The chief executives of the future?

Now in its 10th year, the Local Government Challenge seeks out the best and brightest local government officers to compete in a series of real-life challenges at councils around the country.

In first 635, we introduced the 10 contestants and the first three challenges of 2019. Here, we have an update on the last two challenges and reveal the top four contestants going through to the final at the LGA’s annual conference in July.

Isle of Wight Council hosted the penultimate 2019 challenge, and the first on an island. With demand for holiday and retirement homes rising, the council faces a shortage of affordable homes and increased homelessness. The challenge? Increasing access to temporary accommodation for residents in need and delivering a pathway from homelessness to housing.

Team Thrive’s #daringtocare strategy reframed homelessness as relevant to everyone, with an ‘Opening Doors’ programme to encourage residents to offer space in their primary or second homes in return for annual council tax reductions.

Team Ignite’s ‘Turning Tides’ programme focused on prevention, with a partnership board including people with current or past experience of homelessness, and an app to donate money and match unwanted items to vulnerable people in need.

The results were not unanimous, but it was Thrive’s approach that won them the fourth challenge.

The final challenge was hosted by Luton Council – the only single council to own an airport outright. Through its airport company, the council is investing £225 million in the Luton DART (Direct Air-Rail Transport) which will transfer passengers between Luton Airport Parkway station and the airport terminal in just over three minutes.

The challenge was to devise a marketing campaign using Luton DART to drive the airport’s market share growth within the London and South East aviation system.

Team Ignite’s campaign aimed to change misconceptions of Luton Airport. Their ‘Closer, Easier and More than you think’ strategy was a bold and provocative approach that directly challenged people’s views of proximity, ease of access, comfort and quality with the new reality.

Team Thrive’s ‘Fly Luton’ campaign aimed to make Luton the airport of choice for business and leisure travellers, and to take the strain away from Luton’s roads by encouraging travel to the airport by train.

The judging panel felt the approach of Team Ignite (pictured above) edged them to victory, but elements of both teams’ work could be taken forward by Luton.

After competing in five challenges between January and June, the 10 contestants were whittled down to four finalists – Hollie Stone (London Borough of Barking and Dagenham), Rob Comber (Kent County Council), Sarah Thistlethwaite (Kirklees Council), and Matthew Snelling (London Borough of Merton).

The quartet will attend the LGA’s annual conference in Bournemouth in July to pitch their proposals for the £10,000 Bruce-Lockhart scholarship to conference delegates and a panel of judges from the LGA, Kent and Essex County Councils, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Municipal Journal, and our sponsors, Wates.

The LGA would like to thank Wates; the members and officers at the host councils who helped make the five outstanding challenges a success; and all the contestants for their hard work, enthusiasm and commitment – our four finalists, plus Adam Wassell (Gloucester City Council), Bob Allen (Wigan Council), Celia Prado-Teeling (Cherwell District Council), Emily Kindred (Wigan Council), Katy Smith (Kent County Council), and Susie Grounds (London Borough of Merton).

The results of the 2019 Local Government Challenge will be announced at a reception at the LGA’s annual conference in Bournemouth at 6pm on Wednesday 3 July. See for more about the competition


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