Developing local politicians, not elected officers

By Colin Copus | 11 March 2020

Often whispered by senior councillors and officers is the phrase ‘what are we going to do with all these new members?’ The answer applies to all councillors: provide high quality development opportunities. Austerity has meant that soft-target budgets, such as member development, were the first to suffer. While some praiseworthy councils continued to sustain a well-funded member development budget, others succumbed to the temptation to slash and burn. But three important questions hang over the issue of member development – how do we enhance the skills of our councillors? What perspective do we take? And who should benefit from the process?

The answers are not as easily separated as the questions and should be driven by a clear focus, that we are developing the skills of elected politicians, not elected officers. A temptation is to ask what officers want councillors to know and how to provide councillors with a managerial approach towards council business. But the focus must be on the needs of councillors as representatives and politicians engaged in a complex process of governing a locality.

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