Mr Benn and the rise of the super directorate

By Paul O'Brien | 16 April 2019
  • Paul O'Brien

Readers of The MJ of a certain age will no doubt remember the magical world of Mr Benn; as a spaceman, a zookeeper, a cook or a diver. The adventures were always captivating, and of course he received his souvenir medal once he returned through the changing room at the fancy-dress shop where his adventures began. Now you may of course be wondering what Mr Benn has to do with local government? Well the current crop of chief officers, those who report directly to chief executives, often find themselves in a Mr Benn-like world.

Local government was once a place of Weberian-style municipal discipline; clearly defined roles and with that silo working, along delineated professional functions. Planners did planning. Engineers did highways. Mr Benn would have stayed bedecked in his bowler hat! Today’s local authority chief officers not only look different from that bygone era but are increasingly working under different guises; changing costumes to suit the adventures of the day.

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