As with all councils, financial challenges mean Solihull MBC faces questions about the level, types and quality of services it can continue to deliver. None of us want to resolve this by ‘salami slicing’ but it can be hard to avoid at times of pressure.
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If we are to sensibly prioritise and make best use of the resources we have - human as much as financial - then we need a clear focus. This means thinking afresh about the purpose of our council; what are we really here for, what do the communities of the borough really want and need?
We know that making sensible decisions now requires a clear view of what we are trying to achieve in the future. Is it simply about being as creative as we can be about rolling forward a good basic set of services against a diminishing revenue base, or should our purpose be informed by a different and more insightful set of guiding principles? Money certainly talks, but people’s lives, we think, should speak louder.
The Transcend programme is valuable in helping address this challenge. I am working with a small group of executive level officers on the programme to work this through. They come from a variety of West Midlands authorities and they bring with them a corresponding variety of experience and perspectives. Together we are challenging present assumptions.
At the same time they too are being challenged. This is an opportunity for group members to take time away from the pressures of the day job and think really strategically about why we do what we do in our councils. Time for such thought is rare in today’s pressured environment yet it is invaluable for us as leaders if we are to offer a clear sense of purpose and direction to our employees.
For me, Transcend is a crucial piece in the puzzle for West Midlands councils. Focusing on the driver of purpose and thinking about lives before services, as opposed to the more obvious and understandable starting points of funding, demand management etc, should mean the thinking we do together, unlike council budgets, will have longevity.
Developing a cadre of senior leaders who are networked, forward-thinking and exposed to a variety of thought and technique is a critical element of our route ahead.
Mark Rogers, chief executive, Solihull MBC