Burnley Council praised by peers

Observatory comp
Burnley Town Hall, by Peter Seavers
Observatory comp Burnley Town Hall, by Peter Seavers

The Local Government Association has praised Burnley Borough Council for improving its local economy in “challenging circumstances”.

The findings came in a Peer Challenge review, produced by a team including Norwich City’s Chief Executive, a former leader of Bradford Council, a finance director from Lancaster, and a district manager from JobCentre Plus, who visited Burnley over three days during September.

This is a council with a ‘can do’ attitude which punches above its weight as a small borough in attracting inward investment and growth.

Local Government Association

The team spent more than 120 hours in the council, and talked to more councillors and officers, and people from organisations from the police to local businesses. They also looked in-depth at council documents and financial information.

In its summary the report said: “Burnley is a borough on the up. Despite some challenging circumstances the council has seen improving the local economy as the single biggest driver to improving the quality of life for local people.

“The council has put significant energy into supporting the growth of the local economy. The signs, coming out of the national economic recession, are positive.”

The council had asked the peer team to explore the following three issues: economic prosperity; a more inclusive borough; securing the benefits from a Combined Authority and devolution.

The review team noted areas where Burnley had significant issues, noting that the borough had a higher level of crime than many other communities in Lancashire, that ducational attainment iss getting better but is still below the national average and that many local young people suffer from relatively low aspirations.

There are significant health inequalities in the borough, with relatively high levels of obesity, smoking, alcohol and substance abuse.

The report added: “The council is ambitious for Burnley and wants to see it as a place of choice to live and grow a business.

“This is a council with a ‘can do’ attitude which punches above its weight as a small borough in attracting inward investment and growth.

“These are achievements of which the council and its partner agencies should be rightly proud.”

The report also included detailed discussion of the council’s high-performing services – both those delivered directly such as the management of parks and green spaces, and those now delivered through contractors, such as waste collection and street cleansing.

Council leader Coun. Mark Townsend said: “We were clear that we wanted the Local Government Association team to give us an honest appraisal – warts and all. They focussed on themes that are important to Burnley residents: economic prosperity and a more inclusive borough.

“It is very gratifying that they found that – in their words – Burnley is a council with a ‘can do’ attitude which punches above its weight as a small borough in attracting inward investment and growth.

“I was particularly pleased to see the report highlight the hard work and dedication of council workers.

“The report does underline challenges and issues we face, including the ongoing financial cuts from national government.

“The reviewers have done Burnley a good service by pointing out areas we should look at more closely over the next period, including doing all that we can to ensure that local people benefit from the town’s economic growth.”

The report will now be considered in detail by the council’s Scrutiny and Executive committees, to identify all the relevant points for action arising from the report, which will be fed into the council’s work plans.