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Solace Blog

Solace Blog


On the Solace blog we delve into the dynamic world of local government. Explore insightful articles, updates, and thought-provoking discussions as we navigate the intricate landscape of community leadership. From policy insights to success stories, join us in uncovering the latest trends and innovative solutions that shape the future of local governance. Whether you’re a policymaker, community member, or simply curious about the workings of your local government, this space is designed to inform, engage, and inspire.

LGC Article: Empower places to deliver economic development, Robin Tuddenham

“Economic development will take centre stage when the UK’s biggest real estate, investment and infrastructure forum gets underway in Leeds tomorrow. UKREiiF aims to unlock investment and drive economic growth by connecting people, places and businesses – something we’re all prioritising. “A growing economy is what we need to fulfil our very reason for being […]

LGC Article: Breaking the glass ceiling at the top of local government, Pamela Gordon

“My year as the first woman president of Solace needs to be put in context because so much has changed in local government, Solace and society since 1996-97. There were no executive council leaders or elected mayors then, but changes were in prospect after a period of high political tensions, attacks on local authority powers, […]

MJ Article: Let’s plan ahead, Steve Guest

“Having witnessed a shrinking of the wider local government workforce over the last 15 years I’ve worked as a recruiter, there are some learning points I have identified that I think need to be actively considered when further change is on the horizon. “It isn’t hyperbole to suggest local government as a sector is facing […]

Local Government First Article: The chief executive’s evolving role, Matt Prosser

“Whether you’re a council leader, portfolio holder, backbencher, or member of the opposition, you will know who the chief executive of your council is. “Clearly, it is a high-profile and complex role, but how much do you know about what it actually entails? The position of council chief executive stems from a long history. Town […]

MJ Article: TPA analysis of senior local government pay is relentlessly unsophisticated, Graeme McDonald

“If you owned a large organisation with a turnover of millions and employees in the thousands, who would you want to run it and how much would you pay them? And if that organisation had the potential to shape lives for good or for ill, would you look to recruit the best leadership possible, or […]

LGA Article: Five key roles for chiefs in fostering community cohesion, Kersten England

“In the 1990s and early 2000s we increasingly saw a renewed role for local authorities in civic leadership. “Local authorities increasingly stepped forward as leaders of place, convening the institutions and sectors of a place to plan for its prosperity, alongside what had since the second world war been seen as its primary purpose: the […]

MJ Article: Time for a new economic playbook for place, Robin Tuddenham

“Economic growth is an inherent part of what makes our places thrive and succeed. It is the thread that weaves through the fabric of our communities, stitching together a future where prosperity is not just a buzzword, but a lived reality, delivering better lives for our residents. Economic growth is an inherent part of what […]

MJ Article: United we stand, Graeme McDonald

“Each day an army of people throughout the UK go to work for their local council in rewarding roles shaping the places we call home. The jobs – no matter the level – are rarely easy yet so often they are rewarding, inspirational and leave a tangible legacy. Despite that, councils are struggling both to […]

MJ Article: Solace: Marking 50 years in local government, Graeme McDonald

“Half a century ago, local government was on the cusp of the largest reorganisation in its history. More than 500 councils would soon disappear as the sector entered a new era shaped by a decade of introspection, a royal commission, numerous committees and inquiry reports and the lessons of the reorganisation of London. Through much […]

Education Bill Provisions Consultation Response

Response to the Scottish Government’s Consultation on Education Reform and the provisions of the Education Bill Solace Scotland has submitted a response to the Education Reform Consultation which seeks views on the proposals to replace the SQA and approaches to maximising the role of inspection. You can download the full response below: Solace Scotland’s Response […]

MJ Article: The Autumn Statement leaves councils to solve their own problems, Graeme McDonald

“Few expected the King’s Speech and Autumn Statement to be the silver bullet that solved local government’s problems. And so, a handful of devolution deals, uplifting the housing allowance, and the promise of recouping the costs of major planning applications, while welcome, do little to change the big picture. Inflation, racing ahead of budgets, coupled […]

MJ Article: Climate action’s delicate high-wire act, Jonathan Stephenson

“The quest for a net-zero future can feel like chasing a mirage on the horizon. Across the UK, local authorities are charting a course to a more sustainable future but, as we embark on this journey, it’s clear we will need plenty of help to successfully navigate our way. Most councils have declared a climate […]

MJ Article: Creative solutions are emerging to enable the leisure sector to thrive, William Benson

“We’ve all felt the financial impact of rising energy bills and increasing costs over the last couple of years, but the consequences for the leisure sector, which faces particular energy demands, are threatening the survival of facilities which are vital to community health and wellbeing. With bills for leisure centres up to 200% higher than […]

Age-friendly Employer Pledge: Local authorities race to join

In 2022, Solace signed up to the Age-friendly Employer Pledge run by the Centre for Ageing Better to show our commitment to older workers and work to improve our recruitment, retention and development of workers aged 50 and over. We are looking forward to National Older Workers Week (20–24 November), which provides an opportunity for […]

MJ Article: Inexcusable: The woeful state of diversity, Nazeya Hussain and Chris Naylor

“More than half of councils don’t have a full view of the ethnic makeup of their workforce and the sector and no region in the UK has a workforce that reflects the communities they serve. Yet at the same time it is facing a recruitment crisis, a capacity crisis and a breakdown in trust in […]

LGC Article: Autumn Statement must address children’s social care crisis, Patrick Melia

“The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in, and we’re getting to that time of year when thoughts turn to curling up in front of a classic film. And one classic film – or more specifically, a scene – springs to my mind. It involves a young orphan asking for “more”. But crucially […]

MJ Article: Realising the UK’s economic potential, Amy Harhoff

“While recent projections for GDP growth are more optimistic than they were earlier in the year, the uptick is minimal, and Britain continues to lag behind many of our international competitors. Low productivity rates since 2007, compared with the pre-recession historical average contributed to compounded challenges for the economy and regional disparity continues to be […]

MJ Article: We need diverse teams of decision makers, Kathy O’Leary

“The recent Solace Summit in Birmingham elevated our focus on creating a more diverse and inclusive local government workforce to reflect the communities we serve. In a standout session, everyday Jedi and basketball giant turned organisational psychologist, John Amaechi OBE, pointed out when minorities are absent from decision-making, so are their perspectives. The conference launched […]

LGC Article: ‘It’s not right children’s providers make super profits’, Matt Prosser

“A lot of the specialist provision for children’s social care is delivered by companies who have equity finance and they’re making super profits out of our children. It’s not right… When you’re at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon looking for complex care placement and you’ve got a child who’s a ward of court and […]

MJ Article: Chiefs split on need for improved assurance but united in Oflog discontent, Graeme McDonald

“A members’ survey by the senior local government officers’ group Solace revealed an even split on the question of whether current assurance arrangements for local government were sufficient. With the emergence of the Office for Local Government (Oflog) watchdog being hailed by ministers as the solution to council assurance, 45% of respondents agreed or strongly […]

LGC Article: ‘Shame on us’ cry as new research exposes lack of diversity, Nazeya Hussein and Chris Naylor

“People from ethnic minority backgrounds are “consistently underrepresented” in council workforces compared to the working-age ethnic minority population, according to a major new report. The report titled Understanding and Improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion was commissioned by the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) and was published today.  The analysis included […]

MJ Article: Lifelong learning for chief executives, Barry Quirk CBE

“Being appointed to a chief executive job is a real personal accomplishment. Doing the job is exhilarating. It is a fantastic privilege to get the chance to help a democratically elected council design and deliver services and investments, and realise its ambitions for its local area as well as for the communities it serves… But […]

MJ Article: The only path out of our recruitment and retention crisis is investment in people, Graeme McDonald

“Nearly nine in 10 (87%) of respondents to Solace’s ‘Your Voice’ survey say workforce recruitment and retention issues are having a negative impact on their council’s performance. High workloads and better paid jobs elsewhere (both 75%) are the biggest problems with regards to retaining staff, while better paid jobs elsewhere (73%) and not enough applicants […]

LGC Article: Poor behaviour leaving officers to ‘sink or swim’, Matt Prosser

“A national “shift away from civility” has led to “deteriorating standards” of behaviour in local government with “devastating” consequences for some council’s finances, England’s leading council chief executive has warned. In a speech this morning, president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers Matt Prosser hit out at the lack of […]

MJ Article: The ‘golden triangle’ provides governance oversight and grip, Kath O’Dwyer

“Good governance is essential if councils are to be effective in providing services and supporting local people. As budgets get tighter and as we embrace new arrangements for service delivery via a range of partnerships we need to ensure that we don’t throw away the rule book and that as local leaders we continue to […]

LGC Article: Sector should strive for funding reform consensus, Patrick Melia

“As a former finance director I have seen first-hand the flaws of the way local government finance is administered nationally. Now, as a chief executive, I am having to deal with the wide-ranging consequences of a system which is sub‑optimal in both its design and delivery. Lobbying for extra funds only to be given not […]

MJ Article: Shaping the future at the Summit, Matt Prosser

“My role and responsibilities have changed considerably since I started my career in marketing, sport and leisure development in the early 1990s. But, having worked at district, shared services partnerships, and unitary councils, I can confidently say the operating environment for all of us in the sector is more complex and more challenging than it […]

MJ Article: The workforce challenges we face cannot be ignored, Kath O’Dwyer

“Local government is full of passionate, innovative and dedicated staff who work tirelessly for their communities, and it has been a privilege to lead and work alongside so many of them over the past years. Our people are our greatest asset, yet all assets need maintenance. And as anyone working in local government knows all […]

LGC Article: Give councils statutory powers over economic development, Robin Tuddenham

“A stagnating economy impacts us all. Without growth, living standards will continue to fall, levels of poverty will rise and inequalities will widen. Anaemic growth also means lower tax receipts so fewer resources to pay for public services, which in turn will further compound the countless challenges within local government and other parts of the […]

MJ Article: Many councils are finding their own solutions in a time of crises, Graeme McDonald

“Press coverage in recent months has been studded with negative stories about local government. Financial decisions that will cast a shadow over their communities for years ahead. Increasing numbers of authorities struggling to make the books balance due to rising demand and inflation. Collapsing care markets, workforce struggles, housing policy failures and now, school health […]

MJ Article: Building control – staying on top of the changes, Karen Bradford and Lorna Stimpson

“Circle October 1 in your diary because this is the date that the new building safety regime comes into effect. With it come changes that will impact councils of all shapes and sizes and could, in the short term at least, put extra pressure on our workforces too. With the possibility of strong sanctions and […]

MJ Article: National issues on a local scale – tackling the cost of living crisis, Stephen Gaskell

“We’re now more than halfway through 2023 and the cost of living crisis shows no sign of abating. The reality of the situation continuing to face families and communities across the UK is stark: in May, food prices were 18.3% higher compared to a year before, only slightly down from the 45-year high of 19.1% […]

MJ Article: Time for reflection on council failures, Graeme McDonald

“The last session before lunchtime on Thursday at the LGA Conference is very much the graveyard slot. I remember a (not so recent) secretary of state complaining, in forthright language about the timing and effort they put into the speech, so it was with concern that I saw a session on assurance at the end […]

Housing in Scotland: Current Context and Preparing for the Future

Solace Scotland, in collaboration with the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO) have published a report ‘Housing in Scotland: Current Context and Preparing for the Future’ which details their assessment of the housing emergency in Scotland and the steps needed to address it. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) also provided contributions […]

LGC Article: Hewitt response fails to recognise scale of change needed, Dwayne Johnson

“The preciousness of life and the fact health inequalities have widened in recent years has been a running theme through the UK Covid-19 Inquiry so far and will likely recur as proceedings continue over the coming weeks and months. While much of the media focus will be on the ‘blame game’ it’s more important the […]

MJ Article: Building bridges to net zero, John Henderson

“Achieving net zero sometimes feels like a task akin to touching the sky. Yet local authorities across the UK are rising up to meet that challenge, with over 95% of councils – 570 in total – having now declared a climate emergency and taking steps to reduce their emissions. My own council, Staffordshire, has committed to achieving net […]

