Local government reform ‘puts off best candidates’

Senior personnel officers and chief executives in local government met this week to thrash out a plan for attracting talented people into the sector.

Both groups are concerned that changes forced by the Government’s modernising agenda could put the best candidates off local government by limiting the opportunities for furthering their careers.

The chief executive and head of department roles are currently decision-making posts, but the fear is they will become administrative.

The power to take decisions will pass either to an elected mayor or to elected members who will form a cabinet – similar to that at Westminster.

“Everything is being shaken up,” said Terry Gorman, president of local authority personnel body Socpo. “The line between officers and elected members is being blurred and this new relationship needs thinking through.”

Gorman said the mayor would overshadow the chief executive, making the role less influential.

Where the cabinet model is adopted, elected members will take responsibility for decision making. “That role has been performed by the chief executives and heads of department.

“But with the changes, those people will be there to administrate. They will have little role in forming policy, being more like a permanent secretary in the civil service.”

He said it was likely the diminished influence of the top positions will put off talented people who might have considered a local government career.

“All this will have an impact and we want to explore that. Is there some sort of advice we can give or protocols we can develop? This is our first attempt to get everyone together to deal with the issue,” he said.

Socpo and the society of local authority chief executives are hoping to produce guidance on how the new roles could work.


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