Agenda item

Policy Unit


A report by the Chief Executive considered the principle of establishing a dedicated Policy Unit, working directly to himself and the establishment of a new post of Head of Policy Unit.  These proposals were put forward in response to the findings set out in the Corporate Governance Report and to strengthen the Council’s existing arrangements for the development and co-ordination of policy.


The Committee was informed that the Cabinet, at its meeting on 22 September 2011, had considered a report by AKA into the Council’s Corporate Governance arrangements and Employment and Appointments Committee, at its meeting on 29 September 2011, had agreed that this Committee should be asked to consider the principle of the establishment of a dedicated Policy Unit working directly to the Chief Executive


In the light of the AKA Report, Members were aware that it was essential that the Council’s capacity to develop and co-ordinate policy was improved.  The development, co-ordination and implementation of policy were a critical function of any local authority.  The policy function sat at the heart of setting the authority’s future direction and must ensure that the Council was aware of, and was responding to, changing circumstances whether, as a result of new legislation, social or economic changes or whatever other reason.  It was also critical that the Council ensured that when it agreed to introduce new policies, that they were appropriately implemented and that their impact was monitored and evaluated.


The Chief Executive reported that it had been suggested that the primary responsibilities of the new Policy Unit would be to ensure that the Council was aware of and responds to changing circumstances.  The Policy Unit would also be responsible for the development and co-ordination of policy work across the Council.  A major element of this work would be the ongoing development of the Council’s Corporate Plan which was the Authority’s foremost policy document.  The Policy Unit would also take the lead on a number of other major policy initiatives including the Council’s Child Poverty Strategy.


Members were told that current thinking was that in the first instance the Policy Unit should be established by the incorporation of existing officers currently working directly to the Chief Executive on policy issues but that other officers, elsewhere in the Authority, be seconded to the Unit.  It would also be appropriate for the Policy Unit to be part of the rotation for the Authority’s Graduate Trainees.  It was also proposed that the Unit be headed by a new post designated Head of Policy Unit.


The Committee discussed the report in detail and noted that currently, the Council had an inability to “horizon scan” and a Policy Unit would be able to address this problem by picking up on new challenges, key issues, new Government legislation, Green Papers, White Papers etc. and planning for them.




(1)  the Chief Executive be authorised to establish a Policy Unit through, in the first instance, secondment of existing staff;


(2)  the Chief Executive be authorised to appoint a Head of Policy Unit;


(3)  further discussions take place on the precise role of the Policy Unit and the ability to take into account perspectives from Departments across the Council; and


(4)  a further detailed report be presented to the Committee considering the role of the Policy Unit in enhancing corporate governance and how it can help all Council Departments with future planning.

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