Part 5: What is the relationship between locally elected councillors and the paid officers of the Council?
The role and responsibility of elected members and officers are defined in individual council constitutions, with much of this resulting from specific legislative requirements. Positive collaboration and working relationships between councillors and officers is essential for an effective council and the smooth running of services with effective relationships optimising the performance of the council and critical to the success of a council.
The complexity of some areas of a council’s responsibility such as social care and town planning can mean councillors consideration of the options available to the council in these areas can be dependent upon and even controlled by the knowledge, experience and opinions of its officers.
The culture of any organisation is largely dependent on the most senior individuals within an organisation, with the crucial pairing within a council being the elected mayor/leader and the chief executive. The relationship between these two effectively sets the culture for the whole organisation including that within which councillors and officers interact. Research by Solace has revealed 70% of chief executives say their leaders ask for their advice mostly or always, with 17% believing their relationship with their leaders to be still developing or unsatisfactory.
The traditional role of councillors has arguably been reduced as councils have become more accessible via their web site, electronic medium and contact centres, which now deal with the vast majority of residents contact with the council, with the likes of service requests and complaints procedures perhaps picking up what would previously been casework. The strong political leadership model has also perhaps changed resident’s interaction with more likely to contact the councillors they believe has most power and authority to help them bypassing their local councillors in favour of the elected mayor/leader and cabinet members.
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