LLG President Doreen Forrester-Brown looks back over the last 18 months of Office

Publish date: 08/09/2017

In the last month of her Presidency, Doreen looks back over a remarkable 18 months for LLG.

How quickly a year passes by! When I was appointed President in April 2016 I made a commitment that during my Presidency I would continue to champion the role of LLG ensuring that we are proactive, supporting and pursuing the interests of our membership. I also announced my intention to undertake a governance review to ensure that our organisation is fair, open and transparent reflecting the communities which we serve, but I also made one 'ask' of you, our members, we needed to hear your voice, for this reason I asked you to respond to our membership survey.

This report can only summarise the tremendous work undertaken by the Board over the last 12 months in support of delivering my commitments. Since June 2016 all Board Minutes have been added to the document section of the website to enable you to see discussions and work-streams ongoing by the board. I have also opened the Presidents Blog to Corporate Partners, SAA Leads and Branch Chairs. My thanks to you all for your interesting contributions! In July, following the Referendum we set up a Brexit SAA Group on our website, there was a flurry of interesting posts post the vote and as we move forward, since the triggering of Article 50 on 29 March 2017 and the general election, the volume of posts will significantly increase once negotiations move forward.

In January 2017, the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) were appointed to undertake our Governance Review following a competitive tendering exercise. The CfPS were commissioned due to their expertise in advising on Governance Frameworks across the public and private sector. The Board are committed to this review and we expect some of the recommendations to be challenging; however, we are open to embracing change to deliver a better organisation for our members. The Board considered the recommendations in June 2017 and resolved to implement them. The first step has been to recruit an Interim Chief Operating Officer to drive forward the change required and the position is currently out to advertisement.

My report can only give a flavour of the great work which has been undertaken by the LLG membership across England and Wales. I was privileged to attend many branch events during my year and was impressed at the dedication of all the branch chairs, branch secretaries, SAA conveners and other colleagues who give their time to support the development of their peers. The diversity of topics reflected the broad range of work we undertake serving a diverse community. At one branch meeting I attended, the topics included Highways, Planning and FGM.

The Board held it's first ever development day in September 2016 which was facilitated by Craig Cusack of Warwickshire County Council. The day provided an opportunity for the Board to begin developing a longer-term strategy for LLG in response to feedback from our members. The day confirmed the vision that LLG should aim to raise our profile by seeking to influence and collaborate with key stakeholders so that the voice of our members can be heard. Following our Development Day, a new Communications Strategy and Corporate Partner Strategy were developed.

November 2016 saw LLG hold their first SAA Away Day which was attended by a large cross section of regional SAA Leads and National Leads. This was an incredibly important day to canvass views and discuss improved ways of working and support to the regions. Outcomes identified such as an SAA induction handbook have now been finalised.

It is important to publicise the excellent work undertaken by LLG members and the vast range of experience that exists within the organisation and which often goes unrecognised. The Awards are my favourite LLG event. LLG held our third Awards ceremony in Leeds in November 2016; it provided me with the opportunity to meet the many talented individuals within the local government family. All the nominees demonstrated excellent examples of collaborative working and innovative practice, the judges had difficult decisions to make in deciding upon the worthy winners! My thanks to the Yorkshire and Humber branch for their support, it was a truly fabulous evening! This year's Awards are being held in Birmingham and I hope that the West Midlands take the opportunity to really showcase their talents alongside the rest of regions.

We have continued to build on our membership benefits, last year, we launched our Monitoring Officer Defence Scheme. We now have a well-established Bursary Scheme and Mentoring Scheme. The introduction of free webinar training on our website followed the closure of the localgovernmentlaw.tv website which was a paid for service. This is part of LLG's commitment, to provide you greater value for money and disseminate training and knowledge by a convenient platform. We are currently examining the provision of webinars to provide more contemporaneous clips and an increasing spectrum of courses including collaborating with major stakeholders. LLG are also in the process of producing a Monitoring Officer's handbook in association with Weightmans and hope to have this finalised in autumn.

I was delighted to host the Governance Conference in November 2016. Taking place in London and being surrounded by such iconic landmarks as the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London City Hall and a skyline of so many familiar buildings highlighted to me how the complimentary mix of historical, current and future developments is one to admire and to reflect upon in both our personal and working lives.

The focus of the conference was all about governance in it's widest sense, there was a good mix between black letter law and the high level strategic direction of travel for local government which has an impact on our daily lives.

A continuing challenge for local authorities and a theme through my year as President has been the crisis in Adult Social Care and the Housing crisis. To meet these challenges, Lawyers are required to think more strategically and consider how to devise governance frameworks, which ensures openness, accountability and transparency to our communities.

My thanks to our Corporate Partners for taking the time to share their thoughts and ideas with me including greater collaboration and roundtable discussions involving a broader range of groups. Our work to support our members would not be possible without their financial support. The Corporate Partners have provided accommodation for board and branch meetings, delivered expert training and sponsored events throughout England and Wales and such support is valued and appreciated. A big thank you again to Anthony Collins, Bevan Brittan, Browne Jacobson, Eversheds, Iken, Thomson Reuters, Veale Wasbrough Vizards, and Weightmans.

Our SAA Leads at both local and national level remain extremely active in supporting our members, this year we said goodbye to Dennis Hall, Philip Thomson, Graham Cole and Colette Longbottom, and welcomed Emma Harrison. The Board have also conferred Honorary Memberships on Dennis Hall and Philip Thomson and were delighted to do so. My thanks to John Emms, the Honorary Members Secretary for organising the group and arranging an annual lunch. I must also give a very special thank you to David Carter who stepped down as LLG Enterprises Chair in December 2016.David has served LLG in several different capacities as Chair of the Local Government Group of the Law Society in 1995 and President of ACSeS in 2007 and will be greatly missed.

I would like to thank my colleagues on the Executive for their support throughout my year of office. My thanks to Bev Cullen, my predecessor, for her wise words and encouragement. To Ann Harlow and Helen McGrath who have provided invaluable support to the Board and myself; the progress made in LLG this year would not have been possible without their enthusiasm, commitment and hard work. We must not forget Tony Kilner who has the huge responsibility of preparing our signature product, the LLG Bulletin, I'm not sure many of us could do our jobs without it. My sincere thanks to Tony for an excellent publication. I would also like to thank Southwark and my team for their continued support together with the board and membership of LLG.

My best wishes to Suki Binjal who will take on the Presidency in October 2017, Suki will continue with LLG's ambition to develop and support our members as 21st Century Public Sector Lawyers.

My very best wishes to you all.

Doreen Forrester-Brown

President 2016/17