The winning team. From left to right they are: Eve Bates (Teignbridge District Council), James Teed (Teignbridge District Council), Ed Freeman (East Devon District Council), Kirsty Bickell (Exeter City Council), Amy Gilbert (East Devon District Council) and Jo Pearce (Exeter City Council).

Colleagues from East Devon, Teignbridge and Exeter City prove collaboration is the way to success

A joint team of six staff from three Devon councils has proved how working in partnership can achieve great results, by winning the first ever South West Local Authority Challenge, an exciting and demanding new competition initiated and run by the South West Councils.

East Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council  and Exeter City Council  each chose two members of staff, with different skill sets and experience, to form a partnership team, which participated in the intensive one-day challenge held on Tuesday 20 October at the Holiday Inn, Taunton.

The aim of the competition was to give 22 competing teams, from councils across the South West, a taste of the extreme pressure faced by senior management involved in the running of a council. During the day, the Devon partnership team had to deal with a number of hypothetical crises, including a potential Ebola outbreak, a visit from President Obama and councillor misconduct, all while working towards the main goal of producing an innovative recovery plan, which would both save money and deliver better local services for the customers of a fictional council.

The East Devon/Exeter City/Teignbridge partnership’s superb teamwork impressed the judges who awarded them the top prize in the competition for their overall creativity and collaborative ability, which ultimately enabled them to be the best team of the day.

Heading up the team was Ed Freeman (Service Lead Planning Strategy and Development Management – East Devon District Council), who took on the demanding role of ‘Chief Executive’. He was able supported by his ‘Deputy Chief Executive’ Eve Bates (Policy and Projects Officer from Teignbridge District Council). Amy Gilbert (Property and Asset Manager Housing Service – East Devon) was Head of Corporate Services, while Head of Place was the responsibility of Jo Pearce (Corporate Energy Manager at Exeter City Council). Her colleague at Exeter, Kirsty Bickell (Housing Customer Relations Lead) played the role of Head of People and Health. Finally, James Teed (Leisure Manager at Teignbridge) was Head of Finance.

Commenting on the team’s outstanding achievement, Ed Freeman said:

It was a real pressure cooker of a day and one of the biggest challenges was maintaining focus in a room filled with the constant buzz of 100 people. As Chief Exec, I had to keep the team focused on creating our core strategy, while dealing with peripheral issues. It was a question of making sure everything happened. It was a brilliant – if nerve wracking – experience, managing a group of people who I didn’t know and learning their strengths and weaknesses.  Fortunately I had a great team who really pulled together and worked incredibly hard. It was a worthwhile and exciting day and has given me a taste for greater responsibility.

Amy Gilbert summed up her experience by saying:

Ed and I both really enjoyed the day. It gave us a feel for the wider remit of a council. Working alongside Exeter and Teignbridge added an extra dynamic to our challenge, as many of the teams in the room were from the same councils and already knew each other well. Ed performed outstandingly as our nominated CEO –his leadership skills kept us well on track throughout the day. It really wasn’t easy. 

Mark Williams, Chief Executive of East Devon District Council, said:

Local councils are under enormous pressure to provide winning solutions on a daily basis, which they continue to do despite ongoing cuts to budgets and pressure from all directions. Working in partnership with other councils is a great way to help identify and deliver answers that will benefit our local communities. I am extremely proud of Ed and Amy for taking part in this event and proving that successful partnerships are a winning formula.

Teignbridge Chief Executive Nicola Bulbeck said:

I am delighted with the team’s performance. Teignbridge has a proven and highly successful track record in developing partnership solutions, from ICT to building control services and procurement, and sharing innovation to save both money and deliver better local services.

Bringing together the energy, enthusiasm and expertise of officers from across three high performing councils plays a really positive part in capturing ideas that will increase efficiency, accelerate delivery of our ambitions and lay the foundations for future initiatives – something which ultimately will make this part of Devon an even better place to live, work and visit.

The team did their respective councils and themselves very proud and I would also like to thank Deborah Hutchings, the TDC Learning and Development Manager who coordinated both teams.

Karime Hassan, Exeter City Council’s Chief Executive and Growth Director, said:

I’m thrilled for the combined  team and for Jo and Kirsty here in Exeter. This is a great example of how councils can come together and produce award winning work.

Local Authority Challenge results

Overall winning team: Partnership team comprising colleagues from East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council

Runners-up:  Partnership team from North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council. 

Individual award winners:

  • James Bogue, a member of Devon County Council’s team, won the Best Media Interaction. 
  • Paul Griffin, a member of the Somerset County Council team, won the prize for the Best Chief Executive Officer.
  • The Council of the Isles of Scilly won the prize for the best presentation
  • North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s team also won the award for the best recovery plan.

Bryony Houlden, Chief Executive, South West Councils, said:

I am delighted that our first Local Authority Challenge - South West was such a success and would like to congratulate the winning team for their impressive contribution. It was great to see everyone engaged in the challenge, there was a real buzz throughout the day.  I would like to thank Breckland Training and Agilisys, our sponsors who helped to make the day such a success and we look forward to the 2016 Local Authority Challenge – South West.