The modernisation of St Helens Council will involve some “big culture changes”, the leader of the council has said.
The modernisation programme – dubbed ‘One Council’ – was first unveiled in July, with cabinet approving a series of recommendations to set the plans in motion.
The project was developed by Keith Ireland, who joined the council in April as an interim assistant chief executive following recommendations from the Local Government Association (LGA).
However, last week the council announced it had parted ways with Mr Ireland, a former chief executive of Lincolnshire County Council, just days after it revealed its own chief executive Mike Palin was also due to depart.
Mr Ireland had been expected to attend the council’s overview and scrutiny commission to face questions from elected members this week, but council leader David Baines came in his place following Mr Ireland’s departure.
Coun Baines told councillors the authority remains “fully committed” to the One Council agenda and modernisation programme.
He said Caroline Barlow, deputy director of finance and HR, has been appointed as the interim programme director for One Council until permanent appointments to senior management are made later in the year or in early 2020.
“The implementation of this is a fluid process,” Coun Baines said.
“So, this is a process, a piece of work which will encompass pretty much everything that we do as a council.
“It will involve some big culture changes, I think it’s fair to say.
“It will involve some extra capacity of people and in the people that we have got and the people we take on, a bit of a new way of doing things as well.”
The Labour leader said the One Council project is an “exciting opportunity” but stressed that additional resources will be needed to help with its implementation.
Coun Baines said: “While funding and investment in back-office services may not be what the public want primarily, if we don’t invest in those back-office functions we cannot deliver the things that are front-facing that the public see and the public want us to do.
“We need that investment in the back-office stuff.”
One Council is split into eight strands: one resident, one message, one budget, one digital, one space, one practice, one people and one outcome.
The modernisation programme has been developed in response to the findings of two reviews carried out by the LGA earlier this year.
The plans were welcomed by former council leader Derek Long, who said it is “essential” the council moves forward with them.
Coun Long said: “It’s essential that we are able to adapt our organisation to deal with real life problems as they unfold very, very rapidly.
“And goodness knows they are unfolding very rapidly for local authorities at the moment.
“I endorse the leader’s approach. If I take a slight disagreement with him over apologising about back-office.
“I think it’s a false distinction which we’re all being forced to adopt over many years by organisations who are unfavourable to public services.
“People don’t ask about spending money on air traffic control because they aren’t flying the planes.
“I think this is pretty central to what we’re trying to do, is that we modernise and revise what we’re doing so that we can deliver services better.
“I think we need not be modest about this. These are the right changes we need to do to give the right services for our residents.
“So, I wholeheartedly endorse it.”
Councillors agreed to make the implementation of the One Council agenda a standard item on the overview and scrutiny commission’s agenda, due to the magnitude of the project.