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FROM THE TOP - DON'T STOP AT THE TOP

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Moira Gibb on the challenges facing 'excellent' councils ...
Moira Gibb on the challenges facing 'excellent' councils

LGC's recent profile suggested that when my job of chief executive at Camden LBC was advertised last year, there was little enthusiasm for the role (LGC, 2 July).

The article asked who would want to run an already excellent council when there is nowhere to go after achieving top marks?

Well I can assure you it is a great job, with plenty to do despite its 'excellence'.

First, we have to sustain those high-quality services against pressures, such as recruitment and retention and rising expectations. I never underestimate this daily challenge for service heads.

In Camden, the majority of our service users are satisfied with our services, reaching 70% for culture and leisure services.

But residents as a whole are less satisfied, with only 54% rating us highly. We need to better inform residents about what we do. More importantly, we should recognise that their expectations go well beyond service delivery.

To do this, we need to understand our communities much better. Why does a man in Somers Town live on average 14 years less than a man in Hampstead?

Why is the unemployment rate in Kings Cross nearly 10%, yet it is so near to central London?

Why does Camden have the highest suicide rate in England?

To understand how to reduce such inequalities, we need to combine officers' information with councillors' local understanding. That is why I started my time in Camden visiting all of our services and those of our partners, and walking a ward with local councillors every Friday afternoon.

We need to build understanding through knowledge and analyse which programmes and projects make a difference and why. Then we can redesign our services and the way we deliver them.

One example is our Home Connections Services, which has redesigned the way we let social housing. We still have a massive under-supply, but we have made the process more open and maximised the choice for applicants, while reducing costs and the time spent on complaints. We need to apply this thinking to more of our services.

Our job as senior managers is to create the environment and capacity to allow staff to rethink the way they deliver services, while ensuring their achievements are properly recognised - something we don't do well at the moment. This requires more than changing structures and reporting lines; in Camden we are focused on changing processes and behaviours - a more challenging task.

Rethinking the way we behave as individuals, altering the way we work across boundaries and reframing the way we do business requires a confidence in each other and ourselves. I believe we have this in Camden.

Redefining excellence for us means strengthening our role as local government, rather than local administration, with a vision of improvement for our community and place as well as for our organisation.

Moira Gibb

Chief executive, Camden LBC

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