At the heart of power

I’m quite ashamed by how little I know about the way local authorities work. I find the sheer level of complexity baffling – so many policies, perspectives and personalities. And the process through which a local authority makes decisions about funding? Just as complicated as you would expect, and with huge variations between each authority.

Leadership within local authorities was described to me recently as a balance between pragmatism and political expediency. It’s the art of making difficult decisions in an imperfect world, where there is no such thing as a simple right or wrong answer. Historical precedence plays its part, as does party politics and also power-balancing between individuals. For some power is making a difference, for some power is about gaining power.

Ethically I find this hard – surely things should be more clear-cut? Cleaner?

But increasingly I’m feeling this is the norm and not the exception in the cultural sector too, and that it’s just my own naivety that’s stopped me seeing it. Within local authorities, it feels accepted that the decision-making process can be muddy. Sometimes within the cultural sector (of which local authorities, of course, are a significant part), there is an assumption or maybe a presumption, that the process should be sweaky clean. I’ve started to wonder just how ‘fair’ allocations of funding can be. Just how possible it is to create and deliver a process that is untainted – where funding is allocated truly on merit.

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