Our guest blogger this week is Paul Medd who is Chief Executive at Fenland District Council. Paul, a fellow HR practitioner by trade, talks about how his authority is meeting the considerable challenges facing us all and highlights what he sees as HR’s role in supporting the tranformation process.

‘During the past couple of years much has been written and discussed about the unprecedented financial challenges facing local government. As confirmed by another tough settlement announcement in December it’s a safe bet that austerity and its many determinants will continue to grab the headlines and occupy conversation for a number of years to come.

Having come to terms with the reality it is increasingly clear that the sector has and continues to show a real strength of leadership that will ensure local public service delivery survives and indeed may thrive. Ok there are still significant unresolved conundrums such as the future sustainability of adult social care and an ageing population. However, if the spirit of resilience and innovation that I have witnessed in colleagues can be maintained, all is still alive and kicking albeit bruised.

The reality for Fenland is that following the last CSR we were within the top ten worst affected Council’s in the country. Following a short period of exasperation and head scratching members and officers galvanised under our embedded ‘one-team’ ethos and set about the important task of re-positioning the Council for the future.

A determination to protect both front line services and adequate officer capacity has underpinned our efficiency strategy. No talk of unilateral top sliced budgets across the board here rather an ongoing intelligent dialogue that seeks to effectively manage cost-savings and maximise income opportunities. Modernising staff working arrangements and harnessing technologies across all our services but in particular refuse/cleansing, leisure and customer access whilst presenting certain challenges have yielded considerable savings. A significant amount of our savings have been delivered from improved procurement, management savings and other back office functions.

Fenland is proactively pursuing a ‘go for growth’ agenda as the catalyst for regenerating the district. Good quality new homes conforming to high design standards and effective support to business will help create new jobs and wealth. The incentives provided through New Homes Bonus and Localisation of Business Rates will contribute towards helping the Council remain financially sustainable and able to focus on priorities that will shape the future of service delivery for local people.

Within Cambridgeshire public sector partners have really come together under the Leaders-Chief Officer Group to sweep away bureaucracy and in most cases any sense of preciousness to focus on delivery and resident focussed outcomes.

Partners have now endorsed a data sharing framework that has given officers at all levels the permission to pursue efficient working arrangements for information sharing that will better facilitate improved service delivery and customer service. The principle of pooling of business rates is supported and in the future may retain valuable resource and drive business growth across the County in conjunction with the LEP, albeit there is sense of missed opportunity in relation to the reduced incentives. Partners are making best use of public assets and new customer facing working arrangements that explore exciting public sector job redesign opportunities. This represents a key area that requires effective support from Human Resources if its potential is to be realised.

These are just some of the many areas Fenland and Cambridgeshire are taking forward in response to the current economic challenges.

So whilst the sector continues to take somewhat of a financial beating there is plenty of evidence to show that yet again at a local level the willingness and ability to respond is as strong as ever.

As a fellow HR practitioner by trade I can say with some confidence that these are some of the key issues that HR must align itself to in order to support the further transformation of local Council’s.’

The PPMA is reviewing the way it can help small organisations, like Fenland District Council, address its workforce challenges. If you have any ideas on how we can assist, please leave your comments here.

Paul Medd,

Chief Executive, Fenland District Council