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LGC Briefing: Holden and Miller make their cases in first ever Solace hustings

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Commentary on the priorities of the two candidates vying for Solace’s top role

It is surely appropriate that an organisation representing the managerial leaders of the only bodies with a local democratic mandate is itself clearly democratic.

So there is some irony that the holders of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers’ top positions had never previously been determined by an election. Mark Rogers, the current president, ascended to the presidency unopposed.

This year is different. There are two candidates to the Solace presidency in the shape of Doncaster MBC chief executive Jo Miller and her Luton BC counterpart Trevor Holden.

Voting in the contest begins today, with the winner – who holds the role for two years – to be announced at the society’s summit in Gateshead in a fortnight.

LGC sought to assist the 1,000-strong membership of Solace to decide upon their chosen candidate by conducting an ‘online hustings’. We solicited questions from people in the sector and added some of our own.

You can get links to their viewpoints on some of the hardest questions for Solace and local government here.

While the two candidates often have similar analyses of the biggest issues facing the society, there are some marked presentational and policy differences between the two.

There is some agreement between Ms Miller and Mr Holden on Solace not reaching out to enough of local government. The former says it “can sometimes feel like a clique”, while Mr Holden refers to “member engagement” being its “key weakness”.

Ms Miller sums up how she would like Solace’s focus to change simply as: “We can be more out, loud and proud.” She says Solace has a story to tell and “an offer to make in enabling great places and reshaping public services”.

Mr Holden seeks to use Solace to promote greater collaboration, including across councils on procurement and to promote talent, including through better engagement with local government’s National Graduate Development Programme.

Both candidates wrote at length about the relationship they would like Solace to have with the Local Government Association, with the two of them supporting increased collaboration.

Ms Miller, formerly the LGA’s deputy chief executive, wrote: “We have a strong kinship with the LGA, but it’s not our parent, we are not its child and we need to be clear about our independence. Having been deputy CX at the LGA, I know how inordinately difficult it can be at times to get an agreed political position in answer to a burning issue of the day. Solace operates free of that burden and can give an honest, public servant response.”

Mr Holden said the two bodies “should explore a ‘co-located’ conference”. He wrote: “How powerful would it be to bring Solace members, the supply chain and political leadership together to collaborate on some of the key issues facing our sector at a single conference?” Solace should be respected for its “non-partisan, professional and informed view”, he writes.

Both candidate have answered 12 questions to help you make up your mind who to vote for.

Jo Miller, chief executive, Doncaster MBC

Solace role: Deputy policy spokesperson on elections and democratic renewal

Former roles: Legal roles in Merseyside; executive director for corporate resources and service transformation, Knowsley MBC; deputy chief executive, Bradford MBC; deputy chief executive, Local Government Association

Trevor Holden, chief executive Luton BC and London Luton Airport

Solace role: Advisor to the Solace Board

Former roles: 25-year career in RAF, rising to wing commander; director, Erewash BC; chief executive, Breckland DC; shared chief executive Breckland and South Holland DCs.

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