SOUTH Lakeland District Council has been praised for being well run and having 'strong political and managerial leadership'.

Four council bosses from local authorities in Leicestershire, Oldham, Wakefield and Huntingdonshire, visited SLDC to run the rule over the Lib Dem-run authority, with representatives from the Local Government Association.

They interviewed over 80 people including staff, councillors, external partners and stakeholders; spending more than 200 hours on their findings.

As well as praise for how it was run, SLDC was congratulated for its ‘clear and ambitious strategy to deliver economic priorities’.

In particular the ‘considerable achievement’ of being one of few local authorities which have a Local Plan in place - identifying where future houses and business could go.

In a letter to SLDC Chief Exec Lawrence Conway, the peer review team said it was 'pleasure and privilege' to visit the council.

The report said: “SLDC is well regarded by its partners and you show a real commitment to positive partnership working. We heard one of your strengths is ‘being there’ at partnership meetings.

"You are rightly pleased that your Local Plan has been approved and a range of strategies are now in place to deliver your priorities. The emphasis now needs to be on delivery.”

It added: "This is a well-managed authority where senior managers are visible and approachable and employees are motivated and committed to deliver positive outcomes for the people, businesses and visitors to South Lakeland.”

But it also warned how both councillors and managers 'can be distracted by too much detail’ and advised the council to ‘review processes and decision-making’.

“This applies to the political, but also the managerial environment,” said the report.

“One area where we felt the council do do more to promote the local economy was in procurement. We know there are targets for the council to purchase goods annd services locally but we heard examples of where the procurement process often became a barrier to achieving that objective.

"This was particularly the case in small businesses that do not have the resources to complete lengthy tender documents or where the council was tied into bigger contracts through a regional purchasing agreement and could not buy cheaper goods from a local supplier.”

The report also highlighted car parking charges as an issue but said SLDC recognised there had to be a ‘balance’ between generating income and the impact on local businesses and tourism.

The process is known as a ‘peer challenge’.

Lawrence Conway, SLDC Chief Executive, commented: “We volunteered to take part in the Peer Challenge because we are determined to provide the best services we can for the people of South Lakeland.

"We are pleased the Peer Challenge team has recognised the hard work and efforts of everyone at the council. We must continue to be innovative and forward-thinking so we can provide the best possible value for residents.”

SLDC Leader Peter Thornton, said: “It is a positive report which shows we have a clear vision for how we can work with our communities to improve the lives of all our residents.”