Local government reorganisation: emerging themes from voices at the coal face
During the course of the last six months Trowers & Hamlins have been engaging with chief executives, monitoring officers and heads of finance to discuss the impact of local government reorganisation.
With over 30 conversations completed during this period, there are some clear themes that emerge from those authorities that are in the process of undertaking or have completed a local government reorganisation.
We are grateful to all of our colleagues in local government family who have contributed their time and thoughts on how to prepare and execute a complex reorganisation which has strategic, operational and personal consequences for all of those involved.
Trowers & Hamlins will be publishing a detailed report setting out our findings, summarising recommendations and setting out some of the relevant legal protocols that need to be adhered to. In advance of that we set out some of the key themes that have emerged from our various conversations below:
It is fundamental that there is a clear communication strategy put in place in order to ensure that colleagues throughout the various authorities are clear about the process, their role in the process and how they will be integrated into a new organisation. Regular conversations are essential to calm nerves and set a trajectory for travel.
Have a vision and a plan – and stick to both!
It is fundamental that a vision for the new authority is articulated by the leadership in both the legacy and the new authorities. This will involve a period of significant consultation and discussion ensuring that all voices are heard and that no one is left behind. Consensus may be hard to achieve – so stick with the core themes and articulate the plan of action to get you there.
It has to be understood that not everybody will be eager to undertake the reorganisation. It can create uncertainty, result in competition for roles and a change in status. This can be unsettling and difficult. However it is fundamental that these issues are addressed transparently at the outset, and colleagues we have spoken to have confirmed the need to manage others with a degree of discipline in order to ensure that the new authority can start on a stable and fair footing.
Getting on top of the detail
There needs to be a wholesale review of all issues relevant to the transition process be they financial, contractual, staffing, political and operational. The resource requirements of the reorganisation process itself cannot be underestimated and should be dealt with as a specific major project - including the need to get all matters resolved and in place in advance of Day 1!
The series of interviews with local government leaders are available here:
- Anna Earnshaw, Chief Executive, West Northamptonshire Council.
- Nick Graham, Director for Legal & Democratic Services at Buckinghamshire Council.
- Barry Scarr, Director of Finance and Deputy Chief Executive of Northamptonshire County Council
- Adele Wylie, Director of Legal & Democratic (Monitoring Officer) - North Northamptonshire Council.