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Chair’s Opinion

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In his first column as incoming Chair of CLOA, Ian Brooke reframes the challenges facing local authorities and CLOA’s role in meeting these challenges.  Watch the video here.

I’d like to start by saying how proud I am to be taking on the role as Chair of CLOA.

I’m also incredibly thankful that CLOA has such a great team, in terms of Mark Allman who is the outgoing Chair, the Vice-Chairs Polly Hamilton and Debbie Kaye and the wider Executive members. All of whom give their time and are committed to achieving CLOA’s vision – that every locality has a thriving, high quality and distinctive cultural and leisure offer.

For those of you new to CLOA, we’re an independent association providing local authority leadership in culture, arts, sport and leisure.

I’m going to talk about the challenges facing local authorities and CLOA’s role in meeting these challenges.

We are all fully aware that there is less and less cash in the system and what cash is left is often spent on short term needs rather than being invested into sustainable preventative approaches that culture and leisure enable. Austerity has resulted in reduced leadership and most senior managers have far broader remits, making it more difficult to commit time to sector specific work.

There needs to be strong local authority culture and leisure leadership to effectively demonstrate how the sector provides sustainable solutions for agenda such as health and social care, regeneration and growth, education and community cohesion.

I believe that being an active member of CLOA, and even more so joining the Executive not only saves you time as, but makes you a more effective as you are able to learn from others.

We are incredibly fortunate to have such a wealth of skills and experience on the Executive – from leisure and culture specialist working in core cities, chief executives and directors of services wider than sports and leisure such as social care. The Executive is solely made up of senior local authority officers – which makes CLOA totally independent.

While there are less culture and leisure specialist senior managers, there is an opportunity to ensure senior managers who absorb culture and leisure into their remits understand the value and strategic importance culture and leisure have on delivering wider outcomes. If we can achieve this, we will enable a more integrated and sustainable role for culture and leisure and for its importance to increase within a local authority setting.

We must also work from the bottom up and find ways to support new culture and leisure leaders to progress into senior roles.

We share these challenges with a number of partners and we are in talks with Sport England and the Arts Council to see how we can work better together to strengthen the sector.

Over the next two years we will focus on –

1.      Improving our communication

2.      Building successful strategic relationships  and

3.      Improving sector leadership

I’m really keen to get yours views on how we can best do this. Next month we will be sending out a survey, in partnership with Sport England and Arts Council England, to give you the chance to influence our plans.

Our membership has grown to 244 members across 135 authorities. There are though places that are not aware of the benefits of being a member often struggling in isolation to solve issues that have already been solved elsewhere, or paying for support where there may well be better served by asking CLOA for some free independent strategic advice.

It feels timely to establish our values, while we are convinced independence is our core value, we would like to know what other values are important for your association and this will be included in the survey. This will then further help to improve our communication about what CLOA is and how it works.

CLOA’s independence and the seniority and experience of its members mean we are incredibly well placed to provide advice to Local Authorities. By working with key partners such as Sport England, ACE and the LGA we are working to develop ways to offer peer to peer support, through coaching, training and regional workshops.

Members of the Executive play a key role in our partnerships; we are keen to involve future leaders in these meetings, we will include in our ebulletin how you can become involved.

What are we going to achieve?

The main measures of CLOA success is the number of members we have. We are working to further increase our membership which will in itself help to achieve our vision.

I look forward to working with you over the next few years and please do get involved.

Ian Brooke, Chair of CLOA

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