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Coen exit: What really happened

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Paul Coen was suspended by the Local Government Association after politicians lost patience with a perceived inability to lead it through tough financial conditions.

A picture of widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of the chief executive and the association emerged after Mr Coen was forced out by LGA chairman Margaret Eaton (Con), as exclusively revealed on LGCplus .

Mr Coen was in charge of the LGA’s group development strategy under which the likes of the Improvement & Development Agency and procurement specialist 4ps are being brought together in a ‘local government services company’.

One senior LGA source said: “The group leaders were finding Paul incredibly difficult to work with and they lost confidence in his delivery of the development strategy.

“They couldn’t see how it was being implemented in an efficient way, which just exacerbated the difficulties they had dealing with him generally. He had a very blunt way of putting things.”

LGA strategy meeting

Matters came to a head after an away day to discuss the strategy on 10 December.

LGC understands Cllr Eaton asked deputy chief executive John Ransford to talk to Mr Coen about taking a leave of absence after discussing the issue with group leaders.

Mr Ransford, who was due to retire next spring, will now take control of implementing the strategy. Mr Coen is widely expected not to return to the LGA.

ALSO SEE: Miller set for LGA

The fallout between the LGA’s political and managerial leadership could not have come at a worse time. Group leaders were due to meet local government minister John Healey to discuss the development strategy, which will require government approval.

A report discussed at an office holders’ meeting in September claimed the most important driver for the strategy was “the financial climate in which we operate”.

Subscription pressure

With the LGA’s subscription income coming under severe pressure as a result of local government restructuring (LGC - 11/09/08) , the report said: “The LGA group is likely to be operating within a declining resource base over the next few years.”

It went on to admit: “There would be a major risk to the LGA’s reputation if the scale of change failed to achieve its stated objectives and there is considerable potential for customer and staff uncertainty, particularly in the short term.”

In a statement, Mr Coen said: “Since September, it has become increasingly difficult to have confidence [that] the political leadership and managerial leadership of the LGA are at one, on both the direction of travel and the day-to-day leadership of the association.”

Asked why the LGA was behind on its development strategy, he replied: “We are not.”

Meanwhile, an LGC/ ComRes poll of more than 400 councillors found 59% felt the LGA should have been more proactive in taking a stance on Haringey Council’s responsibility for the Baby P tragedy.

On the Icelandic banking crisis, 55% thought the LGA should have been tougher with the government over guaranteeing councils’ deposits.

See also

We need a united LGA

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