ST HELENS Council has unveiled plans to modernise in response to a review by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The LGA’s corporate peer challenge, which is expected to be published later this month, took place in January.

As a result of the review, St Helens Council has drawn up plans to carry out a modernisation programme – dubbed ‘One Council’.

The modernisation project will be split into eight strands – one resident, one message, one budget, one digital, one space, one practice, one people and one outcome.

A cabinet report says that much of the programme can be achieved within existing council budgets and resources as they are projects or improvements that do not need further investment but will instead lead to changes in processes or training for employees.

“Where the improvement has a significant cost such as modernisation of the digital and ICT estate or bringing buildings up to a modern standard, then separate reports will be submitted to cabinet over the next twelve months,” the report says.

“This will allow cabinet to decide upon the levels of investment that cabinet feel appropriate against a backdrop of so many financial challenges and decisions about priorities.”

The One Council programme will be led by Keith Ireland, the interim assistant chief executive appointed in April in an effort to bolster the council’s team of senior officers.

His appointment was also another direct response to the LGA’s peer review.

Next week, cabinet will be asked to approve a series of recommendations linked to the modernisation programme.

One of these is to approve the creation of a permanent assistant chief executive, at a salary of up to £110,000, with the recruitment process starting as soon as possible.

“The report does request that funding be approved for the creation of an assistant chief executive role on a permanent basis,” the report says.

“The salary for this would be in the range of £100,000 to £110,000 plus on costs depending on experience and meeting the person specification.

“This role was a clear recommendation of the Local Government Association Peer Review undertaken in January 2019.

“The recommendation was made in recognition that there is not enough capacity at that level to ensure delivery of the council’s objectives.

“As part of the directors team, this role would have a significant responsibility for ensuring that the modernisation programme is delivered and that coordination of work across the council is effective.”

In the digital strand of the modernisation programme, the council says it will look at how to make best use of ICT and digital technology, including artificial intelligence, although it says this will not mean front-line staff will be replaced.

The council says One Council is an “organic programme” that will have many characteristics.

It says the programme will create a “culture change” within the council, which will benefit both the council and its integration and partnership agendas.

A new Corporate Plan will be developed as part of the programme, which the report says is the starting point for developing “focus and rigor”.

The report adds that the programme will develop a “partnership of trust” between councillors and officers in delivering against the Corporate Plan.

The report also recommends that a voluntary redundancy programme be approved so that any employees who wish to be considered for redundancy and or retirement can apply.

Decisions will be made on individual cases based on the needs of the service moving forward.

Mike Palin, the council’s chief executive, will also undertake a review of senior management structures to ensure they are “fit for purpose” as the council begins to deliver its new priorities through the new Corporate Plan.

Cabinet will be asked to approve all of the recommendations set out in the report at its meeting on Wednesday, July 17.