MJ Article: We have a major opportunity to turn the economic tide, Graeme McDonald

“It is now more than 30 years since I studied economics in Leeds. Starting less than a fortnight after ‘Black Wednesday’, Nirvana provided a grungy soundtrack to an economy still emerging from recession and inflation over 10%. Fast forward to the present day and inflation is stubbornly high while the IMF’s latest economic forecast expects […]

MJ Article: Tackling local government’s leadership paradoxes, Graeme McDonald

“On a recent trip to Legoland in Billund, Denmark – it was for the children, honest – it occurred to me just how many comparisons there are between those world-famous plastic bricks, UK local government and the way councils are run…” Click here to read the full article by Graeme McDonald, managing director of Solace, […]

LGC Article: Councils are key to turning the tide of worklessness, Robin Tuddenham

“The economy is flatlining and the health and care system is in crisis. These two issues are, rightly, featuring prominently in political discourse and media coverage, to the point where the chancellor has called on people aged over 50 to return to the workplace. While they are often thought of and presented separately, they are […]

MJ Article: We want to cast our recruitment net wide, Graeme McDonald

“Councils are increasingly recognising they are in a battle for talent. For each job there is a winning council but the sector as a whole is losing. One response is developing our talent pipeline. More councils are taking advantage of the national graduate development programme, starting their own apprenticeship schemes and developing home-grown talent pools.” […]

MJ Article: Learning from the past to create councils fit for the future, Matt Prosser

“Even the most optimistic – and I use that word lightly – economic forecasts indicate public finances will be under severe strain for the foreseeable future meaning the pressure on council budgets is unlikely to abate any time soon. While the local government finance settlement brought welcome – and much-needed – additional funding for the […]

MJ Article: Expanding Horizons, Steve Guest

“Local government is without doubt one of the most exciting sectors in which to build a career. My own kids are sick to death of me trying to convince them to look at opportunities in the sector… That said, it might be exciting (and incredibly broad in terms of scope and complexity), but it isn’t […]

LGC Article: We cannot ignore the need to invest in housing, Pam Smith

“Affordable homes that are safe, well designed an connected both digitally and physically are critical to the health of the nation. They are a prerequisite for a growing UK economy. Having a place to call home means being part of a community where setting each other up for success and living in thriving neighbourhoods are […]

MJ Article: Turning words into deeds on diversity, Nazeya Hussain and Chris Naylor

“Local government is making painfully slow progress in building representative teams. It has taken more than a decade to see the number of black council chief executives in London increase from two to four and the wider UK picture is less of a picture, than a fading snapshot of bygone times. But we are living […]

MJ Article: A review of funding is essential, Patrick Melia

“The beginning of a new year is often a time for reflection and 2023 is no different. After yet another year in which the local government finance settlement was published in full the week before Christmas – despite the fact the Government’s own advice cautions against such an approach – I have been pondering how […]

LGC Article: Autumn statement did just enough to stave off disaster, Patrick Melia

“Councils and our communities deserved so much more than Jeremy Hunt had to offer, writes the local government finance spokesperson for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers. As these things go, the chancellor’s autumn statement could have been worse for local government – but the sad truth is that it fell […]

MJ Article: We’re determined to do the best that we can for our communities and places, Kathy O’Leary

“‘Watch out for the coyotes!’ This last piece of advice from the run director at the Calgary parkrun I joined on my recent travels may well have influenced my pace – there’s nothing like a threat to make you redouble your efforts. There is an interesting parallel to draw with my return to work, when […]

MJ Article: Doing the basics right and doing them well, Graeme McDonald

“With inflation increasing and public finances under pressure at a time of rising demand and increased complexity it seems there will be no let up for local government anytime soon. The mood music at Solace Summit last week was mixed, with our members mindful of the impact of compounding crises and challenges on councils, their […]

MJ Article: Turbo-charging our digital economy through inclusion, Alison McKenzie-Folan

“As the nation continues to feel the pinch, the Government’s answer to our economic problems is clear: go for growth. While that may be the Government’s principal focus, digital inclusion must also be at the heart of all our efforts to ensure opportunities and benefits are felt at every level of society. The Levelling Up White […]

MJ Article: Don’t forget the people, Paul Najsarek

“While we’re hearing the phrase ‘levelling up’ much less frequently under the new Prime Minister compared to the last, the underlying ambition – to improve lives and life chances for everyone across the country – is key to ensuring the Government achieves its growth targets. While some aspects of levelling up were more traditionally economic […]

MJ Article: Growth solution’s key component, Robin Tuddenham

The 2022 Solace Summit takes place in Birmingham next week. Ahead of the flagship event on 12-14 October, Robin Tuddenham says a properly funded, truly empowered local government can unlock local growth, ushering in a new approach for a new era. “The new Prime Minister has made it clear from her leadership campaign through to […]

LGC Article: Cost-of-living crisis will accentuate council workforce crisis, Joanne Roney

Major question marks over the economic direction of the country, rapidly rising inflation, soaring energy prices, a cost-of-living crisis – and we haven’t even got to the usual winter pressures yet combined with the ongoing covid pandemic response. Dealing with the fallout of just one of those major events would be challenging enough but having […]

MJ article: The devil is in the detail, Martin Reeves

So much for a mini-Budget. There were plenty of maxi changes to taxes but it changed very little for local government, at least directly. Let’s start with what was announced. The creation of up to 38 new investment zones is potentially positive for the places selected, especially for those areas most in need of levelling […]

MJ Article: Without a standards system with teeth there is little deterrent, Graeme McDonald

“A fish rots from the head, and as countless inquiries, research and interventions have demonstrated, the values and behaviour of leadership resonates throughout an organisation, impacting individual service transactions with citizens. Earlier this year it was reported that 56 MPs were being investigated for various counts of misconduct, while nine politicians have either stood down or […]

LGC Article: New PM should make investing in local government a priority, Graeme McDonald

“If a potential candidate could choose their time to become prime minister, the summer of 2022 would not be it; the issues facing the country are huge. Economic growth is sluggish (to say the least) while inflation is soaring – and set to get even higher – and, as a result, most households across the […]

MJ Article: Councils cannot solve this crisis alone, Kersten England

“In many ways, the looming crisis facing us as inflation continues to soar – along with energy bills and interest rates – is not dissimilar to the COVID-19 pandemic. It appears almost impossible to fathom the scale of the incoming impact, or to have any confidence our responses will touch the sides. What we do […]

MJ Article: We need a diverse pool of talent bubbling through, Graeme McDonald

“In 2005, seven white men stood to be leader of the Conservative Party. Fast forward to 2022 and, of the 11 Conservative MPs who put themselves forward to be leader, more than half were from ethnic minorities and four were women – the contest is a visible example of the power of positive action. As […]

LGC Article: Government must invest in local leadership development, Joanne Roney

“A local leadership academy would increase resilience across local government and shared learning across the country, writes the president of Solace and chief executive of Manchester City Council. The relentless nature of the pandemic response, after a decade of dealing with difficult budget cuts, has taken its toll on all of us, some more than […]

Solace statement on House of Lords Public Services Committee’s ‘Rethinking the public services workforce’ report

Joanne Roney, Solace President, said: “Demand for services is rising, the challenges our people and places face are becoming increasingly complex, and yet councils are struggling to recruit and retain staff at all levels required to meet the needs of the communities we serve. “At Solace we have repeatedly warned about the workforce capacity and […]

Local government workforce capacity and capability crisis

The multidimensional workforce capacity and capability crisis facing the local government sector, the topic of a recent MJ article by Matt Prosser, proved to be a recurring theme throughout LGA Conference 2022. Indeed, Ian Thomas, Solace spokesperson for Infrastructure and Planning, and Matt Prosser, Solace spokesperson for Leadership and Learning spoke at a session as […]

MJ Article: Using councils’ know-how to improve health, Dwayne Johnson

Councils can be key drivers of improving health. But, with their spending power slashed in half in real terms in the decade to 2020, their ability to do this has been made even more difficult. Fifteen years ago as a director of adult social services, after giving evidence at an All-Party inquiry, I wrote an […]

Solace/LGA/SOCITM have launched a new outcomes-based framework for improving and supporting local government digitalisation

The LGA, Socitm and Solace have today (6 July) come together to launch a joint new outcomes-based framework for improving and supporting local government digitalisation programmes. The framework is intended to promote the use of a common language and shared strategic outcomes by local government when engaging with central government, private, voluntary, and community sectors […]

LGC Article: We must seize the opportunities of a just transition, Sharon Kemp

Climate change adaptation is not just about mitigating risks. I was delighted to be invited to speak at the recent LGC Zero Conference and be part of the climate justice panel. Unfortunately, I was unable to join due to the joys of technology. That experience got me thinking about climate justice and how important it is […]

MJ Article: Facing up to the workforce capacity challenge, Matt Prosser

Throughout the pandemic, local government and our workforces demonstrated a remarkable level of resilience, flexibility, and adaptability. We were able to upskill and reallocate staff to meet the needs of the crisis we faced, but now we need to kick on. The reality is that we, as local government, are all going to have to […]

LGC Article: Squeezed workforces are increasing financial mismanagement risk, Alison McKenzie-Folan

A combination of the cost of living crisis, sky rocketing energy bills, and soaring inflation, all exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and global supply chain issues, among many other factors, mean councils, like households, are feeling the pinch. While we have all had to get used to managing tight budgets in recent years, there […]

MJ Article: Re-stitching a brighter future, Robin Tuddenham

The importance of re-stitching our social fabric – the networks and institutions that bind people and communities together – in order to address the myriad challenges we as a country face was the focus of a recent national conference held in Halifax, in my district of Calderdale, and at which I spoke… Click here to […]

LGA Conference Events with Solace Policy Board members

Along with the rest of local government, Solace is eagerly looking forward to the LGA Conference taking place 28-30 June. Solace President Joanne Roney OBE and Solace Chair Gavin Jones, along with Solace policy spokespeople including Ian Thomas, Jon McGinty, Kersten England, Matt Prosser and Robin Tuddenham are due to be speaking at the following […]

LGC Article: The costs of children’s services inaction are too high, Ade Adetosoye

Rarely, if ever, can there have been as much pressure on children’s services departments as now. The reality is there is only so much councils, working with local partners, can do to curb spending at a time when demand is increasing and there just aren’t the resources available given levels of cen­tral funding. Click here […]

HSJ announces Solace Health and Social Care policy lead Paul Nasjarek as one of 20 “wildcards”

Solace Health and Social Care policy spokesperson Paul Nasjarek has been announced as one of the Health Service Journal (HSJ) 20 “wildcards”, a list celebrating people and organisations who could impact on the NHS’s recovery over the next year. HSJ described Paul as having “long been recognised as an innovative thinker who constructively engages with […]

MJ Article: Pausing the graduate Fast-Stream scheme could provide a real opportunity, Graeme McDonald

It has long been an unfortunate contrast that, while local government has lost about a third of its workforce since 2010 and the advent of  ‘devolution’, central Government has paradoxically become larger. But a recent announcement – to pause the graduate Fast-Stream recruitment scheme for at least a year – could provide a real opportunity… […]

Reducing obesity in local communities – what can research tell us?

