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Downs 'will not restructure' LGA as it decides on future direction

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The new chief executive of the LGA has pledged not to carry out any further reorganisation exercises.

Carolyn Downs, who is due to start in the role on 6 December but has already spent time with association members and staff, said the restructuring and redundancy programme was now complete.

Speaking at the Solace summit in Edinburgh, she said: “This will be the first job in six years that I won’t spend restructuring. The hard work has been done by previous incumbent John Ransford.”

Ms Downs, currently chief executive of the Legal Services Commission and a former chief executive of Shropshire CC, was responding to comments made on her appointment that she had a track record of carrying out radical changes.

The LGA’s future focus is far from set, however, as minutes of a September awayday of the LGA’s leadership board showed.

A wide-ranging discussion on the LGA’s strategic priorities sought to discuss whether the association should be primarily a membership, lobbying or service organisation or a thinktank.

The minutes also raised “the machinery of the organisation” as an area that needed to be looked at, with the relationship between the policy and programme boards with the political group offices and communications teams key.

The awayday minutes mentioned the row over planning as an area where the LGA could have taken a stronger line against the National Trust to put its views across.

The meeting took place less than a week after Ms Downs was appointed and the minutes do not list her as among those attending.

Outlining the future focus of the LGA during her Solace speech, Ms Downs said the sector needed to “take a much more campaigning approach” and not allow central government to dictate the agenda. “We need to be bolder and more confident in asserting our position,” she said.

She also called for closer working between the LGA and Solace, warning that the lack of a unified voice would make it easier for central government to ignore the sector’s message.

Her speech was generally well received. One delegate said: “I was pleased to hear her say she’d be in listening mode. I think she’s going to be very good.”

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