The LGA-run Local Government Challenge has again required ambitious council officers to don their thinking caps as they face a series of tough local government challenges designed to develop their leadership skills.
Ten contestants are part-way through the Apprentice-style competition in which they undertake real-life tasks at councils.
With a £10,000 Bruce-Lockhart Scholarship up for grabs, to implement a project that really makes a difference to local government and communities, the contestants have got their ‘game faces’ on as they bid to come out on top.
The tenth LG Challenge kicked off on a frosty January morning with a task hosted by Cherwell District Council to determine how public services can work together more effectively to deliver healthy places across Oxfordshire.
The contestants were split into two teams and had just 24 hours to develop an action plan to identify how Oxfordshire could ensure buy-in from different stakeholder groups to deliver healthy places and how they would need to work differently with their partners to deliver it.
After a whirlwind speed-dating style Q&A session with delegates from across the sector, afternoon site visits and a networking dinner, there were more location visits the following day and idea testing with the Oxfordshire Strategic Delivery Board. The teams then submitted their documents to the judges.
Both teams impressed, but Team Ignite’s idea to strengthen community activation through the use of ‘Change Makers’ – people already active in the community who would use their local knowledge to involve the community and engage with ‘hard to reach’ residents, in return for access to accreditations and training opportunities – just pipped Team Thrive to become the winners of the first challenge of 2019.
For the second challenge, the contestants travelled to Wiltshire Council, where they were tasked with putting forward bid proposals for the Future High Street Fund, to boost the appeal of Salisbury in the wake of the recent Novichok attacks.
The contestants have recently completed their third challenge at Breckland Council, in Norfolk. They assumed total responsibility for the strategic management of a fictitious council in a real-time scenario, during which they dealt with the ‘media’ and edited a residents’ magazine before making a presentation to judges.
With two challenges remaining, the contestants will have the opportunity to add to their cumulative scores from which, at the close of the fifth challenge, four finalists will be chosen to attend the LGA’s annual conference in Bournemouth (2-4 July). There, they will pitch their personal projects to delegates and a panel of judges before the winner is announced.
My LG Challenge
Hannah Lucey, from Kent County Council, was an LG Challenge finalist in 2018
The first challenge was at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the nine other contestants were lovely. We undertook research, community engagement and market testing before pulling together a proposal and a supporting presentation to the council leader, cabinet members and senior officers.
Over the next few months, the group visited Staffordshire County Council, Wiltshire Council, Kirklees Council and Cumbria County Council. It was a great experience to visit other councils, hear about how they work, find out more about the issues they face, and work together to come up with an innovative solution in 24 hours.
The challenges included everything from ideas to enable disabled people to find and keep employment to developing a face-to-face customer service offer with a ‘digital first’ approach. A few of the ideas are being taken forward, so it is great knowing that what we proposed will have a life beyond the challenge.
After five challenges, and a tense tie-breaker, I was selected to take part in the final, alongside three others – and I chose to pitch a project encouraging the under-25s to take part in local government decision-making. The finalists had a stand at the LGA Conference in July, when we tested our ideas with delegates.
Each finalist presented their idea to a panel of judges, which included Cllr Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council. Kartar Singh, from Wiltshire Council, was named the winner for his proposal for development of road maintenance with plastic waste. Although I didn’t win, I was very proud of what I had achieved, and we had a fabulous time celebrating.
The whole experience was an extremely exciting and unique learning and development opportunity that I am sure will never be matched again in my career. I would highly recommend anyone in local government to take part, either as a contestant or a host authority.
As a result of the challenge, I was asked by Cllr Paul Carter to join his team on secondment. This is now my permanent role and, without doubt, I would not have had this opportunity without the LG Challenge.
Meet the 2019 contestants
“My role is diverse and engaging, bringing up new challenges every day, and I have learnt much from having to think on my feet and be flexible with what is asked of me.”
Adam Wassell, Senior Economic and Regeneration Officer,
Gloucester City Council
“As a born and bred Wiganer, the opportunity to showcase my home town to a national audience was a great motivation to apply as well as the chance to share the innovative work that my colleagues and I undertake on a daily basis.”
Bob Allen, Drugs and Alcohol Project and Operations Manager,
“I’m looking to gain valuable insight into other local authorities’ practices, what we do differently, and experience new and creative solutions around the challenges we are all currently facing.”
Celeia Prado-Teeling, Insight Analyst,
Cherwell and South Northamptonshire District Councils
“Everyone can be guilty of losing their direction and it’s the push of challenges such as this one that reignites the flame and inspires spectacular innovation. I want to serve the residents of Wigan in a way that is caring, imaginative and person-led, and I believe this to be my fuel to apply for the LG Challenge.”
Emily Kindred, Programme Support Officer,
“My role is to design, procure, monitor and evaluate the delivery of public health services, ensuring they meet the needs of local children and young people. The role is challenging, with less funding available for services, a growing young population and greater levels of need than ever before.”
Hollie Stone, Commissioning Manager,
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
“I want to grow personally and professionally, and to learn new skills that I will benefit from in my future career. I want to grow my confidence, push myself outside of my comfort zone and support others that may face the same challenge.”
Katy Smith, Senior HR Business Adviser,
Kent County Council
“I am massively passionate about the positive and vital role local government plays in enabling communities to thrive. This is a fantastic opportunity to challenge myself, personally and professionally, and develop skills that I can then use to support residents and their communities.”
Matthew Snelling, Policy, Strategy and Partnerships Officer,
London Borough of Merton
“My current role focuses on delivering service transformation to improve experiences and outcomes for children and their families. I am excited to be part of the challenge.”
Rob Comber, Service Development Manager,
Kent County Council
“I currently work within the Transformation Team, working on large projects across our organisation. My passion lies within culture change and redesigning current systems and structures. I am also a keen advocate for young people across Kirklees, and have run successful conferences and new development opportunities.”
Sarah Thistlethwaite, Project Officer,
“I provide guidance, support and assurance for the delivery of Merton’s transformational projects and other continuous improvement activities, producing monthly project reports to the board. I am very excited to be a part of this and am looking forward to the challenge.”
Susie Grounds, Corporate Programmes Officer,
London Borough of Merton