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Cash fears over graduate programme

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Local government’s flagship national graduate development programme (NGDP) could be cancelled as a cost-cutting move by sponsors the Improvement & Development Agency, LGC has learned.

Five hundred graduates have been recruited through the programme since it began in 2002 as a way to improve the flow of top-flight graduates into the sector.

But October’s intake could be the last if the IDeA internal review decides that it cannot justify the financial support given to the scheme.

While ending the programme - which gives successful applicants an induction course, a two-year placement at a council, and a graduate diploma from University of Warwick – is an option, reforms to its structure and funding are alternatives.

Julie Towers, head of resourcing at consultancy Tribal, said that while many authorities ran their own successful graduate programmes, the loss of national focus from the disappearance of the NGDP would be significant.

“People could be lost to the sector because searching for individual programmes is complex and they’re likely to be snapped up by other recruiters in the meantime,” she said.

Aidan Rave, local government partner at consultants Rockpools, said closing the programme would be a retrograde step, and could rob the sector of a vital “shop front” for the brightest graduates.

“Having a national programme has really challenged some of the impressions of what local government is all about, because those given in the national media are seldom positive,” he said.

Andy Sawford, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, said the NGDP had been a huge success, but questioned whether the IDeA needed to continue running the programme – so long as a range of graduate programmes were available.

“If we truly have ambitions to take on more significant roles in localising services and responsibility from the government, we need to make sure that we have the best possible people coming forward,” he said.

Nigel Keohane, researcher at the New Local Government Network and author of the Leading Lights report on talent in 2008, said a public-sector wide graduate fast-track programme would create economies of scale for the civil service, NHS, police and councils.

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