For the past few months the news has been dominated by the rising cost of living. Both celebrity chefs and scientists have flagged that the squeezing of household budgets could lead to an increase in obesity levels across the country. This is a worrying thought, as there is already a major obesity health crisis in […]

Innovation in Local Public Services

Solace policy spokesperson for Digital Leadership Alison McKenzie-Folan penned the foreword to techUK’s new paper ‘Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a Catalyst for Change’, published this week. In that Alison stressed the need for collaboration to drive digital innovation in order to seize opportunities and meet the challenges that lie ahead, while the paper makes […]

Being an Apprentice: Understanding the value of apprenticeships to employees and employers

As a leading apprenticeship provider to the sector, Solace are keen to explore the benefits of apprenticeships to both organisations and individuals, which is why as part of National Apprenticeship week this year, we asked our current apprentices to share their experiences of being an apprentice. The following piece was written by Nikki Gambrill from […]

Stress, Performance and Productivity: The role of Leadership

‘What tools and techniques can I give to my staff to help them better manage stress?’ This is one of the most common requests that I get as a Psychologist. And it’s a perfectly reasonable request in view of the fact that last year UK employees were found to be working an extra 2 hours […]

Benefits of Remote Working

Why the retreat from the office might prove instrumental in raising both the productivity, creativity and quality of council workers writes Dr Simon Willson  We have quickly come to appreciate that working remotely can increase people’s feelings of loneliness and isolation resulting in a negative impact on personal wellbeing. What has been less often discussed in recent months is the […]

Local Government in a Post-COVID World

Local government in a post-COVID-19 world - supporting the shift in citizen behaviours and public service culture It might sound counter intuitive, but the Coronavirus pandemic has provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local authorities to radically rethink how they deliver services to their citizens. After years of austerity-driven budget cuts, many councils were already struggling […]

Working Together to Save Lives

No matter whether you’re an Officer or Elected Member, a veteran or a recent recruit, these are truly unprecedented times for everyone working across the public sector. The response to the Coronavirus crisis, at both a national and local level, is testing us all and in ways we could never have imagined.  The coming weeks […]

Environment Bill… What next?

While the environment has been on local government’s radar for many years with, for example, air quality, waste reduction, and recycling rightfully occupying space on council agendas, the new urgency of the “climate emergency” has seen many authorities sign up to achieving net zero carbon status. Central Government’s attempt at combatting climate change has recently […]

Insights from delivering Financial Foresight

At the Solace Summit in Birmingham last month we discussed our learning from working with councils deploying our Financial Foresight approach. This blog summarises the key points of the discussion. What is Financial Foresight? Building on Grant Thornton and CIPFA’s successful partnership on the CFO Insights platform, now licensed to over 100 councils, Financial Foresight […]

MJ Article: The Importance of Political Skills, Gemma Stevenson-Coupe

When recruiting executive-level roles for local authorities, it’s always been a challenge to know whether candidates from the private sector transcend well into the public sector, particularly within the political environment of a local authority. It’s been a topic of conversation which has arisen time and time again over recent years… Click here to read […]

Reset the Citizen Experience by Fusing X And O Data

As a government agency, you know it’s vital to collect citizen feedback on the services you deliver. Just as importantly,  you know it is important to “close the loop” with citizens, residents, and visitors after they give you feedback. That essential feedback and insight from your constituents is known as Experience data. This approach becomes […]

Lessons on Leadership: Shadowing Zina Etheridge

As a business partner of Solace, Grant Thornton UK LLP can nominate someone to shadow a local authority Chief Executive for a day. I was lucky enough to spend a day shadowing Zina Etheridge, CEO of my local council – the London Borough of Haringey. One of the first questions Zina asked me was ‘why […]

Trialling Consumer Devices in Adult Social Care

Adult social care in the UK is under pressure due to an aging population, more people living with chronic illnesses and tight public budgets. We’re all aware of the challenge of looking after vulnerable adults. The UK population is aging, and public budgets are thinly spread. In fact, the Local Government Association predicts councils will have an overall […]

How prepared are you for Brexit?

The UK faces an exceptionally volatile period in the run-up to the delayed Brexit date of 31 October 2019. With the new Prime Minister promising to leave “with or without a deal” and few signs of a new deal being achievable, a hard Brexit has never been more likely. Local authorities across the UK will […]

Tomorrow’s places need leadership today

Places are unique, but the challenges they face are not. Local authorities and their strategic partners face myriad local, national and global challenges – from the all too familiar issue of managing rising demand for services and rising citizen expectations in the context of prolonged fiscal austerity to fostering greater economic opportunity and prosperity to […]

MJ Article: Time for a Facelift? Nicola Chiverton

I rolled my eyes, sighed and felt deflated as an uninformed acquaintance said to me: ‘But what do they do, really? Apart from empty the bins and not fix potholes?’ I managed to refrain from shaking some sense into them and calmly explained the wide range of public services that a local authority is responsible […]

What the new Prime Minister might mean for local government

I have been working in or for local government for approaching thirty years and cannot recall such an uncertain time. During recent presentations I have asked those working in the sector if they think we are living in a ‘volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world’, and it is clear that many believe we are. […]

Delivering Social Impact

Delivering Social Impact Our vision at Places for People is ‘places work when they work for everyone’.  Social impact is at the centre of everything we do to make a positive difference for people, places and planet. This blog gives a short overview of how we incorporate social impact into all aspects of our work. […]

Co-operative Working in South Tyneside

A co-operative council is one that works in partnership with local community organisations to get the maximum from all of the resources available for the area. In doing this, it builds the four key values of honesty, openness, fairness and social responsibility into day to day business. With the public sector facing unprecedented financial challenges, […]

Ill words and ill deeds: putting democracy’s health at risk

This week, in her last major speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May set out “grounds for serious concern” about the state of politics. She described “a coarsening (of) our public debate”, where “if you simply assert your view loud enough and long enough you will get your way in the end”. As well as highlighting […]

MJ Article: The New Breed, Gemma Stevenson-Coupe

I have interviewed many interim managers over the last ten years and the energy from candidates with strong leadership skills stands out a mile. I’ve often wondered how I can quantify this, and essentially, what makes an outstanding interim leader? As a sector what should we use as our guide to determine best fit for […]

Kindness in public policy: the importance of leadership

Recently, the Carnegie UK Trust brought together public sector leaders from across the UK for a roundtable discussion on Carnegie Fellow, Julia Unwin’s report, Kindness, emotions, and human relationships: The blind spot in public policy. Here, Jennifer Wallace, Joint Interim CEO at the Trust blogs on some of the implications for local government leadership. When […]

Why can we not get local government funding right?

The financial sustainability of our local government sector has significant impacts on everyone in our country. Yet the severity of the ongoing funding shortfall and the lack of certainty on funding beyond 2020, has still not made it to the top of government’s agenda – as Brexit continues to crowd out the domestic policy agenda. […]

Adopting Disruptive Technology to delivery workforce opportunity

Organisations are increasingly turning to new technologies to reduce costs, increase revenues and improve the quality of goods and services. But there’s much more to making a success of emerging technology than plugging it in and switching it on. Success hinges on the human factor. By connecting their workforce to these new technologies, business leaders […]

Your schools statutory wellbeing provision

During the recent wellbeing governance meeting at the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), we discussed movements by the DfE requiring schools and their local authorities to introduce mandatory education on mental health, wellbeing, and resilience by 2020. These changes will place a statutory requirement for schools and local authorities to ensure pupils recognise and look after […]

Transform how you engage and collaborate with your communities

The complexities of the challenges facing local authorities cannot be underestimated.  From the burgeoning demand for adult social care to the increasing pressure of delivering services across the board, it’s becoming harder for local authorities to balance the books.  Meanwhile central Government has made transparency and Open Data a priority to foster accountability, efficiency and […]

Understanding safeguarding legislation, policy and procedures in 2019

Lead Business Partner at Solace, Zurich Municipal has partnered with The INEQE Group, led by the former CEO of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP), Jim Gamble QPM to develop a Safer Schools App. The Safer Schools App helps educate adults on the latest trends in social media and what platforms children use, risks […]

MJ Article: Keeping up with the ‘Glassdoor generation,’ Amy Billington

‘Good people, great place’, ‘inconsistent across the organisation’, ‘stale’, ‘great benefits’… Those are quotes taken from Glassdoor.’s review page, in a summary of a local authority within the South of England. Websites such as Glassdoor have seen a rise in use since the millennial generation entered the workforce, with job seekers spending more of […]

Being Unique

Being unique is infinitely better than being perfect, or being a clone. Understanding what makes you different is the key to your success.  At Solace, we are not your typical recruiter and we are proud to do our own thing. Those of you who are familiar with Solace will know that there are many things […]

MJ Article: How do we improve our wellness? Jessica Mullinger

As National Mental Health Awareness Week drew to a close last week, I feel positive in the knowledge that health and well-being is slowly moving into the sphere of consciousness for many organisations. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported in April that 61% of people feel that employee well-being is on the agenda […]

What not to do in an interview for your next interim role

In the interim team at Solace, we handle interview feedback on a daily basis and there are some clear pitfalls to avoid;   Don’t assume that because the opportunity is an interim role, the meeting will be informal. In an ideal world, you will be given clear information on the nature of your interview but […]

Local government must unite to survive

There was universal agreement at our latest roundtable on the financial sustainability of local government that the self-cannibalisation, balkanisation and atomisation of the sector must stop. As somebody once said: we all provide local services, it’s just the shapes and sizes that separate us… To read the full post, click here.

MJ Article: Taking stock of IR35, Jessica Mullinger

A couple of weeks ago I took a call from the MD of an interim private sector focused recruitment business, who was starting to consider the potential impacts of the planned IR35 changes. As a recruiter servicing the private sector, this was not an issue he had had to consider until very recently and the […]

MJ Article: Authenticity in Recruitment, Nicola Chiverton

Beaming with pride for her little brother and flashing me a toothless smile, my six-year old daughter exclaimed: ‘He did it his-sen, how abart that mummy?’ I immediately corrected her; ‘The words are “himself” and “about” not “hissen” and “abart”’. But why was I so quick to quash her thick Yorkshire twang? Well, rightly or […]

Open Data in Calderdale

Saturday 2nd March is Open Data Day. This is an annual celebration of open data all over the world and a great opportunity to raise awareness and show the benefits of open data (efficiency, transparency, innovation and economic growth). Here in Calderdale we have proactively and enthusiastically embraced Open Data, putting it at the heart […]

MJ Article: Can Flexible Working Increase Productivity? Maud Hollis

As I prepare myself to go off on maternity leave for a second time, it has suddenly dawned on me that I will soon be a working mum with two dependants (four, if you count the dog and husband). How on earth will I fit everything in? Luckily, since having my first daughter, the Society […]

Solace Elections Conference 2019

The last few years have been a time of immense pressure for all members of the electoral community, which has seen its responsibility to deliver smooth, efficient, and fair elections put to the test against the backdrop of electoral reform, new mayoral elections, the 2016 referendum, and the ensuing political turbulence and 2017 snap general […]

Why I turned my annual public health report into a graphic novel

‘To be honest Anna, and I shouldn’t really be admitting this…’ the local councillor lent closer and whispered guiltily ‘… it’s the only Director of Public Health annual report that I’ve ever read all the way through.’ To my amusement, this was to be a recurrent theme over the next few weeks from other council […]

MJ Article: Tomorrow’s World, Terry McDougall

At the start of a new year, I often find myself in a reflective mood, looking back at years gone by. As 2019 begins I can’t help but think back to a time in my career when the year 2020 was used as a focal point for future-gazing. At that time I remember working on […]

The burden of cardiovascular disease on our communities

Most of us want to live longer, healthier lives. But while we are living longer, many are doing so in poor health and stubborn inequalities persist, particularly around cardiovascular disease (CVD), where those from our most deprived communities are at greatest risk. CVD creates a huge burden for individuals, their families, and communities, affecting seven […]

Riding the public sector transformation wave

With local government operating on £15.7Bn less in 2020 than it did in 2010, increasingly it seems that the sector is a plane running on fumes in the fuel tank. But then we have #OurDay. Trending number one in the UK and fourth in the world, with 33 thousand tweets and 10 thousand contributors, it […]

How prepared are you for threats to our food supplies?

Ensuring a population has enough safe, nutritious food to eat is a fundamental responsibility of those in charge of local and national governments. Until this summer, it was a responsibility few if any of us had considered for decades. This summer, however, a national conversation about the threats to our food supplies began to emerge, […]

How should local authorities capture new local safeguarding arrangements?

