Political leadership: Chelmsford City Council

The 2019 election results were a surprise for some. Many felt the change was a response to national issues.

The 2019 elections saw the biggest change in political control of the Council, from 52 Conservatives and five Liberal Democrats, to 31 Liberal Democrats, 21 Conservatives and five Independents.

Scenario planning hadn’t taken place as a change had not been anticipated. The election results were a surprise for some. Many felt the change was a response to national issues and the national Conservative Party.

Below are reflections from Chelmsford City Council’s experiences following the change in their administration after the 2019 election.


  1. Be prepared to be available first thing the day after the elections. The elections finished at 6:30am – the Chief Executive was home by 7 but then back in the office at 8am.
  2. Take time to understand the new administration so that you can implement their priorities.
  3. Be prepared before you meet the new administration - write down a list of issues that you think the new administration would want to ask now they are in power and then a list of responses. Put yourself in their shoes.
  4. Don’t be defensive and don’t take things personally - There is bound to be some criticism of how things were done before.
  5. Meet with the new administration - it is important that you arrange this with the leader as soon as possible. Talk through what they want to achieve and what their goals are.
  6. Look at the profiles of the new cabinet on LinkedIn, council website etc - get to know them and their skills and background. This is important for building up rapport and for demonstrating that you have thought about them and want to know them.
  7. Accept that there will be a transition period. Don’t be resistant to requests for change from the new administration - know when to make a stand and when to let things go. Don’t argue over the little things.
  8. Be really frank, open and honest. It takes time to build rapport and trust. Ensure that you respond quickly to requests to build new relationships and trust.
  9. Ensure that you quickly have an induction for new members and ensure that all senior managers attend and are available.
  10. Communicating and building relationships – getting off on the right foot is important - deliver what they want and get some quick wins.
  11. Be open to change – see it as doing things differently.
  12. Build good relationships with opposition and administration. At Chelmsford this helped create an environment of trust.
  13. Have an external person to talk things through with and get their perspective.
  14. Treat the new administration as new employees – there will be some additional help needed to start with as the new administration finds its way. Think about how you would prepare for a new job.
  15. A change in administration may bring with it slower or quicker decision-making processes. Different political groups have different ways of making decisions. 
  16. Key things to consider:

    a) building rapport
    b) communication
    c) delivering quick wins
    d) trust

  17. Hold SNR MGR staff sessions – it is business as usual with a different slant. Many of the senior appointments were by the Conservatives over the past 16 years. Some staff were concerned about their roles.
  18. Don’t die in a ditch over the little stuff
  19. Be friendly, supportive and show you can deliver – the relationship should be viewed as a partnership.
  20. Maintain a good relationship with your county council.