International - 14/01/2012

„Shared Ambition is Critical“

“Shared ambition is critical” is the title of Swansea’s Community Strategy 2010-2014. Mannheim’s twin town has been working with strategic goals since 2004. Lord Mayor Dr. Peter Kurz and First Mayor Christian Specht took a delegation over to Swansea for a closer look.

They were welcomed by Lord Mayor Richard on their one-and-a-half-day visit and their packed schedule included a meeting with Council Leader Chris Holley, CEO Jack Straw and numerous discussions with various department officers.

Jeremy Stephens, Head of Performance of the City of Swansea, has the task of ensuring that the city remains focused on its strategic targets, which are re-defined every four years. “Measures to achieve our strategic goals are defined on a yearly basis together with the risks that could influence these measures. We also have key performance indicators to measure target fulfillment”, Stephens explains. In contrast to Mannheim, Swansea has written contracts with project partners who work towards fulfilling its targets together with the city – Stephens advises Mannheim that this would further enhance its current “very good” approach.

Every year the project’s performance is measured against strategic targets. It is accountable not only to the municipal council and citizens but also to the Welsh government, who has been setting strategic goals since 2009 to improve administration and to serve its citizens. Stephen’s colleague Dave McKenna admits here that “there is room of improvement” but by 2013 planning on both levels should be synchronized.

“Swansea and Mannheim face similar challenges as we look to develop our cities and this visit was a great opportunity for us to learn from each other”, said Chris Holley, Leader of Swansea Council. Lord Mayor Dr. Kurz states: “Mannheim can learn much from Swansea in terms of its management of strategic goals”. Measures, key performance indicators and success criteria are all set out and regularly reviewed. Furthermore, a citizens’’ panel of 1 250 members is regularly asked how satisfied they are with individual aspects of how the strategic goals have been implemented. The results flow into the city’s strategic management.

A political debate on the continual development of the city in a committee named “scrutiny board” ensures long-term durability and sustainability of its strategic goals. It gives recommendations to the city’s cabinet. The municipal council, however, has very little say in political decisions, which are made for the most part by the cabinet. Also, in contrast to the freedom local self-government offers to Mannheim and many other cities in Germany, Welsh local politicians have to contend with strict government guidelines.

Dr. Kurz sums up: “Not only has a durable and widespread political consensus been found in Swansea for its strategic goals. It is a matter of course for Swansea to work with key performance indicators and to concentrate on questioning whether concrete results and improvements have been achieved”. Mannheim could bring many ideas on this back with them from Swansea.