Leading the Peer Challenge

They say that a change is as good as a rest. I’m not sure, but last week certainly was a change for me, leading the Peer Challenge for Hertfordshire County Council.  There are considerable similarities to ourselves, a large 2-tier authority with a stable political and officer leadership, but there were also differences, not least that they have some of the highest house prices in the country, whereas we have some of the most affordable housing nationally.  That brings advantages for them in terms of council tax income, but challenges for their care market in terms of finding workers.

Having had our own Peer Challenge last month, which you will be aware went well with some very useful advice and suggestions.  It was fascinating to be on the other side of the exercise.  John Wood, their CE is retiring, and has been a very steady hand on the tiller for his 6 years in the role.  He is the originator of the expression, “our job in local government is to do boring well”, and it was clear that his attention to detail and his calm leadership have put Hertfordshire in a good place, and one which the new Leader and CE will be able to develop strongly.  We had some fascinating conversations about getting the balance between “down and in” – running the business – and “up and out” – shaping the place.  Hertfordshire has many similarities with Staffordshire in that respect; we both have some noisy neighbours as one director put it to me, but we are quietly competent.  It is a question of striking that balance, and we should just check that we are getting it right from time to time. 

 

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