Longer term guidance for political leaders

This guidance covers the long-term areas to consider post-election for political leaders

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Once the new political arrangements are consolidated, there are a few final tips to consider as you settle into your new role.

  • Consider whether a written agreement is needed to facilitate the new arrangements: in many cases a spoken agreement may be preferred, and this can offer flexibility, but written agreements and protocols can be helpful for members, officers and the public.
  • Get up to speed: a new council leader faces a steep learning curve. Arrange briefings with the chief officers so that you can begin to get up to speed with the key issues. Your relationship with the chief executive will be very important in helping the new arrangements to settle in.
  • Be patient: it could take a couple of weeks to get everyone on board and understanding the new political structure. There are likely to be disagreements over who gets what role and even what the new administration’s priorities should be. In a joint administration it will be up to you to make sure that all the parties are reasonably happy with the final decision.
  • Be clear about the ownership of issues and projects: for example, whether something is an officer or a member issue; you may want to provide opportunities for opposition parties to get involved or take a lead on projects or committees.
  • Keep talking to everyone: it is easy to leave someone out of the loop. Maintain good relationships with the other group leaders, your cabinet or executive members, the chief executive and other senior officers.
  • Accept that things will not always work out: there may be an element of trial and error in setting up systems and processes that ensure everything runs smoothly. If something is not working, do not be afraid to try another approach.
  • Constructive dialogue is crucial: as leader, you will need the support, or at the very least, the advice of others. Be open and inclusive and seek to reach a consensus but be strong and decisive where necessary.
  • Take the lead: as leader, your first priorities will be to hold the arrangement together and ensure there is a shared policy line on as many issues as possible. You will need to be aware of what is going well and where tensions are rising, and you will spend a lot of time talking to your own party / the other parties and trying to reach agreement.
  • Do not expect to reach agreement with other groups: at least not all the time but keeping them in the loop and ensuring they understand why a decision has been made can help to get business through the council.