This week Norfolk County Council announced that their Chief Executive, David White, will be standing aside in April 2013 to make space for a successor with the different skill sets needed to fulfil the Council’s corporate plan. This change in the Council’s most senior management appears quite amicable and has been described by Mr White himself as necessary for the Council to become more commercial and less dependent on Government grants. County Council Leader Derrick Murphy explains that this change is “a move away from the traditional local government role”.
This same business focus needs to be present in the skill sets needed for local government commissioning officers. The NLGN report, Commissioning Dialogues, points out that no one ever goes to University to become a commissioner. Rather, this is a job that people tend to evolve into which means that they may not have the commercial acumen necessary to build successful relationships with private and third sector commissioning partners.
So how can we define and cultivate these skill sets needed for this new generation of council officers? Alex Thomson, CEO of Localis, suggests that the key skills local government officers need for 2013 are entrepreneurialism and strong communication skills. Initiatives such as the Government’s planned commissioning academy or better pay will help to attract different sorts of applicants. But as the Norfolk County Council example suggests, it appears that whole job descriptions will need to be redefined to make way for new ways of working.