What is the best management job in local government? A fulfilling role in children's services helping children to find homes and education? Working in regeneration helping to turn around disadvantaged areas? Not according to new research. Most local government managers feel disrespected and insecure, with only one department in the sector retaining a sunny outlook - HR.
A survey of more than 850 senior local government officials reveals that abuse from the public is widespread, bullying by colleagues is rife and work is hampered by bureaucracy. Managers in virtually every local government role feel stressed and undervalued, the Local Government Chronicle research shows.
When asked for a word or phrase to describe the way they felt about the role of the manager in local government, almost half said "frustrating". In contrast, only 8% of the respondents said they felt respected. Finance staff reported experiencing the most difficulty with bureaucracy (49%), while adult social care managers are the most frustrated with their role (71%).
But HR managers cast some light on the gloomy picture, feeling more respected than most managers (20%) and less stressed than most other specialisms (43%). In contrast to the belief that HR departments are generally undervalued by business colleagues, most HR manager respondents in local government think their function has grown in influence (70%).
And HR managers tend to have the best work-life balance, the research shows, with 70% of respondents scoring it at eight out of 10 or above.
Alan Warner, corporate director of people and property at Hertfordshire County Council, said the positive results probably come from HR managers having one of the best jobs around. "We have change, variety, tough professional issues and a line to the chief executive," he said. "We can get things done and make a difference."
Warner, former chairman of public sector HR group the Society of Chief Personnel Officers (Socpo), said the trend is on the up as more organisations are realising that they can not be successful without good, strong HR management. "Who wants a pessimistic HR director anyway?"
Warner was more concerned about the respondents' views on bullying, which painted a grim picture of harassment across UK councils.
The research shows that 18% of managers had witnessed bullying by other managers and 21% had seen bullying by councillors.
One in six women said they had be