Headlines: March 14th, 2005

The new centre for improving the quality of leadership in councils in England has been launched two years after the proposal was first muted. It will provide for the needs of both members and officers and its main purpose is the development of the leadership capacity of local government. It is funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.Innovative and visionary local leadership is at the forefront of the current debate to develop a new and long term vision for local government and the Leadership Centre will work with every council in England that wants to improve the quality of leadership, both among its political leaders and its managers.

Local government is in competition for talent and it needs to increase the pool of potential leaders. The new centre will help develop these people, equipping them to deal with the increasing complexity of community leadership. Replenishing the pool of leaders is one of the centre’s main objectives: ‘Leaders in local authorities need to reflect the communities they represent, but we will only attract a more diverse range of talent if we invest in our staff, and make ourselves the employers of choice. That is the way we will achieve the ultimate prize – an improvement in services for the local community,’ says Lorraine Pitt, head of HR at Essex County Council, speaking on behalf of SOCPO, the society for personnel officers.

The Centre will be fully operational by the summer, but it has launched two pilots to find out how best to help local authorities improve their leadership capacities. The pilots will help in refining understanding of what authorities need and exploring ways to link up with other public sector initiatives. A number of councils have already signed up to work with the Centre which will provide teams to analyse how their current leadership development arrangements match up with development needs. The prescription for filling the gap between what is there now and what is needed is likely to involve local action as well as support from the Centre.