There have been significant changes to safeguarding legislation recently, but it’s fair to say that the impact of the changes has probably not yet been felt. However, the deadline for publishing the new arrangements – 29 June 2019 – is now only six months away. In June 2018, Local Safeguarding Children Boards (“LSCBs”) were abolished […]

MJ Article: Would you choose to be a recruiter? Gemma Stevenson-Coupe

As a recruiter, I spend a lot of time speaking to candidates about their next steps – discussing what they’ve achieved and what they want to accomplish in the future.  I find it so easy to talk about everyone else’s career progression but I don’t often refocus the lens on myself and question; what, as […]

Strategic Preparation for Emergencies – its MAGIC!

There has never been a time when the local authority role in civil emergencies has been more firmly in the spotlight. It is vital that strategic leaders who perform the role of Gold commander are prepared for the complexities of the role, which may be very different from their day to day responsibilities. Recent events […]

New Horizons, New Opportunities- a newcomers perspective on local government

It seems like a lifetime ago now, after spending the nine months in local government, trying to follow each acronym I came across. But 12 months ago, as a fresh-faced graduate, I had arrived at a daunting stage of my life: a career. What would I do, where would I end up? I was applying […]

Promoting good leadership and development

I’m not sure whether the list of priorities facing public services gets longer each year, or whether there is more media attention on a small number of priorities. Whatever, the answer to that, it is encouraging to see more focus on at least some of our priorities. It’s also deeply rewarding to see changes in […]

Improving commercialization through local authority trading companies

The landscape of local government service delivery has changed forever as austerity and the need to do more with less have triggered councils to be more commercially minded. With local authorities increasingly seeking proactive measures to achieve financial sustainability, the adoption of local authority trading companies (LATCs) has risen as councils move to embrace new […]

Improving prevention outcomes through a place-based approach

We are living longer but for some people, these extra years are lived in poor health. As we get older, our risk of lifestyle-related long-term conditions increases. Our risk of ill-health is related to a wide range of broader social factors and is also influenced by our own behaviours. Prevention of avoidable illness and promotion […]

Collaboration in a Smaller, Bigger, Different World

Over the last eight years, I’ve been leading Sutton Council as we become a smaller, bigger and different organisation. We’re definitely smaller. Our direct workforce at the time of writing is 1001 employees (down from 2600 (exc. Schools) in 2011). We’re certainly bigger as we extend our work with communities and partners locally, sub-regionally and […]

Shared Ambitions Lead to Shared Success in Digital

The challenges faced by the public sector have intensified over the last few years. The demands on public services are evolving rapidly as the way people interact with the public sector changes together with their expectations. And continuously shrinking budgets continue to cause strain, which means “working smarter” and transforming the way services are delivered […]

Commercialisation – Headlines and Commitments

‘Commercialisation’ can mean many different things to many different people, but a local authority chief executive once described it to me in pretty straightforward terms – “it’s about getting the most out of every pound”. There’s nothing new in that, of course. Local authorities have always tried to make their money work harder, long before […]

Without local government, the NHS will never understand its true value

One of the great ironies of the ‘place’ agenda is that while we may be heading towards the same point we are taking very different routes and for very different reasons. Perhaps this doesn’t matter, but it helps to understand our respective Satnav’s intentions. Let’s start with the very concept of place. For many councils […]

The role of the IMCA and the Local Authority – what do you need to know?

An ‘IMCA’ is an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate and is a role that was created by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (“MCA”). The role of the IMCA is to support people aged 16 or over who lack capacity where there are decisions to be made about their care and treatment and there is no family […]

Transforming Services- A Commissioning Mindset

Bracknell Forest Council, like most other Councils, has been on a transformation journey over the past 3 years and as we have certainly learned a lot along the way! When designing the transformation programme in the autumn of 2015 we questioned how we could ensure that our approach would fundamentally review our services particularly given […]

Why we must support vulnerable older people to maintain good oral health

Poor oral health can impact on vulnerable older people in a number of ways. Painful teeth, missing teeth, sore gums or an inability to wear dentures can compromise eating, sleeping and socialising. Commissioners, service providers, and caregivers can play an important role in helping the most vulnerable older people lead healthier and more satisfactory lives. […]

MJ Article: Seeing is Believing, Jessica Mullinger

Against a backdrop of diminishing budgets, huge transformation and higher than ever ambitions for local places, councils are under increasing pressure to get maximum return on investment for every penny they spend. Interim managers are an expensive but invaluable investment, as long as they do a good job. As a recruiter, I have always taken […]

Maintaining Momentum in Skills Devolution

Towards the end of last year, England’s seven regional mayors came together to call for further devolution to their city regions. The intervention signalled their concern that devolution may have slipped down the political agenda, with key proponents such as George Osborne and Nick Timothy now out of the picture. At the centre of the […]

Culture eats transformation for breakfast

Part I – Creating the right climate for digital change For two decades, Agilisys has helped public sector organisations re-imagine their future and strive for positive change. In the first piece in a three-part series, Caroline Gray, Principal Consultant – Business Change, explains why instilling the right ‘change culture’ from the outset is crucial to […]

Your full fibre future. Now that’s worth talking about!

First-class digital infrastructure is now widely recognised as the backbone of a modern, thriving, servicebased economy. But what does it take to secure it for your region? What are the challenges? How can you navigate them most-efficiently? And, once you’ve secured that infrastructure, what’s next? These are all questions up for discussion in a session […]

How local authority leaders can Keep it Local to drive their preventative services

There recent Public Accounts Committee report on the ‘shambles’ of NHS England’s outsourcing of primary care support services to Capita highlights the risks of outsourcing at scale. Of late, this is a message that has been repeated time and time and again, by different people in different contexts – the NAO, the PACAC, the Labour […]

It Takes a Village

It takes a village to raise a child. But continued short-termism – that means we are stuck in reactive spending cycles and still working in silos – isn’t creating the right ‘village’ of support to give children the best chances. PwC are working in collaboration with Solace to bring together and share best practice for […]

Matching Digital Ambitions to Community Outcomes

To deliver visible results from digital transformation initiatives, local authorities and service providers need to stay focused on specific goals and work out how intelligent connectivity can best support them, says Simon Haston, BT’s CIO for Scotland. Scotland is working to an ambitious digital agenda in the public sector. I’ve seen this myself from the […]


I had a bit of an awkward moment at one of our annual staff conventions earlier this year when a speaker asked the audience to tell them the Council’s vision?’ There was silence as people looked at their shoes – no-one could remember it! Our Vision is set out in our Five-Year Plan and it […]

Reflections on Solace Presidency

Looking back at the past year-and-a-half, all I can think is “Blimey”. And I say that not about me as President but about all of us as leaders of a sector that, in the face of conditions that would have had most FTSE100 executives running for cover, has stood firm to provide an anchor for […]

National Democracy Week

Monday marked 90 years since the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act was given royal assent, giving women and men equal voting rights. The inaugural National Democracy Week this week is a time to celebrate that progress. But it’s also a time to reflect on the quality of our democracy and how it can […]

Building a more democratic, local economy

Just over two years ago, I commenced the work of convening a Citizens’ Economic Council, a group of demographically diverse and randomly selected citizens working publicly and out in the open to define and describe some of the design principles for an economy that works for everyone. The programme itself launched against the immediate backdrop […]

We should be celebrating a joint 70th birthday

Today the NHS turns 70 and I do feel quite proud of it – proud that it came into being and proud that it is still alive if not completely well. It is a symbol of the rich diversity of Britain and of what an aspiration of hope, equality, and fairness can produce. It is […]

The Digital Declaration and why you should sign-up

In this day and age, any leader of public services must de facto be a digital leader. Whether with arms open wide, or kicking and screaming, councils have entered the digital age- and many of our residents are way ahead of us. Digital innovation is a key pillar of the transformation the sector is currently […]

Hull’s Year as the City of Culture – a proud time to be in local government

2017 was a transformative year for the city of Hull and a truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity for everyone. It gave the city new-found energy, optimism and confidence. As a Council, we always said our aim would be to ‘set the stage’ for the City of Culture team, the public, and our many partners to tell […]

Call to Action: National Democracy Week

The inaugural National Democracy Week (NDW) is fast approaching and will bring together organisations from across the public, private and charity sectors for a week of unified national action. At a time of decreasing civic participation and a perceived lack of interest amongst some groups, it is a timely effort to increase democratic participation. As […]

Linking employment services to social care- why not?

Recently, I’ve returned from a visit to Copenhagen which was part of the module on the Solace Total leadership Programme. This was a great opportunity for reflections on the way local leadership happens in a different system. Since my return, I have been considering what elements and approaches might have an impact on my current […]

Wellbeing in the Green Book

For the first time in 15 years, the Government has updated the guidelines for how to appraise and evaluate policies, projects, and programmes. It may not have made the headlines but this change to the Treasury’s Green Book is a win for those keen to put wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. It’s […]

The Problem with Overview and Scrutiny

I don’t need to remind anyone reading this blog about the huge changes currently affecting the sector in which we all work. We appear at the moment to be working in a landscape which pushes us towards innovation while simultaneously pulling us away. The scandal around the collapse of Carillion highlights the dangers and risks […]

Adult Social Care: Five ways to apply the Chief Executive Factor

As we anticipate an Adult Social Care Green Paper, Alex Khaldi, who has joined Grant Thornton recently to lead Social Care Insights, has some advice for Chief Executives as well as a link to new propositions. I don’t need to remind any Chief Executive of the outlook for Adult Social Care. We all know that […]

A message about European Parliamentary Elections

Following the EU Referendum, the UK will cease to be a member of the European Union on 29th March 2019. At that point, we will no longer sit at the European Council table or in the Council of Ministers, and we will no longer have Members of the European Parliament. We will therefore not be […]

MJ Article: Cross Sector Leadership – The Way Forward, Jessica Mullinger & Steve Guest

The role of a local authority chief executive has evolved and grown enormously. But what do we mean by this? A modern chief executive job description will almost invariably talk about the importance of a ‘commercial’ mindset, an ‘entrepreneurial’ spirit, ‘innovative’ ideas and ‘lateral’ thinking. When we look back on chief executive (or town clerk) […]

Shadowing Ali Griffin

As a SOLACE business partner, Grant Thornton has the privilege of nominating a member of the firm to shadow a Chief Executive for a day. Ali Griffin – the Chief Executive of Southend-on-Sea Council – not only kindly accepted the invitation but showed an incredible commitment to ensuring that shadowing is aligned with my learning […]

How can we transform local communities and public services in support of the One Public Estate agenda?

Dave Sheridan, Divisional CEO of ENGIE UK, explains why the public is at the heart of the OPE. A home isn’t merely a roof over your head – it should sit within a place where people thrive, with access to education, career opportunities, health care, and other support services. At the heart of every community […]

Setting up a Mentoring Programme

As we all are aware, we live in uncertain times. However, we all want to do a good job and develop ourselves at the same time. In such circumstances, how do we support colleagues who may be new to local government? How do we ensure there is equality of opportunity for all? One technique being […]

Election Day draws near

So as Returning Officer you’ve checked your insurance (and excess), your planning and risk register has been reviewed and discussed endlessly and reflects where you and your elections team actually are, you’ve considered capacity and resilience and satisfied yourself personally you are OK (and have contingency arrangements in place anyway), so what is the last […]

Will Jeremy Hunt’s principles for social care reform be a game changer for the sector?

