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Myers: 'Parochial' leadership is unforgivable

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Some council chief executives and senior managers are guilty of “parochial leadership” that is “becoming unforgivable”, former tri-borough chief Sir Derek Myers has said.

Speaking at the Solace summit in Liverpool, Sir Derek said he had seen this behaviour during his visits to 15 areas in England as part of his role as co-chair of a panel on service transformation.

“We know that [elected] members have all sorts of reasons why they are parochial – they have a local mandate, they have to stand for election – but that isn’t the case if you’re drawing a salary,” he said.

“I think the professional ethic should draw us into testing against parochialism where it’s not in the interests of local people let alone the wider public.”

During his presentation at the conference, Sir Derek, the former joint chief of Hammersmith & Fulham LBC and Kensington & Chelsea RBC who is leading a review of how councils can transform services to improve outcomes, also said multi-year funding settlements for local government and the NHS were “just not a feasible ask”.

He indicated councils were more likely to get multi-year funding settlements for specific programmes or projects than for their main budget, adding that this would happen if they could make the case that the funding would tackle a particular group of people or need.

The perceived success of the Troubled Families programme meant the government might listen to this argument, he said.

Sir Derek said Whitehall would not “talk about multi-year funding for the whole of the local government settlement or the whole of the NHS settlement”, adding: “It is just not a feasible ask.”

However, he said: “If you can get people talking about multi-year funding for a cohort or for a problem area or for a programme or for an initiative then you have got a much better chance.

“So we think that by finding smart solutions to particular issues which have a high cost nature we might be able to make some better progress.”

He said there was “a lot of belief” in spending on preventative measures as a way to reduce ongoing costs across the sector and added: “So if you think there is more that you can do but it might require more money in the short term, is there a deal to be done?

“I can’t tell you this is agreed yet but I can tell you, because of the magic effect of troubled families, there is more interest than there would’ve been had that not been launched and been seen to be so successful.”

Sir Derek said the LGA had estimated there were about 65 pots of funding for transformation work. However, he added, he was “nervous about suggesting that should be better co-ordinated” because he thought it was “important” for different government departments to encourage pilots to be tested.

Asked whether the panel would make recommendations on income generation and retention, Sir Derek said that was not its purpose. However, he said, ideas about “civic entrepreneurialism”, including local energy generation and asset rationalisation, would “probably be there or thereabouts in our final report”.

Sir Derek said the report, which was commissioned by chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and signed off by communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles, was due to be published in November.

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