Political leadership: Bolsover District Council

After nearly 50 years of a Labour controlled Authority, in May 2019 the Council were in the situation of no overall control.


Bolsover District Council forms part of a Strategic Alliance with North East Derbyshire District Council sharing senior management and some services.

After nearly 50 years of a Labour controlled Authority, in May 2019 the Council were in the situation of no overall control:

18 Labour members

16 Independent members

3 Conservatives

Action that was taken

Labour Leader and Deputy Leader elected and a Cabinet appointed which includes 5 Labour and 2 Independent members.

Other members form into 4 Scrutiny Groups:

  • Budget
  • Customer Services and Transformation
  • Growth
  • Healthy, Safe, Clean and Green Communities

The Labour Leader at Bolsover, being part of a Strategic Alliance, believes it is extremely important that the 2 Authority Leaders meet regularly (despite not being the same colour). Both Councillor Martin Thacker (Conservative Leader at NEDDC) and BDC’s Leader maintain regular contact to take the Strategic Alliance into the future. This works extremely well and Joint Cabinet meetings are held on a regular basis.  The Leaders take into account all opinions and observations of all members that can be many and various; up to 16 Independent members.

The Leadership quickly assessed the requirements of staff and departments to be able to deliver first class services and opted for an organisational restructure. The Leader’s vision firmly relies on having the capacity (as in staff and other resources) and equipping those staff with the appropriate tools to do their jobs. He wanted to gauge views from staff and quickly developed an “open door policy”. 

The initial change was to appoint a Director of Development to progress the growth agenda.  Also, bringing back in-house a dedicated Communications Team together with a new Section 151 Officer (recently vacated).  All of this forming a sound basis for the Authority to operate more efficiently.

Aiming for a fit for purpose Local Authority the Leader met with Mark Edgell of the LGA and opted to undergo a Peer Review which took place in November 2019.  This enabled an independent “critical friend” visit from senior members and officers from around the country to assess our overall fitness for delivering services. This was to substantiate the Leader’s vision and was reinforced and reaffirmed that we were on the right track. 

Key things covered were service areas where it was felt we needed to assess their ability to function and deliver the best service possible.  Housing and Environmental Services were the focus together with overall Strategic Organisational Governance.

The impact

The LGA Peer Review proved to be a positive one in terms of reassuring the thinking around where the Leadership wanted to focus strategic direction of the Council. The 2 services have proved to need focused attention in respect of capacity of the workforce and generally the need to restructure the organisation as a whole.  There was also clear recognition of excellent partnership working undertaken by the Council due to having an in-house Partnership Team and obvious sound relationships with key statutory sectors.

A recent Council Report has utilised the recommendations from the Peer Review and enabled a restructure which included the dis-establishment of the Joint CEO role and having a “flat” management structure of 3 Strategic Directors with appropriate Heads of Service.

How has the approach worked?

Early days: all signs are that we are working towards operating more as a business. Growth and Investment are key priorities together with Education and Employment of local people to be work ready for our businesses wanting to expand.

We are in the process of meeting with local businesses and have established a “think tank” group of key partners to oversee a Skills Audit for the area (including North East District Council’s area).

The new structure will enhance the offer we provide to all our local residents and ensure the services we provide (both joint and singularly) are purely for their benefit.

Key learnings

Communication is key. Party political colour should not prevent joint working for the benefit of local communities. The “body politic” is essential in today’s society.