In his first significant speech since taking on the dual roles of health and social care, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt outlined the seven key principles of reform to the adult social care system in England that will form the backbone of a Green Paper to be launched this summer. He chose to speak (on […]

A Digital Vision for Scotland

Less than half of local government representatives in Scotland believe the region will achieve its digital vision by 2020. The latest report from Civica reveals what must be done for Scotland to achieve its vision of becoming a digital nation. Only 43% of local government workers in Scotland believe it will become a digital nation […]

Apprenticeships – the untapped opportunity for local authorities

All local authorities have an interest in supporting local apprenticeship levy payers to use their funds. Close to £3 billion is expected to be paid in the first year alone and recent research shows that two-thirds are still not using their funds at all. The main barrier is low awareness. Most people assume your typical […]

Culture change – the toughest nut to crack

We’re in the people business, the change business, the leadership business, the relationship business. It’s no longer about organisation, it’s about place, the whole system, partnership, pooling resources, integration, breaking down silos; it’s about the influence and focus we can bring to bear to enable our local economies to grow and to support the growth […]

From the DCN Conference: “Better Lives – Stronger Economies”

The second annual DCN Conference was held on 8-9 February near Kenilworth and proved again how popular it was – 200 attending, including 170 councillors and senior officers (most of them leaders or deputy leaders and chief executives). Indeed the feedback was so positive that the event has already been confirmed for next year, provisionally […]

International Women’s Day: personal reflections

”Women don’t need to find a voice: they have a voice. They need to feel empowered to use it and people need to be encouraged to listen.” Meghan Markle said this recently in a public Q&A session. Of all the current public conversations about women’s voices, this one chimed most with me. Women leaders have […]

International Women’s Day: Reflecting on women’s leadership

International Women’s Day is always a good day to reflect on women’s leadership. On IWD 2018, coming amidst the heightened awareness of the continuing blight of sexual harassment and discrimination generated by #MeToo and #TimesUp, it feels particularly pertinent. An excellent article by Deborah Cadman and Martin Reeves in the MJ recently discussed the demise […]

From rusty cars to robots

In 2009 Lars Malmqvist and Denis Kaminskiy had an idea to harness the power of cloud-based technology in such a way to make it accessible to the public sector. Lars and Denis met at the Judge Business School in Cambridge studying for MBAs. As students they did not have the resources to open an office […]

Mission possible: how to lead like an action hero

It’s fair to say that in today’s evolving landscape, leading isn’t an easy task. However, strong leadership is the backbone of solid governance and is increasingly important for organisations to navigate their way through the most turbulent period in recent history. Effective leadership has an empowering ripple effect across an organisation and its workforce. With […]

New models for housing delivery

It is clear that the supply of new homes is one of the top agenda items for both Central and Local Government and that we need major changes to our ambitions to achieve the accelerated growth necessary. The Prime Minister’s Housing Implementation Taskforce appears to be concentrating on the strategic issues of supply of new […]

Income Generation in Local Authorities

Grant Thornton: ‘Commercial Healthcheck’ A prolonged period of austerity has left local authorities with the difficult challenge of providing vital public services whilst dealing with severe budget cuts. As a result, we have seen a change in risk appetite within local government, with many councils starting to adopt a more commercial approach to the provision […]

Getting to grips with the new regime for disciplinary action against Statutory Officers

One of the most difficult issues that councils can face is taking disciplinary action against, and potentially dismissing, a statutory officer i.e. the Head of Paid Service, Monitoring Officer or Chief Finance Officer (s151 Officer). A new set of regulations governing the procedural protections for these statutory officers in disciplinary situations was introduced in 2015 […]

GDPR and Digital Transformation

Giving your people the tools they need to get the job done improves productivity and helps you deliver better and more efficient public services. But new technology can also mean new security threats you might not be aware of, that stop you achieving GDPR compliance. What is GDPR and why is it important? The EU […]

My 2018 Housing wish list

2018 is here and with it a fresh opportunity to boost our national housing supply. Last year, the Government announced £44 billion in measures to deliver around 300,000 more homes a year. It was a step in the right direction, but as the Chancellor stated, there’s no one single solution to the housing crisis, and […]

Transforming customer service with Automation

Digital technology has become a commonplace part of our daily lives; we track our steps, log our food, and communicate with our friends and families through apps. This casual acceptance of technology and the speed that it brings to our everyday transactions means that citizens expect to interact with their council services with the same […]

Managing a Major Incident

Inquiries – whether in open session or behind closed doors – are established to address significant public concerns about major events in order to learn the facts of what happened as well as lessons for the future. They can be high profile, emotionally charged and the focus of intense media scrutiny. But with so many […]

Childhood foundations, transition and progression in adulthood

Life-long local skills, careers, and employment strategies are required that look to the short, medium and long-term joining up all stages from early years to higher education and labour markets to produce strong employment outcomes for those young and old. The first few years of a child’s life has a major influence on their success […]

Improving outcomes: the importance of leadership, systems and commissioning

The lead up to the SOLACE Summit always feels like a good moment to carve out a modicum of thinking time and to strategise for the programme ahead. As the cliché goes, we frequently find ourselves consumed by the urgent at the expense of the important. Reflection is too often confined to those fleeting moments […]

Care leavers need corporate parents too

The National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum is overseen by Catch22, Catch22 works at every stage of the social welfare cycle to build resilience and aspiration in people and communities. As manager of the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (NLCBF) I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to write a blog for SOLACE during […]

Is yours an Intelligent Council?

There are a huge range of opportunities for local authorities to use robust evidence to inform decisions. Our workshop at the Solace Summit will explore the idea of an ‘Intelligent Council’ with the aim to set out what an excellent evidence-based organisation looks like. It will cover issues as diverse as big data, social research, […]

If we’re going to build (and I think we should), let’s do it well and let’s do it in partnership

Traditionally, councils that had transferred their housing stock focussed their involvement in housing on development control, investment of Section 106 funds, homelessness services and housing options. House-building itself was largely left to Registered Providers (RPs) or the private market. In recent years, we have seen a number of councils moving back into the development game […]

Communications as the language of membership

I once came across a quote somewhere that has stuck with me: the art of communication is the language of leadership. It is also the language of membership. Our effectiveness as a membership body is intrinsically linked to our ability to communicate – with each other as well as those whom we seek to influence. […]

A focus on digital delivery – supporting your leadership role

In this day and age, we should all be digital leaders, advocating the beneficial use of technology for our customers, residents, and members – and this year’s Solace Summit will help us take a step forward on this. At this year’s event there will be sessions on day three focussing on delivery – specifically how […]

Next generation STPs

Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), the NHS- led plans developed with partners within population footprints, had a controversial start with heavily criticised deadlines, accusations of secrecy and media claims that they were simply a vehicle to reduce hospital services. As a response to the fragmented system left after the Health and Social Care Act reforms, […]

Exploring new methods to bridge the funding gap

Today’s austerity climate demands commercialisation strategies and partnerships within local government which will deliver increased efficiencies as well as boost income. Recognising this, 94% of local authorities now share some services with another authority and 58% own a trading company. But how do you recognise and develop the right commercial skills across your organisation and […]

Helping to shape a successful Brexit

Last month, the Prime Minister signalled that Government is open to considering all ideas and contributions to tackle the complex negotiations arising from Brexit. This approach presents an important opportunity for all communities and stakeholders affected by terms of the EU exit negotiations, virtually every element of which impacts upon our sector. The LGA are […]

Industrial Strategy and skills

Since taking up the leadership of her Party and becoming Prime Minister just over a year ago, Theresa May has advocated the development of an Industrial Strategy as a key means of advancing her declared ambition for “a country that works for everyone”, as well as preparing the country to prosper outside of the European […]

What working at a council has taught me about policy

Coming to the end of my fourth week as Head of Policy at Solace, an uncomfortable realisation has hit me. I spent 15 years working in policy, but it is only now after finishing an 18-month hiatus from that world that I truly understand that my job is not about being clever. There are loads […]

Making our cities safer and stronger: A focus on resilience

As local authorities we are uniquely positioned to make our cities and our communities more resilient. A resilient city is, in turn, attractive to investors and senior sponsorship of resilience contributes to economic growth in addition to encouraging stronger and more cohesive communities. In recent months UK cities have been the focus of tragedy and […]

Digital leadership: What is the role of digital communities?

There’s a lot of chatter about digital communities right now; how they develop and grow and the role they play. The term means different things in different contexts and the scale of the community varies greatly. In Wigan, our digital community wraps right around the borough, but exactly what it means to us shifts depending […]

Skills and local economic growth: Putting the focus where it needs to be

By Martin Swales, Chief Executive of South Tyneside MBC and Solace spokesperson for Economic Growth and Housing This week at a joint Solace and Prospects Industrial Strategy & Skills Fringe Event at the LGA Conference, Solace launched a new paper that sets out some of our initial thinking on skills and local economic growth. The […]

How partnering with local authorities can help beat the housing crisis

We all recognise the need to build more homes to improve affordability, particularly for young people who can face eye-watering deposits. More housing supply is a crucial part of the required response. The key to boosting this supply is diversification, which will enable a range of large and small housing companies and local authorities to […]

Unlocking research for local government

Local government needs evidence, from the apparently mundane but nonetheless critical (‘What choice of cladding will minimise the risk of fire spreading?’) to extraordinary insights (‘How do people choose what to eat and whether to be active?’, ‘What skills will today’s youngsters need in the jobs market of 2050?’). In 2014, Solace supported the initial […]

Cybersecurity fight needs everyone to volunteer

From employees to board members, public sector organisations need to be united in tackling IT-based attacks. The public sector’s vulnerability to cybersecurity threats has been placed in the spotlight by the recent Wannacry ransomware attack on the NHS. Local authorities are not immune, as was demonstrated by the 2016 ransomware attack on Lincolnshire County Council. […]

Are we bothered by falling satisfaction with local government?

Satisfaction with local government is at the lowest it has been in the last five years. This is after many years of holding steady. At the local level, the picture is likely to be diverse. The majority of councils will be in line with the trend, with some bucking it in a positive direction and […]

Dodo birds win in a post-salami world

We’ve all been there [haven’t we?]: dinner parties, get-togethers, aperitifs… Inevitably, no matter how many nibbles get shared around at a time, eventually, there’s always one last piece of salami on the smorgasbord of antipasti waiting to be devoured. Who is going to take it? I suspect there has been many an exec team, since […]

Reflecting on two years at Solace

It’s been two years since I started working for Solace. I began working here in those heady months after General Election 2015 when David Cameron had just won a surprise majority, and Jeremy Corbyn becoming Leader of the Labour Party seemed only a bit more unlikely than Britain actually leaving the European Union. Asking ‘so […]

A digital transformation agenda for social housing

The UK’s social housing sector is a current hot topic and for good reason. While there are currently almost 2,000 registered providers of affordable and low-income housing (with these tenants making up 17% of total households), demand is still outstripping supply. The UK’s most vulnerable tenants are being steadily pushed out of the private rental […]

Healthcare opportunities for local authorities from smart energy data

One of the most exciting aspects of Britain’s smart meter rollout is that this upgrade of our national energy infrastructure is creating a dynamic new platform that enables new innovations and services to be built around the data generated. This month Smart Energy GB and UCL published a new report exploring the potential future uses […]

Cyber resilience and the importance of being prepared

Last week’s internationally coordinated ransomware attack had a severe impact on the NHS, demonstrates the importance of cyber resilience, and highlights the urgency of addressing the cyber threat to the public sector. On Friday 12 May at about 3.45pm when the news broke of a large-scale cyber attack on the NHS, my council had to […]

Introducing a new guide on using evidence in scrutiny

Ensuring that public services, and the deployment of public resources, are evidence led, or at least evidence-informed, is vitally important, and even more so in these days of permanent austerity, deepening unsolved wicked issues afflicting society, and the emergence of public sector policy being driven by fake news, alternative facts, and post-truth narratives. This week […]

How local authorities are helping to fix our broken housing market

The recent housing White Paper included encouragement for local authorities to engage more directly in the provision of housing to make up the shortfall between private sector development and locally assessed housing requirements, most frequently set out in local plans. This gap between need and provision has been a continuing issue for the government and […]

Can Local Government Chief Executives rise to the Place Based Health challenge?

