Interviews

05.11.18

New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing that this will be the “right decision” for the county.

Speaking to PSE, Matt Prosser, who will lead Dorset Council – a new unitary which will come into existence in April next year – said taking employees through the transition progress has been a “bit of a rollercoaster” that requires considering everyone’s opinion.

“One of the areas of main focus is ensuring that we’re caring for our employees through the transition—it’s a bit of a rollercoaster, I’ve been talking to employees this week about that,” Prosser said. “Some people like a rollercoaster, some people like bits of a rollercoaster, some people wouldn’t knock on the door of a queue for the rollercoaster.”

Prosser was chosen to become the Dorset Council CEO— the unitary which will replace five district and borough councils East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland) and Dorset Council— in September after previously serving as chief executive of Dorset Councils Partnership (North Dorset, West Dorset, and Weymouth & Portland Councils) since 2014.

“My background is bringing councils together so there’s nothing yet that’s come out and I've gone ‘oh blimey, I didn’t see that coming,’ but there is a scale up in this organisation. You’re talking about 6,000 employees plus the education staff on top of that, making 11,000 employees- you’ve got multiple cultures across those six organisations currently.”

Whilst Prosser will head up the new Dorset Council, the county’s neighbouring new unitary authority, Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole (BCP) Council’s creation was more tumultuous: Christchurch Borough Council’s (CBC) staunch opposition to the plans meant that the authority’s creation went all the way to the High Court, and ended in CBC losing the court battle and merging with the two surrounding local councils.

In managing to keep the harmony in the geographically larger area, he said: “Inevitably there will be people who are desperately open to something new and there will be some people who are resistant to it. That resistance, we need to understand and how we can help unlock that. Some of the challenges for me have been that kind of political dynamic.

“I think the real challenge for me is getting the organisation ahead of the curve—which sounds trite, but what we’ve got to do is bring all the teams together to deliver the same services and make it more efficient—and we’ve got transformation, whilst also delivering business as usual keeping people safe, emptying the bins. It’s a huge task.

“This is going to be the right decision for Dorset. There might be some few issues along the way, but actually the big picture here is this is the right thing to do for the people of Dorset to provide a modern council for the future.”

Prosser wrote for PSE’s Aug/Sept edition, discussing the future of colocation between the two unitary authorities.

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