Agenda item

Joint Chief Executive (Agenda Item 6)

The new Joint Chief Executive, Anna Graves, has been invited to update the Commission on her role, aims and aspirations.


Anna Graves, the new Joint Chief Executive, had been invited to address the Commission and to advise them on her role, aims and aspirations.


She started by saying that scrutiny was a really important function of the Council. She had seen many versions of scrutiny at the 11 different Councils at which she had worked.


She explained that as well as being Joint Chief Executive she was also Head of Paid Service and they were two separate roles.  As Chief Executive her role was shaped by the Organisation and the way in which it operated.  She saw her role as providing effective management to enable staff to do their best.  During her first three months she had discovered that communication was an issue; up, down and across the organisation.


The Vision and Priorities of the Council were set by the Members and it was her job to ensure that they were deliverable and that the right resources and skills were available.


As she was not able to be at the Council five days a week in her shared role, she held her Corporate Management Team accountable for ensuring that the Council was legally and financially sound.  She was still working out how to cover everything.  She had found that at Breckland the Members dealt with much of the interaction with the public.  She had to manage Member and staff expectations.


Her style was ‘Driven and Outcomes focussed’ and she was also challenging.  She was busy working out the boundaries and then she would start pushing those boundaries. 


She had found that scrutiny scared a lot of Officers and she wanted to create an environment where Officers felt safe to come to scrutiny.  She was proposing that Breckland and South Holland had a CMT scrutiny contact who would work with the Commission on their work programme and ensure delivery, as well as manage their expectations.


During her first three months she had agreed with both Leaders to focus on the basics.  It was currently impossible for the Shared Management Team to work across both Councils effectively with the existing IT.  There was money available to deliver improvements and that was the first priority.


Next she would focus on the role of CMT.  There would be some realignment of services.  A staff survey would be carried out and work would be done to improve staff feelings about working with the Council.


The third priority was communications – both internal and external and that included Broadband and the A11.  The fourth was Transformation – exploring the relationship with South Holland and Norfolk going forward.


Her final priority was Members.  She was working for the whole Council, not just for the Leader and Cabinet.  There would be some changes.  She was clear about the Council’s entrepreneurial position.


Her aspirations were to make the Council a major player in Norfolk and with partnerships; to re-establish value and ensure recognition for its shared services which were driving quality, resilience and savings.


Councillor Bambridge asked about the Member/Officer Protocol which had been developed by the Member Development Panel.  It was meant to ensure that Members were informed about what was happening in their Ward, but it was not working.  He also asked the Chief Executive not to forget the A47 Alliance.  The A11 was not the only important road in Norfolk.


The Chief Executive confirmed that the Member/Officer protocol would be implemented.  With regard to the A11 and A47 she advised that she had originally been a traffic engineer.  She was well aware of the shocking accident record of the A47 and had arranged a meeting with the Chief Executive of Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Council to discuss that.


The Vice-Chairman asked about community engagement.  He felt that the public, Town and Parish Councillors and other community leaders would not know who the Chief Executive was and he asked how that could be improved.


The Chief Executive explained that she could spend a lot of time out in the Community but that could create a tension about who was leading the Council – it should be Members.  She had picked some things to be involved in and would engage where she felt she could add value and get an outcome from her intervention.  She was aware of tensions between the Town and Parish Councils and the District.  It was important to build strong relationships and Officers could take on some of those responsibilities.


Councillor Kybird asked if there were any elements of European Funding that the Council was failing to address and the Chief Executive said she was all for funding to deliver Members’ priorities, but it had to be clear what benefits the Council would get, especially if they were the lead authority in the funding bid.


The Chairman asked what the Chief Executive considered to be the major challenges in the years ahead and she responded saying money and Unitaries.  She also felt that it was critical to re-engage with 20-30 year olds.  They wanted an immediate response to their problems.  They used their phones for everything and they used social media to complain about things.  The Council would have to change its attitudes to respond to that.


Councillor Richmond asked about the housing shortfall and wondered how it could be addressed.


The Chief Executive said that housing was a difficult issue for all Councils.  They had to think of innovative ways to initiate house building.  South Holland had created a housing company.  One of the benefits of a Shared Management Team was getting ideas from other Councils.


Councillor Bambridge asked how the Chief Executive was settling in to doing two jobs at two different Councils and she agreed that it was not the same as being Chief Executive of one Council.  She belonged to a group of shared Chief Executives and they communicated with each other about their problems.  She was trying to find a balance.  She knew a lot of the partners in Norfolk, but she knew no-one in Lincolnshire.


Councillor Joel thought it would be great if the Council could control its own destiny.  They had talked about having their own housing stock but that had not happened.


The Chief Executive said that she had not had the chance to meet with Flagship Housing yet but she was aware it was a big issue and she would be working with the Cabinet to address it.


On behalf of the Executive Member for Housing, Councillor Turner advised that they were looking at all sorts of options and the new Director was leading on the housing front.


The Executive Member for Finance & Democratic Services noted that one of the challenges of responding quickly to change was the need to observe the democratic process.


The Chief Executive advised that some Councils had changed their Constitutions to become more fleet of foot.  It was up to Members to determine how much they were willing to delegate to speed up the process. 

The Executive Member responded that that was a timely comment as there had been extended debate about the Committee Structure as part of the Review of the Constitution.  She felt that the Constitution should be a live document constantly under review to allow for quick changes.


Councillor Gilbert asked how Council meetings could be made more relevant and the Chief Executive suggested that it should be opened up to allow questions from Members and the public, although that could be uncomfortable for Councillors.


Councillor Jolly pointed out that that was a proposal in the Constitution Review.


The Chairman asked for a list of the Council’s statutory duties as he felt it was important for Members to know which services were statutory so that they could then work out the priorities for discretionary services.

The Chief Executive said she would provide a list, but explained that there could be a huge variation on the level of delivery of those services.  She confirmed that she had not identified any statutory duty that the Council was not doing.


The Chairman thanked the Chief Executive for her presentation and asked which member of CMT would be the Scrutiny liaison.  The Chief Executive advised that she had not decided yet, she also cautioned that things would not happen overnight, they would take time.