Around a year ago, we began planning a new approach to senior leadership development, convened by Solace, supported by the Local Government Association, and delivered by Collaborate in partnership with the RSA. During those initial conversations we posed the question: in a quick moving and increasingly challenging context, what will it take to lead positive […]

Understanding the public service leadership challenges

The challenges The public service leadership challenges of cuts, confusion, and change have become the norm. The basic elements needed to lead through this ever-changing landscape are clarity over direction; adequate support to adopt change (preferably in the form of budgets for resources and development) and positive consequences for delivering the change without damaging services. […]

11 things every Returning Officer needs to know

The 11 things Returning Officers need to do for May (and June): 1. Be clear of your roles and responsibilities a Returning Officer Your role is independent of Council and you will pick up the consequences of that role, including criminal and civil liability. Have you got insurance cover? What is your excess (please check […]

Cracking on with the snap election

Like my own team and I, many of you will have had to hold ‘snap’ planning meetings this week to work out just how you’re going to take on the challenge that the ‘snap’ General Election represents. Like myself, many of you will already be at a critical stage in your planning for local and […]

A shifting social population: four trends to prepare for for the future

There are a diverse and challenging number of factors currently at play when we consider changes in our social housing landscape, ranging from shifting central government policy, UK and global economic trends and the still unknown impact of Brexit, whether hard or soft. While we’re set to see a number of positive initiatives launched in […]

Dangerous data

I recently chaired a Solace seminar that addressed the issues raised by the new “General Data Protection Act” (GDPR), specifically in relation to the data and personal details generated by receiving credit and debit card payments. There were clearly issues raised that we, as Chief Execs and Senior Managers, need to be aware of. However, […]

Just when we thought it was going so well…

In a recent Solace blog about cyber resilience, I implored colleagues to implement a small exercise at a meeting of their management team. As I’m not the sort of chap who would suggest trying something if I wasn’t prepared to do so myself, I recently did just that. I’m not sure about an ‘Oscar’, but […]

What are your views on Government’s new Industrial Strategy?

As you will know, Government published their Industrial Strategy Green Paper on 23 January this year, setting out their plans for a stronger economy and fairer society, where wealth and opportunity are spread across every community. Key to the approach Government has set out are 10 pillars constituting drivers, and enablers, of growth, including skills, […]

All the evidence suggests you need to attend this Solace Masterclass

Solace will be holding its next Evidence Masterclass on Tuesday 9th May 2017 in Leeds. I attended one last year and found that it establishes a clear way for senior decision-makers to not only make the case for the use of evidence but to do so in a very practical way. In a world where […]

Casey Review into opportunity and integration – so what next?

Dame Louise Casey’s long-awaited review into opportunity and integration has been out a couple of months now. Landing in the middle of the Brexit debate, a Trump presidency, and ongoing cases hitting the media in relation to extremism and radicalisation it is of real relevance to our time, but it has also had to fight […]

Guest blog: How will the receipt of social care change in future?

This blog was originally published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on 10 February 2017. How we fund and provide social care for the older population is an important policy issue. A National Audit Office report published this week suggests that the recent implementation of the Better Care Fund has so far struggled to reduce […]

Digital Leadership – it starts by simply talking about it!

So I’ve taken on this Digital Leadership role from the effervescent Martin Reeves, and thought I should put finger (s!) to keyboard and develop a rather eloquent piece about Digital Leadership…to inspire and demonstrate what a techsavvy digital leader I am and you can be! I do trust irony is not lost in the printed […]

Reinvigorating our town centres

I recently came across a thought-inspiring podcast series Local Gov Life, piloted earlier this year by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). The series provides a mix of stories, insights, and advice from local government leaders in the United States (U.S.) and Canada. In particular, Episode 3 on Reinvigorating Downtown caught my attention. It offers […]

Lessons from the Troubled Families Evaluation

In barely 18 months the Troubled Families Programme (TFP) has gone from a Ministerial panacea to media allegations of wasting £1 billion. The main lesson of this drama is that to understand whether (and, critically, where and how) a policy is working we need to get much better at local evaluation. The Programme was heralded […]

New Year message from the Solace Chair

Happy New Year colleagues! It has been said that those who begin with certainties, will end in doubts*. Given the events of 2016, doubt seems an appropriate response as we think about what 2017 might have in store. But whilst much is unknown, there are some issues that seem certain to demand our urgent attention […]

Christmas Message from Jo Miller, Solace President

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all Solace colleagues. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since you elected me as your president two months ago and I hope you can see that I’ve been standing up for public service and all that we do, promoting the importance of good leadership and […]

Engaging Communities through Digital Transformation

Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) is a UK-focused retail and commercial bank made up of four iconic relationship brands – Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows. We have over 20 million customers and 75,000 colleagues. 12 million of our customers’ bank with us online, and 7 million bank with us on mobile; with […]

Cyber resilience is not just for ICT teams

OK colleagues, I need a favour, but more of that later… I recently attended the LG Cyber Summit, an event jointly arranged by Central and Local Government, to consider the issue of cyber security from a Local Government perspective. This was an important event as it not only heralded another step forward in the way […]

Countdown on to English water market opening

Last month marked a major milestone in the run-up to the English water market opening. With just six months to go until every organisation and business in England is able to switch its water supplier, the ‘shadow market’ is now in operation. The advent of competition south of the border represents arguably the biggest practical […]

Delivering the Northern Powerhouse: Economic Regeneration and Skills

Earlier this year I spoke at an event at Salford University on education and skills in the northern powerhouse, alongside Salford City College, New Economy, and our Chamber of Commerce in Greater Manchester. There was a lot of interest in how we are aiming to “get on with the job” in Oldham on skills and […]

Ignite: Developing leadership fit for the future

Solace has done some fantastic work in ensuring that leadership potential is fostered and developed throughout our sector, developing a pipeline of Chief Executives for the future. However, in the rapidly changing landscape of local public service today, it’s vital that existing Chief Executives are equipped with the tools required for the realities of the […]

Engaging people in digital transformation: Lessons from the smart meter rollout

In November, Smart Energy GB joined the Greater London Authority and the city’s Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, to represent the capital at the World Smart City Congress in Barcelona. The focus of the congress, which attracted over 30,000 international delegates and representatives from 600 cities, was ‘cities for citizens’. Amongst this community of […]

Life (in local government) is a risky business!

Zurich Municipal has been a Lead Business Partner with Solace for a good few years now, and the mutual benefits of that active collaboration are significant. Recently Amy Brettell, Zurich Municipal’s Interim Head of Public Services and I met with two serving chief executive colleagues and Kim Ryley to share our understanding of how risk […]

Disrupting our thinking on integration

It is not new to say that closer working between health and social care services is essential to achieve better outcomes for people. It may be somewhat more surprising to note that talk about integration goes back to at least Enoch Powell. In 1961 as health minister, Powell called on “local health and welfare authorities, […]

Cyber security in local government: The great enabler

Cyber security is hitting the headlines on an increasingly frequent basis. The reason is quite simple. More and more business, whether commercial or government, is being moved to digital channels and this is greatly increasing the opportunities and prizes for cybercriminals. In this industry, hacks make headlines as executives at Yahoo and Talk The talk […]

Digital Transformation for Northern Ireland Planning

The advancement and increased availability of technology over the last few decades has meant that society has undergone a global digital transformation and as a result, the public sector is faced with a growing digital disruption. Citizens are now digital consumers, meaning that their demands on local authorities have changed. They expect to be able […]

How do you turn a bright idea into a big idea?

For a term that is bandied about so frequently, innovation is not always done brilliantly. Why? Because it’s not enough simply to have a great idea. To be a real winner, your wizard new notion or invention has to be rolled out across the enterprise, so that the whole business can benefit. But that’s the […]

The importance of public service values

Just over 40 years ago, I decided that public service was my destiny. I joined the recently formed Tower Hamlets Social Services to learn and practice Social Work, helping disadvantaged families and their children navigate their troubles and come out on top. I’d contemplated teaching but decided that my talents may not lie in inspiring […]

English water market opening – what does it mean for the public sector?

The countdown is on to April 2017 when all organisations in England will be able to choose their water supplier. Changes are already taking place within the market as providers gear up for competition, such as our acquisition of Southern Water’s non-domestic customers. However, it’s clear that for many organisations the potential benefits of the […]

Is Blockchain in the MASH for Local Government?

In their latest insight briefing, SOCITM posed the question, Blockchain technology: could it transform digitalenabled councils? They urge councils and wider public sector authorities to follow developments around blockchain Distributed Ledger technologies with a view to experimenting with their potential use in the development of future service transformation plans. It is safe to say that […]

Global challenges need local responses

The benefits of being networked With over 11,000 members, based in 40 countries around the world, the USA-based International City Managers Association (ICMA) is the largest professional body of its kind. Solace has a long-standing Affiliation Agreement with ICMA (as we do with our sister associations in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). We are active […]

Awkward bedfellows and slippery concepts a.k.a. How to lead social change

This article was originally published by Clore Social Leadership on 6 September 2016. Leadership is a slippery concept. A verb, not a noun. A spirit, not a skillset. It is a term that is broad and deep enough to mean both everything and nothing. But there is no doubt that if leadership matters (as Richard […]

Smart energy – doing more with less: The opportunity for local authorities

Local authorities across Great Britain are having to do more with less, and are starting to embrace the opportunities provided by smart technologies and digitisation to innovate in the way they deliver the services that local residents depend on. One sector currently being transformed by digitisation and which is attracting increasing interest from local authorities […]

Leadership across silos

Everyone has leadership potential, and Graeme McDonald, Director of Solace, highlights some of the ways in which it can be developed. (This article was originally published in Government Business) What makes a great leader? There has often been a debate about the key traits that a good leader should have: knowledge, authenticity, drive, empathy, and […]

Put your own lifejacket on first

Does digital inclusion really matter? We’re about to embark on the next stage of the digital revolution with automation starting to be rolled out at scale. In the next few years, the focus on user experience and service design at the front end will be matched with the ability to automate complex processes behind the […]

Game Changer: Giving children the opportunity to lead a healthy and physically active life

I started my local reading group a number of years ago and since then we’ve become good friends, so when I announced at our meeting the other night I’d spent the morning at a primary school, they were rather surprised. “You work for an IT company, don’t you?” Asked Katy. Not quite I thought, but […]

Save cost – and make money – through innovative M&E procurement processes

More public sector organisations are starting to look at smarter, hassle-free and more innovative procurement processes – particularly when it comes to heating systems – not only in a bid to reduce build costs but as a way to generate revenue. The traditional approach to procuring mechanical services is to get contractors into design, value […]

Investing in a Procurement Ecosystem – the Holy Grail to achieving more with less?

Procuring new services and suppliers is expensive, for both commissioners and providers. With the sharp reduction in public funding and increasing pressure on resources, it’s easy to skip through the procurement process to get from one end to the other as quickly as possible. We work together in a functional market place and our relationships […]

‘What gives you a good life?’

‘What gives you a good life?’ is the question we have recently been asking care home residents in Wakefield in order to better measure wellbeing. Unsurprisingly, most people answer that it is friends and family – the opportunity to have meaningful social contact – that gives them a sense of wellbeing, rather than their physical […]

Devolution: the West Midlands in Focus

Greater Manchester, which in April became the first English region to take control of its health and social care spending, is perhaps the highest-profile example of the Conservative Government’s commitment to devolution. Devolution is also high on the agenda in the West Midlands, where 12 local authorities have joined the new West Midlands Combined Authority […]

A new horizon or more of the same?

A little over six years ago, we embarked on a Coalition Westminster Government for the first time in 65 years. Sixteen months ago, we saw the first Conservative Government in nearly a generation. Within the last few weeks, Theresa May entered Number 10 – as the sitting tenant, not a visitor – the second female […]

Learning about learning…

Wearing my Solace hat as a spokesperson on evidence-based decision making, I have been working with the Institute for Government on their local public service reform agenda. On 2 August, the IfG launched a new report, Supporting learning to integrate services and improve outcomes [1], alongside an accompanying set of eight case studies [2]. The […]

How innovation can drive change in Local Government

I have been recently considering how innovative technology can support the future of health and care services as part of the contribution that Sopra Steria is making to Lord Patel of Bradford’s report ‘Breaking Barriers’ that was released on the 28th of June. This consideration led me to look again at some of the recent […]

“With a little help from your friends…”

As the August lull takes over, it seems a good time to take stock of where we’re at as a sector and to think about the continued challenges we can anticipate, and those that seem more uncertain. With the new Government finding their feet over the coming weeks, here in the policy team we wait […]

The importance of being bold

We have been speaking a lot about boldness in business recently at Business Stream, thanks partly to the publication of our latest white paper, Beyond Bold: Strategies for Growth, produced in conjunction with the British Chamber of Commerce. If you’ve not yet seen it, I’d recommend you give it a read. It provides a fascinating […]

Leadership in Action Series: Bridget McIntyre, Founder of Dream On

Many people have ambitions, big ideas or perhaps a dream job. Bridget had just that. Read on to find out more about how Bridget has maximised her learning and experiences from the corporate world into the social enterprise that is now Dream On. She has added looking at increasing social value and inspiring women to […]

Delivering Accelerated Housing Growth

‘Delivery’ and particularly ‘accelerated delivery’ are the keywords we have been hearing from Government, and this is consistent with the new Government Ministers. The recent changes in Government have resulted in having a new Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, who has indicated […]

Public Services contracting – the agony and the ecstasy!

