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Local Government Board Dinner

15 February 2016

At a time when local government is facing unprecedented levels of change, we brought together Chief Executives from across the country to discuss how to respond to the latest set of challenges and budgetary constraints.

At the event held at our London offices this month, the group were addressed by Tony Travers, Director of British Government at the London School of Economics, and Ben Lucas, Managing Director of Metro Dynamics.  

Increasing incomes from elsewhere

Many in the group felt that although the autumn spending review wasn’t as severe as had been feared, local government leaders are certainly feeling the heat on revenue sources and, with the cuts unevenly spread, some are suffering more than others.

The funding reforms set to take shape over the upcoming years are forcing councils to bolster revenue from local sources and in some cases, leading to a hike in council tax to fund areas such as social care.

Talent gaps

As our guest speaker Tony Travers pointed out, this level of pressure isn’t new for local government and the challenge of delivering the same services with a smaller workforce is an ongoing one. However, there are fears that as the economy continues to recover, it will become even harder to find the right skills from within its existing workforce. This will cause councils to look externally for the talent that has left the sector over the last five years of austerity.

A restocking of talent is necessary for planning departments and finance officers to work together to build the local economy and tax base. New skills will be needed to help councils adapt to the changes in income and to rebalance the power between departments. While in agreement with this, the Chief Executives present at the event commented on the difficulty in attracting the right people due to ongoing caps on salaries.

Guest speaker Ben Lucas also discussed the potential effects of devolution in relation to talent gaps. With local councils subject to different types of deals, there is definitely not a one size fits all approach when it comes to local issues, and councils that have historically operated in a set way may well require a different set of skills to move forward.

Interim opportunities

There’s no doubt local authority leaders have proved themselves adept at coping with challenges over the last five years, but with the level of resource expected to continue to decline, the question remains of how to best use the resources that are left. The thoughts of the group were that the smaller the council workforce gets, particularly at the top, the less flexibility there is to bring new permanent people in.

So, whether it’s HR experts to restock the talent pool, data and finance experts to assist with changing revenue streams, or communications experts to relay changes to council tax to the local populations, there are a host of opportunities for interim executives within local government in the coming months and years.

While it’s undoubtedly a challenging time for council leaders, both Tony and Ben noted how these changes can be seen as both interesting and exciting, with devolution potentially giving local councils more control than ever before.

Bambos Eracleous, Lead Partner of the Odgers Interim Government Practice

Categories: Local Government


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