Succeeding at Succession Planning – A Challenge for Local Government Finance


25 Nov 2019

Succeeding at Succession Planning – A Challenge for Local Government Finance

Local government Finance faces many challenges and perhaps one of the most overlooked, yet compelling, is ‘Succession Planning.’ A longstanding background of budgets cuts, restructuring directorates and finding new avenues of funding has perhaps pushed this agenda backward in priority. However today as staff retire, graduates decide local government isn’t in their long-term future and internal training needs aren’t always being fulfilled… we’re seeing the candidates of the future aren’t present in the pipeline. 

At Penna, we’re seeing greater and greater demand for interim managers. In part, a thriving interim market is indicative of gaps in councils which aren’t being filled by internal appointments. 

Given this, it seemed like a good opportunity to host a Roundtable event on ‘Succession Planning’. In October I invited Finance Directors from in and around London to discuss the challenges they face and what they feel the resolution is. A lively discussion ensued which focused on attracting the right candidates and filling skills gaps. 

Capitalise on the apprenticeship levy 

It was widely felt that apprenticeship schemes need to be more effectively utilised vis-a-vis the apprenticeship levy. Moreover, the image of the scheme itself needs to be improved with greater promotion necessary to attract a high calibre candidates. Better representation of diversity in the scheme is also vital to ensure the image being projected is one of inclusivity. Aside from focusing on young people for the apprenticeship scheme there needs to be an effort to also attract the older generation, especially existing local government staff, to give them an opportunity to progress.

Improve public image

The image of senior roles themselves need to be viewed as ‘doable’ and not ‘daunting’. Regulations also play a part in making roles seem less attractive as they can be onerous, inaccessible and hard for staff to digest. Further to this the public image presented in the press seems to be full of negative stories about suspensions and investigations. Positive PR on the benefits of working in local authority is essential in combatting some of these issues.

We’re experts at advertising and comms for recruitment at Penna, so if you want some advice on how to best sell your Finance vacancy speak to a member of our team.

Invest in your workforce 

Finally, there were many opinions on the skills gap in local authority, and while there was no consensus on how it needs to be tackled there were several ideas. Coaching was a popular choice among the group – useful in building the confidence of team members and slowly developing staff. Similarly, shadowing senior leadership was seen as effective in giving staff the practical experience necessary to see first-hand what a job entails. Further and continued training was also seen as essential in staff keeping up to date with changes in regulation, as well as learning new skills.

I’d like to thank all the attendees for their contributions to the discussions, particularly our Chair Jane West. This was the second Roundtable on Succession Planning I’ve arranged and hope to do a third one in 2020. If you are interested in being part of this conversation please do contact me –