Derby City Council

Council’s new Delivery Plan more “vague and woolly” than “open and transparent”

Next week’s Cabinet meeting will receive the 2017/18 Derby City Council “Annual Performance Results” which will declare that 94% of the Council pledges were either “completed or ‘on track'” in that year.  One of many completely meaningless statistics in that report!

The underlying flaw is that the pledges don’t have equal weighting so, taking a percentage, has little validity. Very few of the pledges were defined specifically, and so could not be assessed objectively. The assessments don’t seem to have been judged critically – and are concerned more about activity, than quality of outcome….

Some examples of completed pledges:

  • Ram Energy set-up
  • Council will support “Small Business Saturday event”
  • Reduce litter. fly-tipping and nuisance bins
  • The Council will commit £250,000 to deliver a programme of affordable events, including the Darley Park Concert and St George’s Day
  • The Council will deliver Christmas lights and a switch on event
  • Launch of crowdfunding platform
  • The Council will introduce an incentive scheme to reward good tenants of Council homes
  • The Council will start building a new swimming pool by the end of 2017.

and ‘on track’, includes:

  • The Council will improve the A52 to keep Derby moving
  • The Council will make Derby the cleanest English city within four years.
  • The Council will protect Derby’s libraries from closure
  • The Council will invest £213 million over the next three years to improve roads, schools, housing, waste facilities and regenerating the city

many of which don’t bear much examination. The key pledges that have been declared as “missing target’ include:

  • The Council will regenerate the Osmaston area
  • Support new and growing local businesses through the Connect Derby programme
  • Prepare to meet the Government’s requirements for the introduction of a Clean Air Zone in Derby from 2020
  • The Council will double the number of children benefitting from free breakfast to 800 by July 2018
  • Ensure that assessments for children with special educational needs and disabilities are carried out quickly
  • Percentage of inspected services settings and institutions that are judged as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ – Residential Children’s Homes
  • Percentage of looked after children placed in placements with Independent Fostering Agency (IFA)
  • Number of Disabled Facilities Grant adaptations completed
  • % of NEW Education Health and Care Plans issued in 20 weeks
  • Total number of children in care per 10,000 population aged under 18
  • Number of new homes delivered

The full report contains a mixture of modest improvements to existing statutory services through to significant capital projects/new initiatives. Whilst there might be fewer items ‘off track’, arguably they represent some of the more significant priorities.

The new Conservative administration will ratify its version of the Council Delivery Plan at the next Cabinet meeting. One would hope that they might have recognised the mistakes in the previous “pledge” document. Of the 61 items, nearly all of them lack any form of objective / numeric measure against which they can be judged and too many are prefixed with vague forms of action:

e.g. Explore / Review / Manage / Maintain / Continue

which means that they cannot be critiqued, objectively.

The few that were contained within the manifesto should be more clearer:

  • Explore options to move to a committee system of decision making ( by May 2019)
    • It should commit to implement a committee system by May 2019.
  • Renew and re-open the Assembly Rooms (presenting feasibility work to Cabinet Nov 2018)
    • A flagship policy should include a clear commitment to when the build repair project will start / end.
  • Review the design and viability of the New Swimming Pool Complex ( review and feasibility work completed Oct 2018)
    • No commitment as to when the Pool will be delivered, given that it now appears to be paused.
  • Work towards implementation of a free Brown Bin collection service (by March 2019)
    • The action should be to implement (not ‘work towards’) a Free Brown Bin Collection, for all , to start 1 April 2019.


It is in the interests of Councillors  “politically” and Senior Officers for their “personal progression” to keep, wherever possible, plans as “vague and woolly” as possible. This ensures that when the plan veers off track there are always opportunistic excuses that can be tabled which blur the edges of what was meant, and how it was being measured.

This is a public document and as such it should be crystal clear about what the commitments are, made in precise terms.  It should be shorter, and should separate out those actions which are gradual improvements in routine service delivery from step-change actions.

To be “open and transparent” implies being specific and in a way that facilitates objective criticism. Good leadership is visionary and giving little commitment beyond a few months is indicative of the opposite.

The public voted for something different – this document is more of the same – “vague and woolly”.  Getting a conclusive position on whether most of these have hit the target will be like “nailing blancmange to a dartboard!”







Categories: Derby City Council

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