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Post Brexit hiring blues?

The latest IHS Markit Report on Jobs suggests permanent placements in July fell at the sharpest rate since May 2009, with some 400 participants citing uncertainty caused by Brexit. The results also indicate that some clients of recruitment firms had shifted towards using short-term staff.

This coincided with me bumping into a fellow recruiter and former colleague who places permanent managers into the manufacturing sector. “No one’s going to be building sheds for a while” was his summary of the post Brexit landscape in his market.

When asked what impact on permanent hiring patterns in local government of Brexit he seemed somewhat baffled, and indeed a little jealous, that we were seeing quite the opposite and demand rising not falling (the same for interim too so perhaps the IHS data isn’t that wide of the mark).

What followed was an explanation on my part. Not that he necessarily appeared to understand the political, economic, social and technological drivers behind my market, but it did get me thinking on what senior management recruitment in local government will look like in the second half of 2016 and beyond.

Let’s recap on where we are up to. First, local authorities have 40% less money than they did five years ago yet are widely cited as the most innovative and change orientated part of the public (and indeed I would argue the private) sector. They have over this period, and will continue to, hire.  Second, fiscal devolution and integration are the only two gigs in town now and their implementation will rely on hiring and retaining strong and collaborative leaders. 

The first round of devolution agreements relied on council Leaders and Chief Executives cutting deals directly with government and the main characters are no longer around the Cabinet table. Whilst our new Secretary of State appears up for it, the new PM hasn’t yet been heard to mention the word Powerhouse, let alone Northern.  

However, I remain confident. We must believe and hope that now is the time for fully devolved place based budgets and locally raised taxes to meet the demand for local services shaped by local communities and unfettered by traditional boundaries and institutions.  

If Brexit has shown us anything it is that the public does not respond to policy, legislative or fiscal imposition from Strasbourg and Brussels any more than it does from Whitehall and Westminster.

Immediate uncertainty in the UK economy as a whole post Brexit was inevitable but I think local government is in a different place. The sector has been in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world for six years already yet public engagement and trust in local authorities has remained high and offers a platform for further improvement.

We must seize the immediate initiative and opportunities presented by Brexit to attract the next generation of place-based public service leaders for our local communities who share our ambition for change and reform. If you need a hand, I’d be happy to help.

Nick Cole is Head of Local Government Search & Selection at Veredus.
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