At a time of unprecedented spending constraint, local government’s focus is undoubtedly on the here and now. Our senior officers, who have so many ideas on how to bring prosperity and vitality to their areas, are forced to spend much time managing cuts and minimising their impact.
More from: Equipping the chiefs of tomorrow
But it cannot always be so. As Solihull MBC’s Mark Rogers writes overleaf, our chief executives need to be more than mere salami slicers. We need the next generation of chiefs to be free-thinking individuals who are moulded not just by austerity but are set free to respond to future challenges.
This is why the approach of the Transcend programme, described on these pages, is so welcome. Chiefs need time and space to think about the challenges they and their successors face. In these conditions there is much to be positive about regarding the future role of councils.
This notion of ‘the new commons’ - services which are most sensibly provided at scale is one that is likely to keep re-emerging. While some services contract, the case for councils sometimes taking a lead in, for example procuring high speed internet or energy is strong.
Likewise, there is scope for councils to devise pioneering arrangements to emphasise the importance of empowering communities. And there is also scope for them to serve as a conduit through which social capital - the power of local relationships to achieve vital outcomes - can be harnessed.
Such ideas will be of growing influence. Their development will ensure the gloom of today does not impinge on the creativity required for tomorrow.
Nick Golding, acting editor