Phillip Horsfield Elected President of LLG at the AGM

Publish date: 01/04/2019

Phillip Horsfield was elected the new President of LLG at our AGM on 30th April. Read all about Philip's leadership plan for his presidential term.

I am delighted and honoured to take up the position of LLG President at such an exciting time of transformation and national impact for the organisation.

I first joined LLG's predecessor company, SLG, some 15 years ago. I consider myself lucky to have been introduced to SLG through people who had an unwavering commitment to our organisation. To have actively participated in and observed the growth of the company; the real commitment of its officers and inspiring dedication of its members throughout that time, has been a hugely motivational drive for me to step up and lead the organisation forward in pursuit of its aims. This commitment came then and comes now from a belief that we are able to make a difference. I have benefited and continue to benefit from the advice of these people.

For me, one of the most important things LLG provides is a support network. You will hear from one of our speakers this weekend that the key traits of a resilient person include optimism, altruism, having a strong moral compass and sense of humour. LLG offers support in all of these areas; you only have to attend a board meeting to know that both a sense of humour and optimism are required as standard. More seriously, working together we are able to offer support in training, support with knowledge and (most importantly) support with establishing networks. The job can be lonely; no one should ever feel alone, and we can support each other to ensure that none of us do. What is a clear and emerging pattern, is that the position of a lawyer in local government is not without conflict and subsequent repercussions for a role in which we much challenge, insist on compliance, and play our part in upholding the rule of law - all whilst adhering to professional conduct rules. We are more effective in these roles when we know that we have the support, encouragement. Sometimes, doing the right thing adversely affect relationships, often involving the most senior officers within an authority.

You have been kind enough to share your experiences with me and provide me with support. Being under pressure or in a dispute can be a lonely place, coloured by strong emotions at the same time as we are required to make difficult decisions. In my year we will ensure that kind, caring practical support is provided throughout any difficult time regardless of position. It will be a main thread of my Presidency to ensure a support framework is in place.

You will be aware from Suki's opening speech at the start of the conference that LLG are currently focusing on 3 big campaign agendas. The Golden Triangle; Brexit and The National Graduate Recruitment Scheme.

Looking briefly at each one, LLG have already taken a number of steps to raise the profile of local authority lawyers. The ability of our members to bring their professional knowledge, optimism, altruism, strong moral compass and sense of humour to the table mean that we are making the point strongly that our inclusion in key decision making strengthens our organisations. Top tier placement of Heads of Legal and Monitoring Officers brings real value from innovation, creativity and resilience. From our survey earlier this year we know that 65% of those responding indicated their MO was not at the top tier, with 25% sitting at 3rd tier. We are currently examining the impact of not including the Monitoring Officer in the key strategic decision-making processes, specifically their ability to effectively undertake their role and the impact that this has on the quality of governance arrangements that protect the ability of our organisations to deliver our public services. We are also identifying the personal impacts that include the turnover of monitoring officers, CEO's not following or taking legal advice, lack of effective scrutiny and the late involvement of the legal team.

We responded to the National Audit Office's Governance report and are active in consultation with the Committee on Standards in Public Life and Ombudsman. We have written to the LGA to set out our position and look forward to being a key and constructive partner working with them to produce the model code of conduct. We are also working with ADSO and SLCC to address member misconduct in parish councils. We aim to work in collaboration with organisations like Solace and CIPFA to improve relationships between the MO, 151 Officer & CEO/Head of Paid Service, by producing Best Practice within the Golden Triangle.

Your involvement in the work of LLG is essential to our shared success. We will be setting up a working group to inform numerous work streams and would urge you to get involved.

On to Brexit. I would like to thank all of you for your contribution. We have had a tremendous start to the year, producing a number of high-profile statements including examination of the key areas of impact, a paper on vulnerability concerns and more recently, new burdens. We have established a strong link with the Ministry and played an active part in senior discussions which I can assure you have had a material impact on the government's decision making. This continues to be a high priority for LLG, and we will continue to furnish you with as much information as we can and continue to raise local authority concerns and where we identify the need for legislative amendment, raise these directly with the Ministry.

And lastly our National Graduate Recruitment Scheme. An exceptionally important campaign to support our members in recruiting the best and the brightest and build talent to ensure that we are effective in succession planning. I would like to thank Phil McCourt as through him we have already started attending universities to speak at careers fairs. As always, LLG has greater ambition. Alongside marketing materials, we want to create a trainee hub on our website to host vacancies, stories, career journeys and significantly, a single point of entry with sifted applications being sent through to each authority looking to recruit. We want to consider supporting shared trainee seats between local authorities and corporate partners; examine feed authority potential, university placements, graduate schemes, a national program of internships and apprenticeship advice and support. Unless we act now, there will be a crisis within local authority legal departments. We already know how difficult it is to recruit strong, suitable candidates. LLG aims to rejuvenate the profession, attract exceptional candidates and enable your recruitment of lawyers.

In short, we absolutely believe that agile, proactive lawyers and governance officers will equip local government for a future of innovation and wider thinking, creating bespoke local solutions for the public good.

Whilst rewarding, we know the job can be tough. We will support you in the workplace and build best practice into the most critical of relationships within the golden triangle. We will cut through the politics of Brexit to give you practical solutions. We will ensure there is a succession of well- trained lawyers with a heart for local government to work alongside you in the future.

The optimism, altruism, strong moral compass and sense of humour that we bring will ensure that we are valued members of forward thinking and agile institutions

Together, we will make a difference.

Thank you once again for your support and I very much look forward to working with you over the coming year.

Phillip Horsfield

LLG President