Headlines: May 6th, 2010

Councils are facing unprecedented challenges with the most severe budget cuts in living memory likely to be announced in the coming months. At the same time there is a need to transform services with different ways of working. Responding to this situation with a smaller but smarter and more flexible workforce will be a major challenge. Against this background the Improvement and Development Agency has warned in its ‘Local Government Workforce Strategy 2010’, that councils are ill prepared for the challenge and they must raise their game.

The assessment of the current state of workforce development preparation comes from the Audit Commission which found that 150 of the 200 district councils have inadequate processes to develop a strategy. Police and fire authorities are much better prepared. Top tier councils have not yet been assessed.

As the total place approach becomes the mainstream culture, budgets will be pooled, management arrangements will be shared and integrated services will be set up. While the transformation of services will be gradual it will also be far reaching and comprehensive. The result will be the emergence of even more complex workforce and employment relations issues. Processes to develop workforces strategies need to be set up now to ensure that issues are dealt with as they arise.

Councils are urged to work with their partners and external service providers to identify the workforce dimensions of organisational and cross-organisational transformations. They should also take action now to maximise organisational productivity, including developing an organisational culture that encourages innovation. There is also a need for rigorous performance management which at the same time demonstrates concern for staff wellbeing.