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Officers largely indifferent to work of Solace

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Council chief executives and senior officers are largely indifferent to the work of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers.

The finding from LGC’s Confidence Survey comes as Jo Miller president of Solace, has vowed to “change both perception and reality” around the idea the organisation is a “private chief executive club”.

Solace, which holds its annual summit in Manchester next week, bills itself as “the representative body for senior strategic managers working in the public sector”. It seeks to influence policy and legislation, while also helping to develop members’ personal and professional skills.

Of the 55 chief executives, directors, senior managers, and managers who responded to a questio about Solace’s performance in LGC’s survey last month, 42% said the organisation was doing a good job at representing the sector. Just 9% thought it was doing a bad job while the remaining 49% were indifferent.

In relation to representing their roles, a quarter (25%) thought Solace was doing a good job, 18% thought it was doing a bad job, while the majority (57%) said the organisation was neither doing well or bad.

Earlier this year, Solace’s past president Mark Rogers said it was “not just councils that have to reinvent themselves” but organisations, including Solace and the LGA, too.

“This is one of those existential moments in which they need to work out their future relevance, their unique selling points and where they want to sit in the pecking order of credibility, recognition and influence, in terms of the sector itself and central government,” the former Birmingham City Council chief executive wrote in April.

Around the same time Leicestershire CC chief executive John Sinnott accused Solace of speaking “too much to itself rather than pursuing external influence”.

Writing for LGC this week, Ms Miller accepted Solace can feel “exclusive, detached and difficult to penetrate”.

“At Solace we all recognise this and despite efforts over recent years, Solace can still be perceived as a private chief executive club. We want to change both perception and reality,” she said.

This is to be done through putting training and development “at the heart of the organisation’s mission” and boosting Solace’s “inadequate” online presence, said Ms Miller.

Meanwhile, the LGA’s future direction became the key issue during the Conservative group leader election campaign, eventually won by David Simmonds.

Of those who took part in LGC’s survey, 56% said the LGA, billed as “the national voice of local government”, was doing well at representing the sector. Just 12% thought it was doing a bad job, while the remaining 32% were indifferent.

The LGA counts helping to secure an extra £2bn funding for adults social care services in the spring Budget as amongst its major recent achievements. In a statement chief executive Mark Lloyd said “all feedback from colleagues is helpful”. 

“Our own, most recent large-scale independent survey of councils saw that overall, 72% of our members are satisfied with the way we represent them. In addition to our well-established campaigns and improvement work, we respond every day to councils’ immediate concerns.”

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