by Vikki Slade – Associate Director
Most people could name the Prime Minister, and many members of the cabinet, but very few could name or would recognise the leader of the council in the area in which they live or work, and yet Local Government decision making has a considerable impact on the way our communities operate.
The public perception that the council just deals with bins and potholes is completely outdated, especially as more councils move to Unitarization – becoming the single council for all services from social care to libraries, allotments to planning services. In my time as leader of BCP Council I learned so much about some of the unseen services and where the council tax really goes and have tried to enlighten residents and businesses so that they appreciate the value of their own council tax and also the immense professionalism of those who dedicate their working lives to public service.
Those who make public policy – the councillors elected to lead those councils – come from a diverse background but there is minimal training in governance and leadership and, whilst often passionate about the portfolio with which they work, there is rarely a close professional link.
It is often a very lonely place to be the leader of a council so, organisations like Cratus have the opportunity to share the skills of those who have walked in those shoes and examine the ways of working to constructively challenge and improve their knowledge and delivery of their department’s activity. Getting this right is likely to improve the cohesion of their organisation and the outcomes for local residents and also make the work of the political and managerial leaders of the council more effective and enjoyable.
Without Cratus I may never have taken the opportunity to lead one of the largest Unitary Councils in the UK. As the newest city-region formed alongside neighbouring Dorset Council, BCP Council was undergoing significant change. The public had delivered an eclectic mix at the ballot box and this, alongside the bringing together of four councils, meant that real change was inevitable.
Cratus was brought in to help navigate the journey to a stable administration. Their intensive work with prospective leaders teased out common values and helped address areas where differences could remain but be set aside to allow the formation of that team.
The professional yet persistent and constructive challenge helped form strong relationships between a group of people who had been complete strangers and enabled the nature of personalities to become visible. The skills demonstrated by their team brought us back again and again to the table and I have since seen those skills demonstrated in a variety of ways helping councils to turn the mirror on themselves where departments as diverse as communications and planning can be improved.
The opportunity to work with Cratus, to join this team working with other local government organisations to enhance skills and improve outcomes, was one I could not refuse and I look forward to opening the lid on a range of councils and aid their improvement towards becoming a modern, accessible and accountable council which was one of our fundamental principles in leading Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.
If you’d like to have a direct conversation do please drop me a line via this link and, together, let’s make Local the face of government, of meaningful engagement and of place for your community or organisation.