Draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - First Report


APPENDIX 2

Memorandum by the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives (ALACE)

INTRODUCTION

  1.  The Association of Local Authority Chief Executives (ALACE) exists to further and defend the interests of its members by seeking, through collective action and individual support, to help them to improve their conditions of service and to protect themselves against whatever threatens the integrity, security and continuation of their role in public service.

  2.  In response to the proposed legislation ALACE believes it can best achieve its objectives by advising Government how to strengthen the draft Bill to improve its prospects of achieving its stated aims.

RELATIONSHIPS

  3.  ALACE welcomes the inclusion of a number of points made in response to the White Paper. However, the draft Bill and Explanatory Notes make virtually no mention of staffing arrangements and ignore councillor-staff relationships. The status of the Consultation paper is unclear to us.

  4.  Chief Executives will be expected to take steps to ensure the new forms of local governance are a success but apparently with little or no legislative support on relationship matters or their own role. This is a recipe for significant problems. Strong political leadership of Councils is not new. As ever, when the Leader and Chief Executive complement each other they can be a very positive force, however at the other extreme examples such as Ted Knight (LB Lambeth), Derek Hatton (Liverpool City) and Shirley Porter (LB Westminster) come to mind. In these cases Chief Executives found it difficult to manage the political-staff interface and protect the interests of the Council. District Audit was involved in each case over alleged abuses of power although personal financial corruption was not the issue.

  5.  The framework within which Local Government operates has been created by statute and convention based on custom and practice. Sometimes it has not been robust enough to provide adequate checks and balances to a strong political leader. The new structural models are designed to institutionalise strong political leadership. It will take a considerable time for new conventions to become established. Without adequate legislative provision for the role of Chief Executive there will be an increased risk of decisions being taken without proper advice or sufficient regard to professional advice.

  6.  The directly elected mayor and council manager option (model 3) has been designed in such an extreme way that it is doubtful if it will be adopted by more than a few councils (probably where independents rule) and so the benefits of a more strong defined Chief Executive role will not materialise.

  7.  We welcome the assurance in paragraph 3.82 that Chief Executives will continue to serve the whole Council and to maintain their political neutrality.

  ALACE advises that both requirements should be explicit in the legislation.

  8.  Although paragraph 3.84 raises the possibility of the council manager having total responsibility for staff, the Consultation Paper is generally lukewarm. We believe there is an opportunity to provide a counter-weight to political leaders tempted to abuse power. They need the compliance or acquiescence of staff and it is more difficult if all the staff are responsible to the Chief Executive who has been appointed by and is accountable to the whole council.

  ALACE advises that the Head of Paid Service should recruit and dismiss staff.

CHIEF EXECUTIVE ROLE

  9.  We note that paragraph 3.82 defines the Chief Executive role solely in terms of managing the staff to deliver services. There are other roles too, especially that of principal adviser to the Council. Indeed para. 3.55 refers to the roles of the councils chief adviser on executive implementation of policy and on the available policy options but inexplicably relates them only to the council manager (model 3).

  10.  Paragraph 3.6 states that the Bill or a Statutory Instrument will specify that the broad parameters for a councils constitution will have to contain basic requirements as to the rules and relationships of political and officer positions. Figures 6-8 are said to contain those key parameters but again the emphasis is only on the implementation of policy. A further complication is that figures 6 and 7 assign responsibility to implement policies to the Cabinet and also to the Chief Executive.

  11.  The Local Authority (Standing Order) Regulations 1993 require that a list of duties and responsibilities of the post of Chief Executive be prepared for candidates. The Joint Negotiating Committee for Chief Executives of Local Authorities (England and Wales) has an agreed definition and could agree an amended version(s) to take account of the executive models.

  ALACE supports local variation but advises that a definition of the core role and relationships of chief executive should be included within the legislation.

APPOINTMENT

  12.  There is confusion about the proposals for recruitment of a Chief Executive.

  Figs 6-8 indicate that for models 1 and 2, the executive and full council are to concur on the appointment, while for model 3 the appointment is to be full council. Para 3.9 says that all councillors, as full council, will make or confirm the appointment of the Chief Executive, according to the provisions of the constitution.

  Para 3.55 states that in model 3 the council manager/Chief Executive would be appointed by full council or a committee appointed for the purpose.

  Para 3.85 reasonably states that both executive and full council should concur in the appointment of the Chief Executive. However, it goes on to say that the appointment could be made either by full council on the recommendations of the executive, or by the executive with the consent of the full council. For model 3, the full council would make the appointment.

  13.  Selection procedures are sophisticated and typically an appointment panel spends two or three days assessing short-listed candidates. Usually the decision is delegated to the panel. Occasionally, two appointable candidates face a final test before full council which decides. Given the size of councils in this country, it is generally impractical for them to make the appointment and confirmation simply means rubberstamping the recommendation of the appointment panel.

  14.  As well as some leading politicians of the ruling group (or coalition) appointment panels commonly have a majority group backbencher and at least the group leaders of the opposition parties. Such an approach ensures the panel is broadly representative of full council and is preferable to the proposals in the consultation paper.

  ALACE advises that: the legislation should specify that the appointment panel should be determined by Council resolution and that it should include representation from the opposition groups and that it should be a statutory requirement that every vacancy for a Chief Executive should be the subject of open competition.

  15.  Para 4.38 indicates a willingness to increase the threshold at which posts are deemed to be politically restricted. The only other reference is in Explanatory Note 17 and Schedule 1 of the Bill which provide that the council manager post is to be politically restricted.

  ALACE advises that to avoid ambiguity it should be clearly stated in legislation that the post of Chief Executive (and Chief Officers) will continue to be a politically restricted post.

TENURE

  16.  We welcome the implication in para 3.85 supporting the retention of the statutory regulations, especially the role of the independent person in dealing with misconduct complaints against the head of the paid service.

  17.  Paras 3.83 and 3.85 can be read as providing a pretext for a council to undertake a review perhaps aimed at replacing the Chief Executive. The creation of new style political executives could give rise to more cases of alleged redundancy.

  ALACE proposes that the independent person procedure be extended to a adjudication on loss of office by reason of redundancy and that there should be a presumption that sitting Chief Executives should continue in post under the new form of governance chosen by their council.

  18.  Alternatively, the introduction of a new form of local governance, can be construed as a statutory reorganisation of a council. Initially these reorganisations will take place over the 12 months or so to be defined in legislation. However, subsequent changes are possible as councils might wish to change to a different structural model or be forced to do so as a result of a referendum.

  ALACE is emphatic that any Chief Executive who is displaced as a result of a statutory reorganisation should be compensated on at least the terms available during the implementation of the last Local Government Review. The same protection should be available when councils introduce experimental schemes in advance of the statutory requirement.

28 June 1999





 
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