I have one more rant in me (following on from my call to arms regarding evangelising about the responsibilities of local authorities earlier this week) and I will keep it short. I am sure you have all read the 50 ways to save – Examples of sensible savings in local government by The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government? Apart from the plethora of typos, there was one particular creative and innovative solution that has me outraged. You would think it would be number 27! But it is in fact no. 24 – “Scrapping the chief executive post entirely” (with a little bit of 22. (“Cut senior pay”) 23. (“Share senior staff”) and 28. (“End expensive ‘leadership’ courses”) thrown in – although I wouldn’t entirely disagree with them in the way they are depicted here).
I do not, however, understand or agree with no. 24 in any way. There is not a successful company or management book or business course or entrepreneur on the planet that would not rank leadership as one of, if not the most, important factors in achieving commercial success, high productivity and high quality outputs and outcomes. Why then should it be different for the public sector and more specifically, local authorities? Leaders set the tone, culture and dynamic of an organisation, they galvanise momentum and harness energies of the people that work within the organisation. They may not do this very well in some cases but that is no reason to get rid of the post altogether.
In the face of the most difficult financial circumstances that local councils have ever found themselves in, the need for a leader is all the more pertinent. An inspirational leader whom employees respect, want to follow and who leads the way in shaping the future of local government service delivery and is prepared to take the difficult decisions will save hundredfold his or her salary. We shouldn’t look at it in bare financial terms either, a good chief executive will improve the services its organisation delivers and let us not forget, will improve the lives and outcomes of the people that live within their borough. I think a sizeable salary, comparable with the private sector is worth that. In an average London borough, a local authority chief exec in London on average is accountable to over 150,000 people and has to administer, monitor and sign off on a budget of over 150 million pounds. I for one am pleased that there is someone at which the buck stops and I certainly don’t envy this position.
Happy to be disagreed with? Or was there another item that enraged you as much as no. 24 did me?