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