Merton Council - A Client Perspective

30 March 2010

Ged Curran is the Chief Executive of Merton Council. With its population of 200,000 it’s sixteenth in size out of 32 London boroughs. First of all, why did he seek to fill the post of Director of Environment and Regeneration on an interim basis?

Ged Curran’s response is that he knew it would take a while to recruit for the permanent job as most people are on three months notice. He was also aware that there would be other changes happening in the department anyway. He describes Sarah as “a neat fit” in that she’d already shown her real abilities in heading sustainable communities. Under Merton’s constitution directors’ posts are member appointments, Sarah’s name was put in front of them and duly approved.

What skills did any interim manager coming into this post need to have? Ged highlights three requirements: he or she needed the ability to bring a sense of confidence and stability; the ability to work with councillors; a broad range of experience, and crucially the confidence to manage his or her own uncertainty in those areas where there was less personal experience.

This last point is particularly pertinent to the environment job as Ged describes it. He points out that, traditionally, environmental services covers a range of disciplines. In Merton the brief includes waste collection and disposal, planning and regeneration, asset management, culture and leisure, parks and transport, traffic and highways and the council’s activities on climate change. “You might find someone with experience in one or two of those areas, but it’s unusual to find someone with expertise across the board”. In his view Sarah was suited to this job because she had been director of a very similar set of services in Brighton. Many of the social elements in Brighton were akin to those in Merton.

Ged feels that his expectations of this interim assignment were exceeded because of the quality of the person in the post. Talking about the interim role in general, he says it’s hard to give a hard and fast rule as to whether an interim is there simply to hold the fort or whether he or she should be promoting change. “You need to lead the willing, and if people think you’re moving on it’s difficult to introduce change”. Ideally, unless an interim has been brought in specifically to effect radical change, he or she is there to lay the groundwork for sustainable change, and if the assignment is long enough it is possible to do that.

What does Ged think of OdgersInterim’s performance in this assignment? He rates it.

He says that some brokers find you the person and that’s the last you hear of them until they want their fee, but OdgersInterim is scrupulous, almost “pernickety’ in asking for feedback on how their interim is performing. Fortunately there were no glitches to iron out in this assignment, but, he says, he had the impression OdgersInterim would have got involved if there had been a problem.


Categories: Local Government

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