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It's time to debate where power and influence lie

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A preview of our forthcoming powerlist, the LGC100.

This is the last LGC Briefing of 2017. It presents an apt opportunity to wish our readers a happy Christmas and a fulfilling 2018. 

Christmas is a time to give thanks for those who contribute so much to our lives and to our communities. Local government officers at all levels, many of whom are on call this Christmas, do so much to bring about harmony and prosperity to towns, cities and counties. They do so much to support the most vulnerable members of society.

LGC will examine the achievements of our highest profile public servants in January when we unveil the latest instalment of the LGC100, our powerlist identifying the most powerful and influential people in and around local government.

The powerlist, brought to you in association with BT and Sky AdSmart, may well cause some controversy; there will be surprises; not everyone will be happy.

A single powerlist based on the views of a single set of judges can only ever represent one group of people’s view of the identity of the sector’s biggest movers and shakers. It is inevitably subjective. However, it serves a clear purpose.

The LGC100 exists to spark debate. We want to facilitate a debate about where power lies and whether it should lie elsewhere.

If there are too few elected representatives, does that indicate something is amiss with local democracy? If there are too many national politicians or civil servants, does that indicate that despite some devolution in recent times, our politics are still excessively centralised? And what about the regional representation – are some regions being left behind either by them being disproportionately affected by funding cuts or being largely untouched by devolution?

Then, of course, there is the representation of chief executives and senior officers on the list. What will this show about the extent to which their expertise and undoubted leadership skills are rated and making an influence? And what about the proportion of places on our list held by women and people of BAME backgrounds? While a string of the most high profile jobs have this year gone to female candidates – most latterly Dawn Baxendale’s appointment at the helm of Birmingham City Council – local government’s upper echelons are not nearly as diverse as the communities it represents.

Many figures in and around the sector were nominated by readers for inclusion in the LGC100; others were nominated by judges or LGC’s editorial team. Judges were tasked with examining the strength of nominees’ leadership; the scope breadth and depth of their influence; the crude power they exert; and the extent to which other areas and individuals are picking up on the nominee’s work.

Importantly, judges were told to take decisions based on where they believe power actually lies in local government, rather than where they believe it should lie.

So, when LGC delivers its verdict on where power and influence sit, let us debate whether power and influence should actually be held elsewhere. And if we are unhappy with the current situation, let us consider how we change it.

As Brexit looms – partially as a result of the level of discontent with existing power structures and lack of representation – now is the time to examine how to build a fairer country in which opportunity is shared more equally.

It is only by ensuring that those with the greatest leadership skills are able to exert the greatest influence that we will bring about a fairer and more dynamic society.

Nick Golding, editor, LGC

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