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David Parsons: the key answers

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David Parsons (Con), leader Leicestershire CC and chair LGA Improvement Programme board and LGID sets out his case for chairmanship of the LGA

1. Give three examples of how the LGA will be different in three years time if you are elected chairman

The LGA will be a leaner and more focused organisation concentrating on the real needs of councils and offering practical support. Its entire drive will have shifted from reactive defence of councils to proactively promoting inspiring local government.

The LGA will have cut subscription costs for members and reorganised its staff to concentrate on a targeted number of priorities. Members will demonstrably see they are getting value for money and LGA running costs will reflect this.

The LGA will, while retaining a London base, be devolved throughout the country so it will feel like a local organisation, not a Whitehall lobbyist.

2. Under what circumstances would you be prepared to publicly criticise government policy??

The LGA needs to forge a more effective partnership with government.  One element of partnership is honesty, which applies on both sides.  I would be quite prepared to criticise the government and would expect the government to criticise the LGA.  In the past LGA criticism of government has not always been constructive and government may have decided it was not worth saying anything much about the LGA.  

What is most important is to develop a new engagement with ministers, led by LGA elected members.  Traditionally, too much of the dialogue with government has been dealt with by LGA policy officers.

3. How efficient are councils? Will they be able to maintain service levels under current spending constraints?

Local government is the most efficient part of the public sector, but that has never been adequately promoted or celebrated.  The LGA must showcase the best councils as beacons for improvement.  Critical to this is transparency and an ongoing dialogue with citizens about priorities and expenditure.

Too often there has been an emphasis in councils on maintaining the status quo.  There should be no reluctance in having a thorough look at what you spend and how you spend it

4. Should the LGA act to improve the reputation and public perceptions of councils? If so, how?

All too often, the LGA’s reputation management amounts to being a professional apologist when councils get it wrong. Reputation and perception are built on councils delivering great value-for-money services. The vast majority of our members do great work; that is the story the public needs to hear. Social media is increasingly important in maintaining reputation and we need an updated local government reputation guide to help councils make the best of digital channels.

The LGA also has a key role in fostering new talent. We need to reach young people and show that a career in public service is exciting and rewarding

5. What type of person does the LGA need as chief executive and what is an appropriate salary?

My first move will be to stop the recruitment process and appoint an interim director for a transition period. This job is not a comfortable sinecure for a time serving public servant who wants a low profile. We need to look outside the local government world for a high-profile figure with business skills and proven leadership, and an interim period will allow for that search.

The salary needs to recognise public unease over large public sector salaries while reflecting the reality that we need to attract the right person. A salary of around £150,000 would seem a reasonable guide

6. Should the LGA remain impartial in distributional issues, or are there times when it should take sides?

The fact that the LGA has been unable to speak out on matters which so affect local councils speaks volumes about the LGA’s lack of impact. 

The key issue is the Local Government Resources Review.  The LGA must develop specific proposals on behalf of local government, concentrating on principles rather than issues which could have a distributional impact. 

Any significant change, such as localising business rates, has the potential to create winners and losers.  The LGA must work constructively with Government to achieve the best deal for its members with the core principles of any new system being fair and transparent.

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