Headlines: April 7th, 2004

Diversity in Local Government is still a long way off according to the results of a nine year research project which has led to the publication of two reports described as a ‘wake up call’ for local councils.The studies – commissioned by the IDeA and co-funded with Leadership Research and Development Ltd – look at the career success of local government managers according to ethnicity, gender, age and disability. Information was collected over a nine-year period, and more than 3,000 local government managers were involved. The Agency says the reports raise important issues concerning performance feedback, competency appraisal and discrimination within local government.

The first of the reports is entitled ‘Perceptions’ and it looks at the differences in findings of 360-degree feedback reports, looking at the ethnicity and gender of the manager being appraised. It is based on a final sample of more than 420 local government managers. The results from the 360-degree feedback suggest disparities in ratings between the manager, their boss, their peers and those who work under them. It found that ratings given to black and minority ethnic or female managers by their peers were significantly higher than those given by the managers’ bosses.

The second report, ‘Prospects”, describes the findings of national research into the career experience of just under 2,000 local government managers. It also found disparities, including the discovery that disabled and black and minority ethnic managers were more likely to feel part of the ‘out-group’ than non-disabled white managers. Women were found to be at a lower level of management overall than male managers. The reports conclude that diverse groups of managers will continue to face barriers until all of local government is committed to managing diversity throughout its structures.

IDeA Executive Director, Lucy de Groot said the reports were a wake-up call for local government and the results posed an enormous challenge and prompted some very hard questions about the measures that were used to judge the competency and skill levels of managers.