LGC gets an insight into the working week of Lee Tillman, assistant director strategy and performance at Doncaster MBC
Head of skills, enterprise and policy
Head of service improvement and policy (regeneration)
Head of strategy and programmes
Head of economic and planning policy
(all with Doncaster MBC)
One of the things I like about my job is no two weeks are ever the same, there are so many different things I’m involved in. My team is intended to be a flexible resource for the organisation to work on things as and when required. We have programme management capacity and we pull together all the organisation’s data and intelligence.
Currently we are doing a lot of work around education and skills: we’re part of the team bringing a university technical college to Doncaster and we’re just about to open a new school helping people who have been excluded from mainstream education which we’re funding through a social impact bond. We are also doing work on housing need around the borough and on our ‘year of culture’ which is planned for 2020. We do a lot of work on the Team Doncaster partnership and on the One Yorkshire devolution plans. I’m from Doncaster – I started out in the finance department 23 years ago – and it’s a privilege to work in your home town, in a place where there’s so much going on.
Keeping calm about Brexit
We are trying to take a proportionate approach to Brexit. We have done some assessment of where we think our major risks might be economically and socially. We are not trying to create new partnerships or structures but use existing mechanisms for emergency planning and civil resilience. For example, working with Doncaster Chamber of commerce to help local businesses be as prepared as possible and making sure the technical notices from government are communicated as clearly as possible. We’re also looking at impact on health and adult social care workforce; there’s a worry that as the labour pool gets tighter we’ll be forced to pay more.
We finalised our corporate plan this week, which is aligned to the budget-setting process. In 2019-20, we are using as much one-off money as we can to set a balanced budget but in 2020 we don’t know what will happen to central government funding. The lack of the adult social care green paper is not really helping things. That’s the real impact that the Brexit paralysis causes for us at a local level and it’s one of the causes of our budget shortfall. Our CFO described it as using ‘sticking plasters’ and we can’t use them forever. The spending review and social care green paper will be fundamental to future sustainability.
The ambition is so strong to keep to the Doncaster Growing Together plan, despite the challenging budget. [Doncaster chief executive Jo Miller and elected mayor Ros Jones (Lab)] are really clear that we’ll keep focused on that place-shaping ambition and won’t just retreat into statutory services.
We are in the process of reinvigorating our fairness and inclusion forum. We use it as a sounding board to hear from different communities which informs our priorities. The previous chair moved to another part of the country so we have been taking soundings from community members about who might be good replacements and I think we have some really good local leaders who could play an active role in the forum. I met one last week she’s a businessperson and not from Doncaster or even the UK but she’s settled here and runs a local church. She’s started a new community group and has mobilised lots of volunteers around it, she’s a real inspiration.
One of the most challenging things at the moment is resource management of my team. Where we have got skills gaps, how can we balance the need to bring extra capacity in with the uncertainty about what the budget’s going to be like from 2020 onwards? The uncertainty means we can’t give too much commitment in terms of how long term our posts are going to be for. We have had a couple of recent examples where we have not been able to get people because of that. Whilst Doncaster is an up and coming place it can sometimes be hard to get people to come for jobs at a lower level.
On Friday we had a team away day where all of my team came together to look at what our service line priorities are for the next year and talk about the organisational and national context. There were about 55 people there and it was a really good day. You’re never quite sure how they’re going to go – it’s a long time to have people in the same room – but there was lots of enthusiasm, even though I wasn’t holding back on the details [of how challenging the council’s situation is]. It was held at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park we still got to see the lions and other animals even though it was cold and snowing!
As told to Sarah Calkin