Comment: Changes are far from ideal for Capital

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IF new city chief executive Andrew Kerr thought he had his work cut out when he arrived in the Capital this summer, he knows that for sure now.

The former athletics champion finds himself at the helm of an organisation with 20,000 staff at a time of huge change and with no experienced deputies who know their way around. The situation is far from ideal and not one that he would have planned or will welcome.

The coming months are critical ones for the council as it attempts to steer through £70 million of budget cuts while protecting frontline services as well as a redundancy programme affecting 2000 staff and an overdue restructuring of the way it delivers services. It is going to be extremely difficult for the city to maintain its focus on all these fronts amid such significant change in its leadership team.

Although perhaps unavoidable – what can you do when senior staff choose to retire or elect to leave as their departments coming under growing pressure, or when highly-rated officials are enticed to senior positions elsewhere? – it is far from ideal for the Capital. There will inevitably be a settling period in the coming months when new appointments get to grips with their portfolios.

The benefit – as well as the chance to bring in new blood – is that this is an opportunity to force through more radical change more quickly than might otherwise have been possible.

The onus now will fall not just on Mr Kerr but on the elected councillors who will have to play an even greater role than normal in directing the work of these departments. The announcement of a new regional roads department where city council employees will work alongside those in neighbouring authorities is just one example of what is possible. The council is facing huge pressures, but this is a time to be bold and shape a more effective and efficient future for our public services.