As a second unfortunate Local Authority is forced to issue a Section 114 bankruptcy notice, we ask whether being more boring could highlight financial difficulties early enough to turn the trajectory to financial recovery.

In his Best Value Inspection report for Northamptonshire County Council in 2018, author Max Caller stated that “in Local Government there is no substitute for doing boring well”; having good governance, sound financial, performance and risk management; and a culture of continuous improvement and positive challenge.

Croydon Council have been the latest to issue the notice.

At C.Co, our consultants have worked with scores of local authorities across England, Wales and Scotland and we can recognise a number of themes the Best Value Inspection raised that we have seen, and helped change, in other authorities.

The elements identified by the report bear a strong resemblance to our views on common key issues found when assessing the health of many organisations’ corporate performance. In order to establish a view, we would always start by asking these essential questions:

  • Governance – is there suitable clarity, ownership and accountability for budgeting and spending?
  • Decision making – are we clear on schemes of delegation; information/data needed to inform decisions; and a transparent audit trail?
  • How do we ensure we do not suppress difficult decisions or bury bad news?
  • Budgetary control – Are both finance professions and managers managing and how is challenge managed?
  • Performance management – how do we determine, measure, capture, analyse and take action on our key performance metrics/indicators? How do we use intelligence and insight?
  • How do we use data to forward plan our strategic actions to meet the needs of the council, its residents, businesses and visitors?
  • Evidence based decisions – how do we address any shortfall without impacting on ‘must do’ services?
  • Internal Audit – are they being used correctly or at all? How do we support them to focus on the right things and have a voice when things aren’t as they should be?
  • Turnaround plans – are we brave enough to admit when a system is fundamentally broken? Do we have the skills and the capacity to make the turnaround?
  • Culture and behaviours – at the heart of all of the above points, the fundamental question needs to be asked about why any shortcomings are allowed to happen and why people don’t feel they can speak out. What are people’s value sets and motives? No one comes to work to do a bad job.

If you have not yet seen the full NCC Best Value Inspection it can be found at:

We would like to hear your thoughts on the challenges across the sector and whether you recognise all or any of these themes, or if you would like to talk to us about how we might be able to help, please contact us at

To find out more about how we can review your governance visit