17th June 2014
This blog’s co-author Glen has left local government and taken up a cool job working with a digital company who work alongside local authorities.
Its great opportunity for Glen and the company employing him have got themselves the perfect person to work with their new local government clients. Despite this definitely being a good thing for all involved (Glen, his new employer, local government as a whole) I can’t help but think that this is, in some ways, emblematic of a wider trend in local government where many of the best young people end up leaving.
As @paulhayes01 noted on the twitter:
‘I’m starting to see a pattern here, aren’t I? ;-(‘
He might be right. I know that I am in danger of relying on purely anecdotal evidence but it seems like a lot of the good people working in councils tend to leave. Similarly, many of the best, and most interesting, people I know, or follow, in and around local government don’t actually work for councils.
I should say that I don’t think this is a problem per se. The public sector should not be afraid of the private sector and the more good ideas we have in local government the better; wherever they come from. However, I do worry that many of the people with the best ideas are not remaining in councils and that this might be emblematic of something mildly troubling.
Is there something about local authorities that mean that the best and the brightest don’t want to work for them long term? And if there is can we do anything about it? I have four theories about this:
1) 1) Money
I actually don’t think this is the driving force some of my more cynical colleagues might. Yes, interims are well paid and consultancies the same. Indeed, often these day rates can cause serious gnashing of teeth. However, most of the people I know who have left and are still working alongside the sector have a real public service ethos and are not purely, as far as I can tell, money motivated.
However, there are areas where freelancing or the private sector might more accurately reflect their actual market worth in a way that councils can’t. I don’t think this is easily fixable in a market where local authorities are competing with other industries but local government pay scales do have a tendency to prioritise professional qualifications, line management and structure (senior accountants for example) over innovation and new ideas, many of which add far more value than we are willing to pay for.
2) 2) Freedom
Local government is still, despite some changes, a buttoned down risk averse place.
Staff are constantly restrained from coming up with new, and thus risky, ideas.