The problems of contracts where the private sector run public services are not new. Over 200 years ago, Jeremy Bentham said of such contracts: “the savings are quickly forgotten and the profits exaggerated!” Britain moved early to become the “Contract State” but, even in the more recent past, there has been only lukewarm Government support […]

Elected mayors: The key to strong local leadership post- Brexit?

When people ask me ‘elected mayors: yes or no?’ I can see the disappointment in their eyes when I reply ’maybe’. That’s not surprising, because we all seek the comfort of certainty. However, the evidence about the effectiveness of mayors is very contradictory. Put simply, effectiveness depends on a combination of factors. The issue of […]

Health – What’s employment got to do with it?

Social Finance today launches Health and Employment Partnerships, which aims to help every person with a health condition improve their wellbeing through fulfilling, sustained employment. The event in Parliament will bring together commissioners, service providers and impact investors looking to develop new services that span the traditional boundaries of health and employment provision. For 5 […]

Recovering from civil emergencies

As Chair of the Suffolk Local Resilience Forum, I recently attended a national conference for LRF Chairs. I was encouraged to hear several speakers refer to the importance of the ‘Recovery’ phase in relation to civil emergencies, particularly as this is something I have been ‘banging on’ about for some time! Of course, the initial […]

Public life and public services: Time for a new discourse

It was always going to be a time when we reflected on our values, our role in the world, and what democracy means to us. What wasn’t anticipated was that this would occur in the context of a tragic and senseless murder of a young, talented and compassionate MP. Jo Cox entered public life with […]

Holy evidence, Batman

Abraham Wald was a Jew who, after being hounded out of Austria just before WWII, became a professor of statistics at Columbia University, and ended up working for the Statistical Research Group of statisticians supporting the American war effort. As an ‘enemy alien’ his status was confused – technically he was not allowed to see […]

Local Government Professionals Australia Congress and Business Expo 2016

I was privileged to represent Solace in May at the LG Professionals Australia Conference held on the sunny Gold Coast, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to take part in a private, guided tour of the new multi-million dollar Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct and the 2018 Commonwealth Games athletes’ village and […]

The most important assets in commercialism are human

Although commercialisation or commercialism, whichever you prefer, has been talked about greatly for a long time now, it’s still a minority of councils that are heading down this road – for a raft of different and valid reasons. As the name suggests, it’s simply a way of councils commercialising their assets, physical and human, to […]

There but for the Grace of God go I…

This article was first published on The Guardian Public Leaders Network website I’ve always said that as a Returning Officer, running a successful election doesn’t necessarily enhance your CEO career, but running one with significant mishaps is career limiting, for sure. This is ever more the case in an environment where the extent of the […]

Health and Social Care Transformation

Up and down the country Local Authorities will be engaging with their partners on a new and recent entry to the Local Government lexicon which is of course STPs. STPs are Sustainability and Transformation Plan submissions which NHS health partners are required under their governance to submit. Two things are clear; our health partners are […]

Striving for Total Leadership

There has often been a debate about what makes a good leader: knowledge; authenticity; drive; empathy; and, for some, even heroism. But there can be no debate that leadership can always be improved; or that, in the context of local government, it needs more investment. Significant attempts have been made to improve leadership over the […]

Beyond robustness and resilience

I have recently been reading a book kindly passed on to me, called Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. On the first page of this book, it reads ‘Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors; and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet in spite of the […]

An investment in a firm future

This article was originally published by the MJ in the printed edition on 21 April 2016. VUCA, short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, and a catchall for “Hey, it’s crazy out there!” is an increasingly recognised acronym being used to describe the current environment in the public sector. So how do those in or […]

‘Another fine mess’

As the smoke gently cleared on 6 May, the day after the mayoral, local government and police and crime commissioner elections, the Secretary of State for Education took the opportunity to make the not unexpected announcement of a change of approach in the relation to the key proposal contained in the White Paper ‘Excellence Everywhere’ […]

Better outcomes and better value: the promise of social impact bonds

Every local authority wants to deliver better outcomes for its most vulnerable young people and adults. But in an era when budgets are under ever-greater pressure, and social challenges are getting ever more complex, is that a realistic aspiration? Our experience with social impact bonds (SIBs) suggests it can be. Our Residential Migration Programme in […]

Nuts and their Sledgehammers

Control of the level of fees for processing planning applications, as you will know, is one of the last vestiges of centralisation (in form, if not reality) and Whitehall is reluctant to let it go. At some point, we might be granted the power to set fees locally; but there will remain significant constraints and […]

Key Leadership Actions for Innovation: Latest findings from Solace Research Project

How can the political and managerial leaders in local councils achieve more major innovations faster? Over the past four years, we have conducted extensive research on this topic, including interviews and discussions with many chief executives and leading politicians, as well as many focus groups with middle managers and frontline employees. In this latest study, […]

How can professional bodies support more joint working on the front line?

This blog was originally published on the Institute of Government’s website. Public service reform is geared towards greater collaboration between services and better meeting citizens’ needs through a joined up, person-centred approach. The pressure on services to do this is growing, with the Government announcing plans for integration in areas such as health and social […]

In, out or just not bothered? How the EU Referendum represents a missed opportunity for engagement

The forthcoming EU Referendum has been described as one of the biggest political decisions of the century. The last time Britain voted on the issue was in 1975 when the EU was known as the European Common Market. 41 years have passed since that date, and one might imagine that the mechanics of voting – […]

One for all and all for one

Recently, there have been a number of reports in the press regarding a joint procurement that I am involved in. One article, in particular, has stood out for me: Five councils from different parts of the country have agreed a ‘revolutionary’ procurement deal in a bid to save more than £50m over nine years. The […]

Back to the Future?

“We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.” ― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets So it’s standing room only at a Masterclass convened by the Solace Innovation and Commissioning Network. We are here to talk about […]

Experimental government: Evaluating Finland’s basic income experiment

In December last year, the Finnish government announced plans to carry out a national basic income scheme experiment. The project, part of the Finnish government’s analysis, assessment and research plan for 2015, is led by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution (KELA), the government agency in charge of welfare benefits. Unsurprisingly, the story went viral and […]

Siloed funding streams: An encumbrance to integrated care services

The desire to see the delivery of integrated healthcare and social care services is broadly shared by health professionals, government bodies and special interest groups. Nevertheless, in England, successful delivery to date can only be traced to local initiatives that focus on specific areas of care or patient groups. These successes are driven by joint […]

Five questions to the powerful

The late Tony Benn developed these five questions to the powerful – “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” For council chief executives, these questions can usually be answered very easily. […]

Long-term revenues by using our assets

There is no denying that local authorities are operating in a challenging financial environment, against a backdrop of huge demographic pressure on their services, especially from an aging population. As a result, publicly-owned land and property assets are becoming increasingly important for local authorities but rather than focusing on short-term benefits of selling assets, there […]

How to bring about a leadership revolution

Sacha Romanovitch, our CEO, spoke at the recent Solace Leadership Forum about how the volatile and uncertain world that we now live in demands a leadership revolution. Sacha spoke of the need for collaboration between the public, private and third sectors to solve current and future problems and for leaders to give away control, allowing […]

Reflections on the Solace Leadership Forum

I have an odd feeling, my brain is whirring and the best way I can think of describing it is like a computer buffering. It’s like the spinning circle of dots that tells you that something is happening but you’re not there yet. This was set off by a thought-provoking day last Thursday at the […]

Building digital skills in local communities with Code Club

The importance of digital skills, and the looming threat of the UK’s growing “skills gap”, has been grabbing headlines over the past few years. It’s helped inspire significant changes to the English National Curriculum, meaning that children aged 5 onwards are now being taught coding and computer science. Yet there is still more that needs […]

Is your Constitution due a Health Check? With Annual Council only a few months away, now is the time to be doing it.

Local authorities have faced a significant amount of change over the past few years, with more to come to meet the financial and demographic challenges for the future. Understandably, not all Constitutions will be up to date, since it is likely that there will have been legislative changes, organisational changes, shared services arrangements, outsourcing of […]

Platforms, platforms everywhere but little sense to make…

My inbox is inundated these days with people talking about platforms. No, these are not the variety of platform that you catch a train from nor the type you give a speech from or put something on. No these are not what I’m talking about. They are usually technology-linked. The people in our ICT team […]

The Solace Network on Knowledge Hub

Knowledge Hub’s vision is to connect the global public sector by enabling its members to work together, regardless of traditional organisational and geographical boundaries. With 115,000 active users from over 450 UK public sector organisations, spread across 1,700 groups there’s likely to be a group to interest you. And, if not, you can always start […]

Housing and Planning Bill 2016 – Local Authority Challenges

We at Bevan Brittan are currently running a series of training roadshows alerting local authority clients to the latest news on the Housing and Planning Bill – and the potential challenges it may bring. With only two months until the Bill is expected to be passed, we highlight some of the key issues and concerns […]

Leadership in Action Series: Karen Hester, Chief Operating Officer, Adnams

Karen joined Adnams in 1988 as a part-time cleaner. Today, as Chief Operating Officer, she is responsible for over 400 employees, ensuring the smooth running of all day-to-day operations at Adnams Brewery, Hotels, Pubs and Cellar & Kitchen Stores. Karen won East of England Business Woman of the Year in 2008 and First Women Business […]

Digital Leadership: Carriage clocks and reflections on the past

Born between wars, and raised on a back-to-back terrace in Oldham, my father completed his military service in 1950 before settling down to a lifelong career in the Manchester ICI accounts department. He married at 21, bought a suburban new build house at 23, for the princely sum of £950 [no I’ve not missed off […]

Revolution is required: taking a holistic approach to digital transformation

As we’re all aware, George Osborne announced a £450 million commitment to the Government Digital Services (GDS) in his latest budget just four months ago. This figure speaks volumes about the challenge public services of all shapes and sizes face trying to juggle digital transformation, digital exclusion, and the government’s digital agenda. The continued overall […]

Getting the right skills to manage public service markets

Recent discussions within Solace have often centred on the kind of leadership skills required in the new changing landscape of local government. Often the new watchword seems to be ‘collaboration’, with our members increasingly taking the role of managing strategic partnerships and stewarding whole places rather than just their own local authority. A key skill […]

The Solace Macmillan partnership: an update briefing

Two Grant Funding Agreements were signed with local authorities at the end of 2015 in Dundee and in Durham by Macmillan under the Solace Macmillan partnership. Key objectives of the planned joint working are to: – Measure and understand the scale and type of unmet need for people affected by cancer within the Local Authority […]

Art and Science: Using Evidence to Inform Decisionmaking

I am a big fan of BBC One’s Silent Witness – I’m not sure if the way that the Lyell Centre’s forensic pathologists work alongside the police bears any semblance of reality, but it certainly makes for some pretty good telly. For someone who started out as a scientist – the way that the team […]

More Hard Facts and Fewer Half Truths

This year, local authorities will make decisions on spending over £95bn of public money. The fact that this is £3.3bn less than last year actually means our need for robust evidence on the best ways to get the best possible outcomes for that money is growing. As a new practice guide from Nesta shows, good […]

Reflections on the Annual Solace Elections Conference

The Annual Solace Elections Conference yesterday helped shape the agenda for elections and democracy for the forthcoming year and reinforced the importance of the existing agenda. There was a strong turnout and robust contributions from speakers and from the floor of the conference. Three key themes emerged: The reform agenda: There remains a driving agenda […]

“Civil Emergencies are like Forrest Gump’s Box of Chocolates…”

We all know that local government can be challenging, rewarding, difficult, exciting, sometimes boring, and often stressful. However, it can also be ironic and events over the past couple of weeks have demonstrated that. All local authorities will have undergone a process of winter preparedness, looking ahead to severe weather, anticipating the impact on services, […]

Happy New Year!

