When does the future become the present?

From Sarah Messenger, Head of Workforce at LGA

Nothing endures but change, as they say. I could quote you wise lyrics from the likes of David Bowie and Bob Dylan about change but the truth is that we’ll be charting new waters with the changes for local government that the New Year will bring. But how do we go about managing the ‘normal’ change while at the same time setting the foundations for the radical changes we can see on the horizon? 

When do we become a 'future' council?

On top of dealing with the biggest budget cuts of anywhere in the public sector, you’re also grappling with the ‘future councils’ questions: how big will you be, which services will you provide (or not), how many people will you employ, how will you generate income from new sources? The list goes on but it strikes me that the future is the present in local government at the moment.

Councils won’t be declaring ‘Future Council Inauguration Days’. There is no point when the old world disappears and the new world arrives. The critical word here is ‘transition’. But how can you manage being as efficient as possible within difficult financial constraints while ensuring that the changes necessary today fit in with a wider strategic and political vision about the sort of council you will be tomorrow? Bearing in mind that tomorrow could of course mean just that or it might mean two years hence!

But change brings opportunities

One of the things we do know is that there are exciting opportunities to do new and different things with how we recruit, develop, manage and motivate our staff. And it has been an interesting challenge for us in the team to think about the best ways to support HR, chief executives and leaders through the changes in store in 2013 and beyond. Have a look at our December podcast for where we think the workforce challenges are.

LGA support for councils

But while I want the LGA workforce team to be at the heart of the strategic debate about what the future holds for councils, I also talk to lots of people who want practical help with getting from A to B. So you’ll be pleased to know that our new year’s resolution is to work with councils and partners to provide a range of very practical solutions to underpin the changes that you are contemplating or managing.

And I think we’re off to a good start for keeping this particular resolution!  We are launching some projects this month that will help you to set the right foundations for a well-organised, well-led and well-rewarded workforce for the particular political, social and financial challenges your council is dealing with. Here are a few of the projects that you should look out for:

  • The first project is ‘layers and spans’, an organisational redesign tool looking at levels of accountability within an organisation.  You are probably groaning at the word ‘restructure’ but this approaches it from the bottom-up and has a very strong track record in the private sector. Email suzanne.hudson@local.gov.uk for more information.
  • It is becoming increasingly clear that we have to do more to be attractive employers to our current and future employees. We have an exciting new employee engagement diagnostic tool that helps councils evaluate and improve their employment ‘deal’ across factors affecting job satisfaction and good performance. To find out more, email luann.donald@local.gov.uk.
  • And we can’t ignore pay. We know that it’s not just the obvious financial problems stopping us from looking at pay but also the lack of information on pay in our sector. We are setting up an on-line national, regional and local pay benchmarking club called “E pay-check” that uses the detail of job profiles not just basic job titles for comparisons. To be part of this contact jon.sutcliffe@local.gov.uk.


This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change. Are they changing for you already? Are you thinking about your workforce of the future? Does your HR team have the time and the skills to get involved in shaping your council’s future? We’re interested in hearing from you on workforce@local.gov.uk

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