Ethics: A code for professional leaders in local public services
At the last Solace Summit in Liverpool I announced that Solace would be working with colleagues from across the sector to develop a new code of ethics for professional leaders in local public services. I felt then, and even more so now, that as a profession we stand at an important juncture. One where we will stand or fall on the success and application of our values based leadership.
We are currently seeing the possibility of the sector being released from the shackles of centralisation and being given greater freedoms to work with communities to help local places improve outcomes in the ways that they know best. Yet we have also witnessed the consequences of getting things wrong (or at least not dealing with them quickly enough) and the impact that this has on local communities.
The complexity of the challenges being faced mean that public sector leaders are now operating and impacting across a wide range of institutional and cultural boundaries, not just within their own institution. To be effective, these leaders need to set the highest standards of integrity, honesty and objectivity if they are to be considered credible and be treated with respect.
The pressure of austerity perhaps places even greater emphasis on appointed public sector leaders to: uphold democratic values; strengthen the accountability both of themselves and their political masters; and ensure that all act in the public interest. This challenge makes clear ethical standards all the more important.
Attached to this letter is a draft Code which has been developed with a range of professional bodies from across locally accountable public services over the last few months. It is based on codes gathered from similar professional bodies from across the globe, as well as the responses to our earlier call for evidence from organisations including the Local Government Association, Local Government Ombudsman and the Committee of Standards in Public Life. Over the next few weeks each of the professional bodies involved are asking their members for their views on the latest draft.
Our code is intended to be an overarching statement of ethics, based upon values and behaviours. It focuses on individuals, rather than group or organisational culture, and is intended to be applicable to all those who hold managerial leadership roles in local public services that are accountable to locally elected politicians. The code will be central to our promotion of value-based leadership across local public services, and we are exploring what mechanisms might be required to engrain the code into Solace membership.
I would very much appreciate your comments and views on this draft code. I would also welcome views as to the support and guidance senior leaders could usefully be offered to help them understand the code and implications, and your advice as to what processes are appropriate to ensure all Solace members uphold the principles contained within it. My intention is to present the final version of the code to the Solace Annual General Meeting in October.
Responses should be sent to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 4th September 2015.
I look forward to views and to seeing as many of you as possible at our next Summit in Bournemouth.
President of Solace and Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council