The Local Government Apprentice

briefcase

I’m very excited at the prospect of the new series of The Apprentice on BBC1. I love the drama, the arguments, the madness, the hopes being raised and then dashed. Secretly, I’ve always fancied having a go at it, but I am a terrible saleswoman and that’s all Alan Sugar seems to care about.  But it’s got me thinking about opportunities in Local Government…

Something that really gets on my wick is the widespread belief that anyone who is very good at their job is “too good for local government”. I’ve heard this used on many occasions about colleagues, and quite frankly it’s a load of old tosh. Why shouldn’t local government have good people working in it? Why should local government try and live up to the non-truths that we are slow, unable to change, 9-5’ers? If we keep telling all the good people they are too good for local government, they will just leave and we’ll end up with fewer and fewer good people.

This is why we end up in the situation with quite a lot of (but not all) group managers, service heads, directors and the like not actually being of the calibre we need them to be. Simon Whitehouse recently introduced me to the Peter Principle and that really rings true with me. The good people are leaving because Local Government isn’t good enough for them, and the remaining ones get promoted – unable/unwilling to take risks, push for change, challenge where things aren’t right because they don’t want to risk their job or potential for furthering their career. Local government doesn’t seem to reward people who are passionate and want to make a difference, if anything they punish you for it (OK, well maybe that is an exaggeration). So we have this vicious circle that we are unable to break as the people who can have a very protectionist mentality.

So, back to the Apprentice. I’m wondering about asking our Chief Exec and the Strategic Directors to think about running an internal version of the Apprentice. The final job on offer could be as an assistant to one of the directors or service heads (or Business Unit Managers – look at the acronym, no joke!). That would start a ripple in the internal job market, in a time where everything is static. Maybe this post could be just for one year, when another apprentice, is sourced from within the council. There could be a post for each of our 3 directors and 1 for the exec. That could open up secondment opportunities for those vacant posts within the authority. All in all, quite an interesting development opportunity for all involved.

Will it work? Will they take on board my suggestion? Am I a fool? Is anyone else willing to see if their authority will do the same?

Watch this space, “don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon”.

Image by Lludo on Flickr

Kettling Local Government

As with a lot of other people, I have been following (from afar, I confess) the recent marches and demonstrations about the cuts being made in the public sector. What has struck me, after reading Dominic Campbell’s post on his experience, is the similarity between the kettling tactics being used by the police and how central government are approaching “cutting the deficit” by kettling Local Government. How much shoving and shouting there has been in local government, I’m sure there has been some, but it’s certainly not a place anyone would choose to be.  After all, the police are ordinary people with a little bit more power than the rest of us. Central Government is just government with a bit more power than local government.

As We Love Local Government rightly says, cuts need to be made and local government does need to reform. But like the majority of protesters, we are all here to do the right thing. Backing local government into a corner to make these cuts is harming the many to try and weed out the few.

The speed and severity of the cuts have a striking resemblance to how quickly and harshly the police can form a kettle. They are leaving people scared for their jobs, scared for the future of the services they have spent tremendous effort trying to deliver, frustrated at not being able to make any progress. Some are allowed to escape, with options such as early retirement and voluntary redundancy. Others are forced to remain with the prospect of finding alternative employment unlikely due to being tarred with the Local Government brush of shame.

I usually try in many of my blog posts to pop in the odd joke or pun, but it doesn’t seem right for this post. So I shall finish up by taking Dominic’s very well constructed last sentence, and reconfiguring it for the purpose of this post:

“Until Central Government learn to distinguish between the efficient many and the wasteful few, and develop more nuanced approaches to budget cutting to deal with that, there can never be any hope of building trust between themselves and the people they are supposedly there to support.”

Many thanks to

Dominic Campbell –
http://dominiccampbell.posterous.com/my-experience-of-the-26march-protests

We Love Local Government – http://welovelocalgovernment.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/why-i-didnt-march/