The need for a specific body with a remit dealing initially with local government leadership had been the subject of much debate within the sector since 2002, when SOLACE put leadership of local government on the agenda for chief executives.


Former local government minister Nick Raynsford set up the Leadership Development Commission (LDC) to review the situation in leadership and leadership development in local government and to put together a national strategy.


In 2003 it recommended that a leadership centre be set up, establishing a steering group made up of the former ODPM, Office of Public Sector Reform, the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Audit Commission, the Local Government Association, the former IDeA and the former Employers Organisation (now both part of the Local Government Association), SOLACE, and the former SOCPO (now PPMA), to agree exactly what it should be asked to do.


Research among senior managers and politicians in local government showed a need for an organisation that could work at the very top of local government, with senior managerial and political teams – as it was strongly felt that only by working with the very top people can fundamental changes take effect. It was also agreed there was a very real need to address the political dimension of leadership, an area that had previously been comparatively neglected.


The Leadership Centre opened in 2004 funded as part of the former ODPM’s Capacity Building Fund. It started working with its first authorities in the autumn of that year and has to date worked with over 150 authorities in England and their partnerships.


In 2008 the Leadership Centre acquired charitable status and along with the Local Government Association and other local government bodies increased work on supporting, promoting and improving local government and the wider public sector.

The Leadership Centre has an unrivalled track record in public service leadership development in complex environments. It pioneered, championed and embedded the notion of ‘place’: multi-stakeholder collaboration and relational leadership (systems thinking & living systems), using whole-place approaches within local government, carrying out high-end, bespoke, place-based interventions up and down the country, working in highly political environments to make change happen.

The Total Place initiative, which explored a citizen-focussed, whole-place approach to public services, mapped public sector spending nationwide and enquired into the culture changes required to truly meet citizen’s needs and aspirations. The Leadership Centre shifted the agenda so there remains an ambition for all public services, where appropriate, to be delivered in relation to people and place and consequently the Leadership Centre’s focus shifted to supporting the leadership of people and places, rather than organisational structures. 

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