News and Comment

True strength can come from within

Friday 5 October 2012

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Councils are sometimes in danger of forgetting that their own councillors are a resource too. In the most successful cases, backbenchers can provide much-needed community leadership capacity.

But unlocking the capacity of elected members means councillors themselves – in particular frontline members – moving away from their traditional role.

When working with senior managers in local authorities around the country, I often hear chief execs – and indeed leaders too – saying that one of the problems they face is having too many backbench councillors. What’s their useful role in an executive model, senior teams would ask?

This always struck me as rather odd. Surely in the age of localism and fiercely constrained resources we need every ounce of capacity we have in order to engage communities more closely. And councillors represent capacity.

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