144 -The local government coracle.

Posted by Whistler                                                                          200 words

coracle paddling

I read Colin Weatherby’s post on what he would do as the CEO in response to Lancing Farrell’s question with some delight. I too have often made the connection between local government and boats, but in a different way.

Celtic monks gained a certain amount of fame for setting off in coracles to see where God, by way of currents, led them. Some of them set off without even an oar. Monks are famous for this kind of faith and their willingness to take risks.

Despite the propensity of coracle sailors to take risks, it somehow seems an apt craft for local government. The idea that many councils are like little round boats that go where wind and tide takes them is fitting. Having no front or back, it doesn’t matter which direction they go in. Having no method of propulsion leaves them at the mercy of external forces. Even a skilled navigator would struggle to take one in the direction they wanted to go.

I am not suggesting that every council is a coracle or that CEO’s and senior management must sit idle while the organisation goes in whatever direction greater forces take it. But sometimes it feels like it.

139 – A question. If I was the CEO what would I do? Answer: Nothing.

Posted by Whistler                                                                          230 words

heart rate

This is my response to the question posed by Lancing Farrell.  I think the CEO has found local government the way we like it. I am not sure what their problem is. A strong and autocratic style from the CEO reassures us that there is someone at the top calling the shots and keeping the councillors in line. With no one prepared to make difficult decisions it keeps things stable and predictable. This suits the low level of organisational achievement and absence of time consciousness. What more could you ask for?

With people running the place who have been rewarded for their allegiances and length of service, this would be a predictable and easily understood workplace. Recruitment would be straightforward and safe. Anyone with experience in the sector would easily fit in and, so long as they got along with those in charge, could be quite successful.

Why the need for change? After all, why change something when you don’t have a clear idea of what you could or should change it to? Maintaining the status quo is a time honoured way to manage, especially in the face of uncertainty. Doing nothing could be the best thing to do and it is the lowest risk for those in charge.

Fear of change has been a hallmark of local government and an approach that has served it well. It has kept everything in its place. Consistency is important in service delivery and local government has been extremely consistent over many years. Everyone knows what to expect.

135 – A question: What would you do if you were the CEO?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         180 words


A colleague working at a council with a new CEO sent me a list of the organisation’s woes as identified by that CEO with their summary of the situation. It started me thinking, ‘what would I do if I was the CEO?’

Here is the list:

  • Strong autocratic and bureaucratic style on the part of the previous CEO.
  • People fearful to make decisions and comfortable not making them.
  • Strong avoidance of accountability.
  • A very conventional approach – ‘we have always done it like this’.
  • Low level of achievement – ‘if we don’t get it done today, there is always tomorrow’.
  • A low level of self actualisation and self worth.
  • Younger staff desperate for change.
  • Older staff scared of change.
  • A number of senior staff complacent in believing that all is perfect.

All of this led to a realisation that as a council with a demanding community and limited resources, the current culture would not support the future.

What would you do?

Please comment below or send your response to localgovernmentutopia@gmail.com

104 – Question: Are we all really that ‘special and different?’

running shoes

Editors note: This is a new type of post requesting responses from each of the regular writers and any interested readers to answering a question of relevance to the sector? It has been motivated by the realization that ‘through questions, knowledge becomes learning’.

So, the first question is:

Why do you think that councils tend to behave as though they are special and different, rather than choosing to see themselves as being similar or the same?’ 


  • Councils regularly advertise jobs for the same role but with many different titles.
  • Attempts to get councils to share services across municipal boundaries have regularly failed.
  • Efforts to get councils to adopt standard systems (e.g. finance) have been unsuccessful.

Post your answer as a comment.