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Councils go forth and re-train staff

FE colleges and universities have collaborated to create a radical new degree with a practical slant. Simon Midgley reports

CHANGES in the role local councils play in their communities over the past decade have highlighted the need for radical re-training of local authority officers.

In response, Salford University and eight partner FE colleges have developed a prototype foundation degree in community governance.

Local authorities have moved from providing services directly. They manage other organisations, such as private contractors or housing associations, which now provide services.

The value-for-money agenda and the move towards Cabinet-style government, rather than the committee system of decision-making, also mean that officers are having to change their way of thinking and find new ways of relating to elected representatives.

At present, council employees are geared up to delivering the old way of doing things. Now they need to re-think their roles to meet an entirely new agenda.

The six local authorities in the consortium believe the time is right for a new form of accredited study in the vocationally-related areas of modern local government.

The new three-year, part-time programme will be delivered by the university and eight colleges: Eccles, Nelson and Colne, North Trafford, Oldham, Priestley, Salford, Wigan and Leigh and Oldham Sixth Form College.

The degree course will help employees manage the changes and risks as they cross boundaries from public to private provision. It will also help with different approaches to decision-making with elected members.

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