I'm a firm believer in the old adage "that the greatest asset a business or organisation can have, is its staff". Unfortunately, I think we've heard it said so many times before, that it has become more of a ho-hum cliche than a statement of fact, but nevertheless, it is true.
Employers know that regardless of whether you employ one or 100 people, good employees are an absolutely crucial part of your operational activities. A good energetic, reliable, responsible employee who takes pride in their work will make their employer's life so much easier, but in contrast, an employee whose performance is poor will sentence an employer to a lifetime of fixing up mistakes and making excuses and apologies on their behalf. Placing a high value on good staff is a no brainer and the dividends and outcomes are well worth the investment.
The Stratford District Council has just gone through the recruitment process for the chief executive's role. There were 19 applicants including the incumbent chief executive Sven Hanne. I am delighted to say that Sven was the most suitable applicant and he has been reappointed to the role for another five-year term.
I sense that right now as a reader, you are wondering why go through a full recruitment process and what was the point of the exercise? The answer lies within the Local Government Act which stipulates that a council must have a chief executive at all times and that the chief executive will be appointed for a period of no more than five years, after which the position must be re-advertised. Although there is a provision, that upon mutual agreement between the parties, this can be stretched to seven years maximum.
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In any commercial organisation, the chief executive has a vital role in taking that organisation forward and the success of that organisation is heavily dependent on the ability, competence and vision of that person. Within a council environment that is also true but there are a number of quirks attached to the role that adds to the responsibility of the chief executive. These are set out in the Local Government Act where the chief executive is named as the person responsible for key tasks such as those associated with civil defence, local authority elections, reporting requirements, compliance and much, much more. While there is the ability to delegate some operational matters, at the end of the day the buck stops with the chief executive. That is why the person is so vital to the organisation as they guide and advise elected members on nearly every decision made.
The working relationship between the chief executive, the mayor and the elected members is the key to the smooth running of the organisation. This relationship is often best defined by our understanding of the difference between governance and management matters; it is the political equivalent of sticking to your swim lane. Don't swim outside your lane and there will be no problems. In organisations where this is understood and practised, I think it's often taken for granted because few hassles arise, but when it breaks down and the lines are blurred it becomes very obvious, very quickly and usually results in very poor outcomes.
The Stratford District Council is privileged to have an experienced, capable chief executive who leads a team of staff who are genuinely committed to the wellbeing of this community. Collectively they have managed to provide all essential services throughout these last two Covid years with minimal disruption to the public. This has been achieved within the stressful confines of working in two separate teams at council and a mixture of working from home combined with a seemingly endless series of Zoom meetings. Caring for themselves and their families adds to the stress. No doubt we will relish the day when we return to a normal work environment.
Disclaimer: The Stratford Press editor is married to the chief executive of Stratford District Council. She played no part in the editing of this opinion column.