland and South Norfolk councils used the session to endorse a call by outgoing Oflog Chairman Lord Morse for the regulator to be visibly independent from the Government. This would help win the confidence of councils, boost transparency and help enhance the existing improvement system, Mr Holden said.

Anything short of this, “won’t do [Oflog] any good, ultimately it won’t help the Department [for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities] and it won’t help drive the sector-led improvement that we’re looking for”, he said.

The introduction of Oflog created the potential for a “continuum” of support for councils, in which concerns could be raised in the Corporate Peer Challenge (CPC) system overseen by the Local Government Association and followed up, resulting in Oflog action if improvements were not made, Mr Holden said.

“I think that if local authorities see that continuum of improvement ultimately ending in intervention if improvement doesn’t happen, those conversations [with those previously unwilling to engage in a CPC] would be more constructive and more open.”

Mr Holden also spoke positively about Oflog’s engagement with councils, stating: “I cannot criticise in any way, shape or form the leadership of the former chairman and the chief executive.

“Those words need to be turned into actions; otherwise, we run the risk of creating a massive bureaucracy over the top of something that is less efficient and less functional than it would be if we were to build on what the sector already has in place,” he said.

Mr Holden said councillors were the “watchkeepers” on council performance and urged that the new regulator avoided disempowering them.

“We have to respect the autonomy of local councils to take decisions for themselves. Sometimes you just need a slightly firmer conversation to accelerate that improvement journey,” he said.

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