Today I am updating the House on the intervention at Slough Borough Council. I was extremely concerned by the content of the Commissioners’ second report, which was submitted on 22 December 2022, and made it clear that many in leadership roles in the Council were not fully committed to the improvement journey, and that a fundamental shift in behaviours was needed. I highlighted these concerns in my statement to the House on 16 March 2023, in which I made it clear that things had to change.
On 13 July 2023, I received a copy of the Commissioners’ third report on the progress of the intervention, which I am publishing today on gov.uk and also placing a copy in the Libraries of both Houses. This report was submitted after a period of change for the Council. Following the resignations of Max Caller CBE, the Lead Commissioner, on 1 March, and Margaret Lee, the Finance Commissioner, on 12 March, two new Commissioners, Denise Murray and Ged Curran, were appointed on 22 May, and the existing Commissioner Gavin Jones was made Lead Commissioner. In addition, May’s elections brought new political leadership and, over recent months, the corporate leadership of the Council has also gone through significant change.
This latest report provides a more positive update and evidence for cautious optimism that things are beginning to move in the right direction. I am pleased to see that the Council has made progress in some areas, including improvement in report quality and financial oversight, improved scrutiny arrangements and a successful move to all-out elections.
At the same time, and whilst acknowledging those improvements, the scale of the challenges facing Slough remains significant. I have today written to Commissioners to set out that it will be vital for the Council to demonstrate a commitment to accelerating the pace of improvement, to provide evidence of further implementation, to show a clear change being embedded over the coming months and to demonstrate greater grip on the financial position. I have acknowledged that the new leadership of the Council is keen to resolve the challenges facing Slough. I know that they will be keen, as I am, to see that a resolution moves forwards as quickly as possible.
Given the changes at Slough in recent months, this is an excellent opportunity for the Council to make substantial progress towards resolving their Best Value failure. I know that they will be keen to take it.