Case study: Waltham Forest Council trading companies governance review
Updated: Apr 15, 2021
Client: Waltham Forest Council
Date: June 2019 – October 2019
Challenges faced by the client: WFC established two Local Authority Trading Companies (LATCs), Sixty Bricks and Waltham Forest Services Limited, in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and the organisations are both at relatively early stages of maturity. The Council was keen to ensure that the Shareholder Committee and the Boards of Directors of the two LATCs functioned effectively, in particular that governance structures provided the Council with the appropriate and proportionate level of influence and assurance. An internal commercial governance review was undertaken in November 2018, however, the WFC Management Board felt that there would be value in building on this using external expertise, ensuring an objective perspective. In June 2019, the Council commissioned Mutual Ventures to undertake this independent review of governance arrangements for both of the LATCs.
Drivers for the review included:
Need for the Council to act as an effective owner of the companies
Need for the LATCs to be sustainable, whilst being provided with opportunities for growth
Need to ensure that governance arrangements support all parties to achieve shared strategic and political objectives
Support offered: Our framework approach considered governance, alongside roles, shared interests, and relationships. Effective governance is more than just the technical accuracy of supporting documentation; therefore, our approach explored the dynamics of the behaviours, trust, shared objectives and capabilities. We did not bring an off-the-shelf methodology, with a predetermined set of answers. We also acknowledged the importance of considering the local context and existing culture.
The review process was iterative, with each stage building on the findings of the previous stage:
Desktop analysis of current governance documentation
1:1 interviews with 20 individuals covering Management Board, Shareholder Committee, Board of Directors for each LATC, and key stakeholders / interested parties
One round-table workshop for each LATC with representatives for both the LATC Board of Directors and the Shareholder
Outcome achieved: Mutual Ventures produced a comprehensive slide-deck report, setting out progress to date, identifying current strengths and issues, wide-ranging recommendations and a supporting implementation plan. Key recommendations included:
LATCs’ strategic purpose to be refreshed and awareness raised across all levels of the Council and the LATCs
WFC and LATCs to adopt a partnership model, not purely transactional, specifically in relation to relationships and dialogue
Establish a Client Representative role, allowing for clearer delineation of roles and greater transparency in decision making
To undertake a Skills Need Analysis for both LATC Boards of Directors, which will assist with the identification of specific skill gaps, and inform the specification and recruitment of independent Directors / Non-Executive Directors
Develop a succession planning strategy for both LATC Boards of Directors and the Shareholder Committee
Adopt social value assurance processes, including evaluation frameworks. This would drive formal reporting and increased assurance to the Shareholder Committee, and raise awareness across the Council
All recommendations were approved by the WFC Management Board and implementation is now underway.
‘’It was really helpful to have the findings and recommendations so well-presented.
There will be huge value in taking all of the recommendations forward.’’
Michele Moloney, Strategic Director of Resident Services, Waltham Forest Council