Once the votes have been cast and counted, it’s time for the decision making to begin. There are many options for forming an administration when no one party has overall control, but the advice of the chief executives we spoke to can be helpful for a variety of different scenarios including change of control and a change in leadership as the principles are the same.
- Ensure you know and understand the priorities of the new leaders:
Consider ways of helping them to deliver these. Offer to come to a meeting of all members of the group or groups in the new administration. It can be an opportunity to bring them up to speed on the key issues and provide adviceon things like decision making and how they can work effectively as a group.
- Brief staff and partners on the changes: So that they understand the new arrangements and their implications and are reassured that council business continues.
- Contact your Principal Adviser: Get in contact with your Principal Adviser to talk about any support you need and to be put in touch with our peer network of CEXs who have experience of similar situations.
No overall control / Minority administration
- Give it time: Don’t be afraid to step back and give the politicians time to work things out, letting them know you’re there 24/7 to offer advice when needed. Even if you have planned ahead, it can sometimes take time for parties to agree who will run the council and how.
- Support deal making if appropriate between the parties: Chief executives can have a uniquely valuable role in being trusted brokers, but this is a judgement call in each council as to how far you believe councillors will wish you to go. Your reputation for confidentiality and impartiality and sound judgement is of course vital.
- Once the composition of the administration is clear, consider practical matters such as briefings and protocols: Briefings play a key role and the issue of who gets information and when can be a real point of contention in councils new to no overall control. Consider what’s best in your authority and discuss with, and be led by, the political leadership – some chief executives use joint briefings and others brief parties separately. Some councillors find a combination approach works; joint briefings for the bigger issues and the chance for discussion between the leaders before they take it to the council chamber as well as individual briefings to allow politicians to really say what they think without other parties there.
- Consider whether written agreements will be needed to facilitate the new arrangements: In many cases, councils prefer a spoken agreement and feel this offers more flexibility. But in others, written agreements and protocols can be vital.
- Work with the party leaders to agree an external communications protocol: This involves things such as signing off press releases ensuring that communications with residents can continue. Your heads of communications and democratic services should work together on this.
- Ensure your senior team and middle managers understand what the new arrangements mean for decision making and for information provision: Acknowledge that decisions may take longer in a council with no overall control so plan on that basis to avoid surprises.