Now that all of the local councils have been established for the next 4 years the various political parties are allocating their portfolio holders and cabinet members. These posts cover a wide range of disciplines and the expenditure of huge amounts of public money.
Now if I’m right Councillors are elected for their politics and not their business acumen. No one checks their commercial credentials or experience of running a business and their capability, let alone the capacity, for being responsible and accountable for such large portfolios.
If these elected Councillors were applying for a job in the senior echelons of Local Government, Senior Civil Service or Very Senior Manager grades in the NHS they would be subjected to a rigorous selection process that would include an assessment centre and a panel interview. Instead we have a “secret” selection process behind closed doors where Councillors carve up the portfolio between them.
The net result of this is that there are, on a number of local councils, individual Councillors, who have never held a management position in their “day job”, suddenly being elevated to posts that they must struggle to cope with. I wonder what the selection process is? Is it allocated on the “ he who shouts loudest” criteria or is it a case of individuals saying, “I fancy that”.
What’s the problem with this I can hear people saying as surely they have professional and full time council officers to help and guide them who have been through the rigorous selection process and therefore possess the necessary experience. Well maybe they do and the amount of input the officers will have will I guess depend on the strength of character the individual Councillor has, which is also not tested at the ballot box, to be able to take advice rather than direction.
The difference and the problem of course is that the less experienced Councillors are the more likely the council will be Officer led. We certainly know of one council who fits that bill! As power and decision making is devolved further down the line under the Big Society and Localism the qualifications and criteria for Councillors to hold such large portfolios will become even more important as will their capability to resist being led down a path that the local electorate would not want them to be led. Sounds familiar!
Our message to local Councillors at BDC is do not fall into the trap of being officer led and stick to the principles that got you elected in the first place ie vote on what your electorate voted you in for and do not blindly tow the party line