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LGC100 - 41-50

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Numbers 41 through 50 of the most influential people in local government in the latest LGC 100

41 - Gary Porter, leader, Conservative group, LGA

Gary Porter

At a time when his party is widely regarded as being run by toffs, the straight-talking and clubbable Gary Porter cuts a refreshing figure.

Many have wondered what goes on in private meetings between the LGA vice-chairman and the council-bashing communities secretary Eric Pickles.

Cllr Porter was certainly an outspoken critic of the government’s policy on councillor pensions, claiming it would create another disincentive to people to enter local politics.

Under LGA Conservative group rules, Cllr Porter’s term of office ends midway through 2015 but many eyes will be on him if the government seeks to blame councils for local ills in the run up to the general election.

42 - David Hodge, leader, Surrey CC and Neil Clarke, leader, Rushcliffe BC

David Hodge

Neil Clarke


Various government pronouncements leave one with the impression that devolution is something that is reserved for cities alone.

This is hardly goes down well in non-urban areas - coincidentally including the Conservatives’ strongest heartlands - which are craving power and whose populations are subject to the same feelings of disempowerment that rose to the fore among the Scots during their independence referendum campaign.

This all places Tories David Hodge, the County Councils Network’s chair, and Neil Clarke, his counterpart at the District Councils Network, in quite an interesting position. They must use all of the force at their disposal in the coming months to make a case for county and district empowerment.

Cllr Hodge, the leader of Surrey CC, has suggested counties could run job centres and NHS back office processes.

At the LGA, Cllr Hodge is deputy chair of the executive board and the leadership board, and chairs its people and places board.

Cllr Clarke is the leader of Rushcliffe BC who has called for greater responsibilities for districts, suggesting that they could have a greater role in delivering universal credit. Cllr Clarke is deputy chairman of the LGA leadership board and vice-chairman of East Midlands Councils.

In among the excitement about devolution deals to major cities, the two men will play an important role in ensuring the devolution debate continues to progress and prevent the sector and Whitehall from resting on its laurels.

44 - Heather Wakefield, head of local government service group, Unison

During a period of extreme pressure on local government staff, Unison has co-ordinated strike action and negotiated pay and pension deals with central government.

Heather Wakefield, in her position as head of the union’s local government services group, has been a vocal defender of council workers facing redundancy, increasing workloads and cuts or freezes in pay.

She has also spoken out on other issues facing local government, strongly criticising suggestions that local government might outsource children’s services. Unison will undoubtedly seek to raise the plight of local government workers as an issue in the run-up to the general election.

45 - Catherine Staite - director, Institute for Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham

Catherine Staite is a thought leader in her position at the Institute for Local Government Studies (InLoGov), which was described by the judges as “the spiritual home for many chief executives”.

This year, Ms Staite co-wrote the authoritative 2020 Vision report, in association with Grant Thornton, which she presented at the Society of Local Government Chief Executives & Senior Managers conference last month.

It predicted more devolution over the next five years and that the majority of economic growth will be derived from the impact of housing, skills, jobs and infrastructure investment on local communities.

46 - Sean Harriss, chief executive, Bolton MBC

Sean Harriss

Sean Harriss has been chief executive of Bolton MBC since 2007. He was previously executive director of strategy and resources at Oldham MBC. The metropolitan council has been seen as a leader in mobile technology and in its environmental services.

The affable Mr Harriss was also a significant behind-the-scenes figure in securing Greater Manchester’s devolution deal, which many will view as a testing ground for cities with greater autonomy.

As well as being well thought of by the sector, Mr Harriss is valued by the public.

He was given an honorary degree in public administration by the University of Bolton for his outstanding contribution to the local community.

47 - Ed Cox, director, Institute for Public Policy Research North


Ed Cox was identified by the judges as a leading analyst in the sector, particularly citing his “influential thinking about devolution”. Formerly a policy advisor at the Department for Communities & Local Government to Hazel Blears under Labour, Mr Cox has produced several papers this year. Never shying away from the hottest topics of the day, he has tackled in his work devolution to cities, economic growth in the north of England, the impact of the Scottish referendum, local authority transformation in an environment of falling funding, and combined authorities.

All of these are significant issues and Mr Cox is set to continue influencing the thinking of leaders within the sector over the next year through his work for the IPPR.

48 - Carl Haggerty, digital communications manager, Devon CC

Carl Haggerty

As digital communications manager, Carl Haggerty is driving Devon CC’s digitisation. He is also the chair of LocalGov Digital, a network for local government digital professionals, which strives to make local government “digital by design”.

In an environment where more and more councils aim to bring about “channel shift” in order to give the public better access to services and cut staffing costs, his work could be significant over the next few years.

One judge said: “Carl is a driving force behind the digital reinvention of local government. He is also an active online social media promoter of local government.”

49 - Sue Higgins, executive leader, local services, National Audit Office

Sue Higgins

Sue Higgins

The National Audit Office is set to take on an even more influential role in local government in 2015, having been involved in a number of recent run-ins with ministers relating to its work on local services.

The NAO last week said that the Department for Communities & Local Government failed to properly understand the impact of cuts on councils or the fall in local government spending power.

It warned that 52% of local authorities were not well-placed to deliver medium-term financial strategies.

The watchdog also became involved in a wrangle with DCLG permanent secretary Sir Bob Kerslake over its report into the better care fund, which Sir Bob said demonstrated a failure to understand localism.

Sir Albert Bore Birmingham

50 - Sir Albert Bore, leader, Birmingham City Council

Sir Albert Bore (Lab) holds what some may regard as an unenviable job of trying to turn around Birmingham, which has long faced performance and financial problems and now faces a Department for Communities & Local Government governance review in the aftermath of Trojan Horse.

But the city has potential and plans for a combined authority featuring it and surrounding authorities have begun to be formed. Cllr Bore now faces the need to hold together the area’s metropolitan council and prove that they will not be subservient to Birmingham in the new set-up. One judge described Cllr Bore as a man who could influence the Labour frontbench.


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