Colleagues, Happy New Year! I hope you’ve managed to get some much-needed and well-deserved R&R over the festive season. I was lucky enough to have a “baby’s first Christmas” with my youngest son, daughter-in-law and our new(ish) grandson. However, I realise that I was one of the fortunate ones who was able to play Father […]

The past year in local government

There are lots of things you could write about working in a leadership position in public service at the moment (many of them not printable), but one thing is for sure – it’s never dull! Over the last twelve months, we have seen huge changes at global, national and local levels which have impacted on […]

Solving the housing “crisis”…

It is a priority for Solace to ensure that communities are shaped to meet the local needs, and to deliver local solutions, for their residents. Central Government itself acknowledge that solving the housing “crisis” is a top priority, and announced, in the Spending Review, plans to give billions to private sector developers to build 400,000 […]

Live long and prosper – do you know where all your surveillance cameras are?

The recent attacks in Paris have put security into sharp focus. Surveillance cameras, whilst not preventing the horrific events, have helped identify the culprits. Do you know where all your surveillance cameras are and if they are working? Another question to ask is whether you are confident that your managers know where all your surveillance […]

Individual Electoral Registration (IER): The impacts of the transition deadline

Tuesday, 1st December 2015 was the deadline for the transition to Individual Electoral Registration, as set out by the government in the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 (Transitional Provisions) Order 2015. The end of the transition means that all remaining entries relating to electors who had not registered individually will have now been removed […]

Reflections on the Chancellor’s Spending Review and what it means for us

Up and down the country, top teams will be trying to assimilate the impact of the Chancellor’s Spending Review (CSR) which, combined with the Autumn Statement this year, sets out Government’s spending over this parliament. Teams across the country will be trying to provide relevant briefings for their members eager to understand the local impacts […]

Under pressure

First published on Inside Housing online 3 November 2015, The Housing and Planning Bill got its second reading on Monday – legislation that the government hopes will provide the building blocks to create a million new homes across England and Wales by 2020. But the pace of change means many authorities are now being […]

Devolution: Challenging Change

Devolution was the theme of the Solace East and West Midlands Regional Seminar Devolution: Challenging Change that took place on 12 November. There has been much debate over recent months on the devolution journey. This has tended to focus on the size and scope of the emerging devolution deals if such deals amount to genuine […]

“You say you want a revolution…”

As I ponder what life holds in store as a result of George’s ‘Devolution Revolution’ I can’t get the Beatles song ‘Revolution’ out of my head – particularly the opening verse: “You say you want a revolution Well, you know We all want to change the world You tell me that it’s evolution Well, you […]

A clear line of sight?

Last week the Institute for Government released a short report called ‘Show Your Workings’ – you may have seen it referenced in the 26 October Solace Policy Briefing. The report reflected on attempts by the Institute to judge the extent to which government policy was evidence-based – after all, the Civil Service Reform Plan set […]

The Cyber Threat

The headlines about TalkTalk’s recent online security breach are a reminder to us that cyber-attacks and online data theft are a daily reality for UK businesses. Of course, it is not just businesses that are susceptible to cyber-attacks. Local authorities also hold significant data on individuals as part of our work providing services to our […]

What every Chief Executive needs to know about Surveillance Cameras

Interest in surveillance is at an all-time high. Only this week the draft Investigatory Powers Bill was published by the Government and it could mean that Councils will now face tightened surveillance laws. Therefore, it is important that Chief Executives and senior leaders at Local Authorities have a good knowledge and understanding of legislation covering […]

Leading for Innovation: New Solace case studies and interim report

How can leaders in local government achieve more major innovations more quickly? That’s the question we’ve been studying for the last four years. We’ve conducted interviews with leading chief executives and politicians, run focus groups with frontline employees and middle managers, and held discussions with local government leaders. When we started this research, many local […]

Reflections from the National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) Conference

I returned yesterday evening from two days back in Bournemouth for the National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) Conference, hosted by the LGA, ADCS, and ADASS. There was a mixed mood amongst the conference. On the one hand, as at the Solace conference, the watch word seems to be “devolution”, although with an additional byword […]

Future direction of Solace

The image of Felix Baumgartner jumping from a balloon 23 miles above the Earth is one that will stay with me from the Solace Summit. The analogy with the challenges we face as public service leaders may be extreme but had real resonance for many of us watching the film of his record breaking attempt […]

President’s Address at the Solace Summit 2015 – Reclaiming Public Leadership

Welcome everyone and thank you all for joining us at the Solace Annual Summit on ‘Reclaiming Public Leadership’ in sunny Bournemouth. Thank you to all our sponsors, exhibitors and exhibitionists – without whom this event would not be what it is. Thank you to all of you, including our international delegates: this is the best-attended […]

Social innovation as a strategic tool for local government leaders

Local governments across Europe face similar challenges of aging populations, increased demand for services, and constant new and complex social challenges. The increasing number of refugees currently arriving in local communities across the continent is just one of many new pressures facing Europe’s local governments, requiring them to constantly adapt and find new and sometimes […]

Addressing the housing crisis

The post-election period has seen a storm of housing announcements – from extending Right to Buy and rent reductions, to the proposed pay-to-stay policy and forced disposal of high-value council assets. Collectively, these changes have the potential to reshape the affordable housing sector on a scale not seen since the introduction of right to buy. […]

OnSide Youth Zones – Delivering Innovation and Value in Youth Services

The success of our society will ultimately be shaped by the investment we make in future generations. Youth Services has a vital role to play – particularly through early intervention and reducing pressure across areas such as education, health, welfare, and crime. Faced with restricted local authority budgets, service providers must innovate and provide robust, […]

Transforming Places through Devolution

No two places are the same. Whitehall has not always been good at recognising this, but over the last five years we have witnessed a profound change in the way we approach policy in this country, with decentralisation bringing power closer to local communities, promoting sustainable and balanced growth, and giving people a stronger say […]

Reflections on the Solace Springboard programme

Last week, the 2015 SOLACE Springboard group got together for our 4th one-day session of the 12-month programme, this time up at the Council House in Birmingham. It is only now that we are starting to get to know each other a little better, aided by a wonderful meal at Pushkar on Broad Street the […]

Getting Behind the Headlines

Rather unexpectedly, I recently found myself and three colleagues from East Sussex in Ipswich aboard “Victor”, a historic Sailing Boat currently moored alongside the historic dock. We were exploring the area before spending the day with the Suffolk County Council management team to understand more about the county and approaches to our common local government […]

Introducing ‘Solace News’

The once traditional August lull is now a distant memory – and, if we are honest, probably one viewed through rose-tinted spectacles. But while the absence of most formal council meetings continues to create some space, the fallout from this year’s elections, the Autumn Spending Review and the drive towards devolution has kept everyone busy. […]

The Great British Cloud-off

According to Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, The Great British Bake-off (which is now on air) is going “back to basics” this year. Forget baked Alaska, poviticas and technical challenges that only expert bakers could handle – and say goodbye to scandals like bingate. This year, the bakes will be simpler and entirely focused on […]

Funding initiatives to support integrated health and social care

The desire to see the delivery of integrated healthcare and social care services is broadly shared by health professionals, government bodies and special interest groups. Nevertheless, in England, successful delivery to date can only be traced to local initiatives that focus on specific areas of care or patient groups. These successes are driven by joint […]

First, Premium Economy or Economy: Choosing the right class for your data

Airlines have been revamping first class flying. In 2014 Abu Dhabi airline Etihad unveiled The Residence, a three-room, 125 sq ft suite with lounge, bedroom, and bathroom, which includes a sofa seating six guests, with a secure display area where Matisse and Picasso paintings from the Abu Dhabi Louvre sit on the wall. Airlines are […]

Reflections from Sunderland on the 2015 Elections

After one of the closest campaigns in years, the highest turnout since 1997 and a result which none of the pollsters had predicted, much has already been written about the General and local government elections held on 7th May 2015. But whilst the outcome of the election may not have been one which many had […]

A future for local government: “This is what we need”

So, now we know. Cameron, Osborne, Clarke, David, Hunt, and Morgan: the Dirty Half Dozen of central government. And, now that we have a majority administration, the airwaves are already peppered with the rhetoric of “revolution” (Osborne) and “significant changes” (David). A bit like a normal day in Birmingham then! And in facing and engaging […]

Delivering elections is a whole council effort: Reflections from Doncaster

This Monday after the Thursday before, tired elections teams across the country hauled themselves into work after what the Electoral Commission say was the UK’s biggest combination of polls since 1979. A big thanks to the Electoral Commission for dealing with queries really quickly and efficiently. I have no comment on the results other than […]

Are local authorities fully prepared for the inevitable flood?

Memories of the UK’s flood-dominated winter in 2014 may be receding for many people, apart from those whose homes or businesses were flooded, but periods of heavy rain and severe weather are likely to be more frequent in future. It is vital that local authorities in the Thames catchment area are fully prepared to meet […]

Councils must reclaim universalism in an age of austerity

The state is retreating. This is no more visible than in local public services. Five years of austerity have driven huge cuts in local government with no prospect of respite in the next Parliament. Councils have responded admirably to this fiscal challenge, protecting support for the most vulnerable and transforming services. This fiscal challenge has […]

Writing the next chapter of health and employment

Up until fifty years ago, if you experienced a severe mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression, there’s a good chance you would be kept in hospital or in an asylum for long periods of time. Today, society rejects that approach as inhumane and counterproductive. Indeed, it is now recognised that one of […]

Working together to make independent living a reality

We are now less than a month away from the Care Act coming into force which for the first time creates a single modern law for the social care system. This will come with challenges and opportunities for local government and the voluntary sector. Throughout the Care Bill’s passage through Parliament, Scope campaigned for the […]

Vaulting the worthwhile bar: Solace Leadership Forum

I arise at stupid o’clock to travel to London for the Solace annual leadership seminar, the first under the new Policy Board arrangements. I have never yet made such a journey untinged by guilt at the inevitable burden placed on colleagues by what feels like the sheer indulgence of a day away, reflecting, chewing the […]

Local Authorities Controlling NHS Budgets – Whatever Next?

The news that the NHS’s £6 billion Health and Social Care budget for Greater Manchester will be taken over by the Greater Manchester local authorities will no doubt have sent shockwaves through many involved in delivering NHS services. The plan, which will come into effect from April 2016, will link to the election of a […]

Peterborough Transforms Itself Into A Gigabit City By Way Of An Innovative Public-Private Partnership

A little more than a year after signing a strategic partnership agreement with Peterborough City Council, independent fibre network builder CityFibre is approaching the completion of a major digital infrastructure upgrade for Peterborough. With over 90,000m of pure fibre network beneath the city streets, Peterborough’s public and private sectors are already beginning to benefit from […]

Introduction to Policy Portfolio: Economic Prosperity and Housing

Nationally, the development of our economic growth policy is critical to ensuring economic recovery across the UK. Recovery is underway, but it is clear that this is fragmented, with significant geographical variation. It is also fragile and could yet be determined by broader Eurozone and global events. Regionally, although all areas have seen growth since […]

Introduction to Policy Portfolio: Community Wellbeing

This is a time of unprecedented change for the Social Care and Health system and we are pleased to take on the roles of Solace Chair and Vice Chair for Community Wellbeing and to be involved in shaping the agenda and creating greater integration of health and care. Solace has advocated for a new, integrated […]