Political leadership: Mole Valley District Council

Actions taken by Mole Valley District Council after changes to their administration following two elections.

Context / setting the scene:

  • May 2018 elections – there was a change from a small Conservative majority administration to a Conservative led joint administration with the Independents.
  • May 2019 elections – there was a change from a joint Conservative / Independent administration to majority Liberal Democrat administration. It was known in an advance that the former Leader was standing down and there would be a new leader. 

Actions taken:

  • Read through manifestos to pick out key themes.
  • Identified what key topics the new administration would need to be briefed on and handled sensitively and urgently e.g. Local Plan.
  • Booked in briefings in advance so key staff were available.
  • Pulled out key points for new portfolio holders – what do they need to know immediately? We can’t expect them to be experts from day one. 
  • Arranged external peer support from the outset – gives the leader someone other than the CEX to talk through issues with.
  • Organised early briefings for staff by the new leader on the potential changes and any impact – providing reassurance especially if there is a change in policy direction. 

The impact:

  • The new administration was able to make considered but quick decisions on key issues – e.g. deciding to reflect and pause on the Local Plan and then issuing a new timetable.
  • There was a smooth transition for staff.
  • Clear communications from the administration to their communities on key issues..
  • Processes were not changed immediately but instead have evolved more over time – changed by evolution.

Key learnings and tips:

  • Always maintain good relationships with members from all parties and support all members as they settle into their new role.
  • When working with a joint administration, support / facilitate member – member relationships and good communication between the groups.
  • Remember that you are not alone – there will be good days and bad days.
  • Focus on what is the most important and do that first.  Creating change takes time. 
  • Support administration to be clear on big issues and communicate their position.