The council faced major pressures on its finances during 2016 and 2017 and needed to make extra savings of around £30m to compensate for not making the savings it had previously planned.

Following his election in May 2016, Mayor Marvin Rees commissioned an independent report to understand how the council had arrived at this position and to make recommendations of moving forward.

The report, written by former Chief Executive of the Audit Commission Steve Bundred, was published on Thursday 9 February 2017.

The report found that the underlying financial pressures were not of the council's own making. It cited large cuts to government grant income, legislative changes and the increasing cost and unavoidable demand for council services.

pdf Read an executive summary of the report (514 KB)
pdf Read the full report (684 KB)

The report also said that there had been a collective failure of leadership in achieving past savings and in how the council managed the process. It noted that many improvements had been made and that people could be confident in the council's proposed budget plans for 2017 to 2018, but highlighted a number of serious issues.

It acknowledged that the council had taken many steps to put things right, with regular and stronger financial reporting, more involvement of elected members and changes in senior management. This included recruiting a new permanent Director of Finance and making them a full member of the council's Senior Leadership Team.

Whilst Mr Bundred gave credit for this, he noted that more improvements would be necessary and that change would need to be made over the long term under the council's new Chief Executive, who started in February 2017.

Mr Bundred's report concluded with 12 formal recommendations across a broad range of topics. They included strengthening the council's Finance department, improving the council's approach to writing reports and business cases, managing documents and making specific departments accountable for savings.

Also listed were the need to improve management culture over the following three to five years, keep backbench and opposition councillors better informed, and maintain more frequent financial reporting to Cabinet, something which was a regular feature during the following financial years.