Local government restructuring will lead to huge people management challenges in the years ahead, senior HR directors in the sector have predicted.
Last week, the government announced it had received 26 bids from councils across England and Wales wanting to become unitary authorities – being responsible for all local government functions within a specific area.
Five authorities have also submitted ‘pathfinder’ proposals to pioneer new models of working between councils at county and district level. Savings and efficiencies are likely to come from sharing back-office functions, improved buying power, and removing duplication of services.
Gill Hibberd, corporate director, HR and organisational development at Buckinghamshire County Council, which has submitted a pathfinder bid, said it would be a “radical” way of working. “There won’t be several HR teams but a single, integrated service,” she said. “[The plans] are putting more energy and emphasis on working in partnership.”
Hibberd played down fears this would lead to widespread job cuts in local government HR departments.
“There’s no reason why there should be job losses, but I imagine there will be job reductions,” she said.
Alan Warner, corporate director (people and property) at Hertfordshire County Council, also bidding for pathfinder status, said: “There are lots of HR implications for the process, including dealing with staff transfers, organisational development work and dealing with unions.”
In her role at the Public Sector People Managers’ Association, Hibberd will meet with local government secretary Ruth Kelly to discuss a people management framework to be used during the restructure.