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A new role – and thinking beyond the unimaginable


By Sean Anstee, Cratus Executive Director – Public Affairs, PR and Advisory

In any ‘normal’ circumstance, joining a new organisation generates a gamut of emotions often negotiating between excitement and apprehension. Throw in a lockdown, economy stalling & the worst global pandemic for over a century – it perhaps hasn’t been the smooth transition one had hoped for.

Fresh from participating in two peer reviews at local authorities at the beginning of March, I felt animated in commencing a new role heading up our Advisory, Public Affairs & PR practice.

I hardly had a moment to spend time with my new colleagues. The following week we were dispatched to work from home with the new way of communicating with one another through rectangles on our screens.

Four weeks on and it hasn’t quite been the induction I expected. But is has been an experience to say the least! Like so many others, our business has had to adapt with a sense of urgency yet with it remaining calm and focused on our fundamental purpose.

Cratus exists to make the world a better place by establishing purposeful relationships between our clients and councils ensuring that the right decisions are made for the benefit of local people and businesses.  We connect the decision makers with those they never knew they had a need to meet; supporting local government, our clients and their staff to fulfil their ambitions.

Over the last four weeks we have adapted not just with new technology. Our people have risen to the challenge to come up with new ways of generating value for our clients.

We have worked with new and existing clients throughout this crisis to keep going.  The spirit of all our team to support each other has been inspiring.  Our world is local and, as we beat this virus, never more so will that ethos be needed.

I joined Cratus because I am excited by the possibilities of supporting local government to make the right decisions, to work collaboratively with the private sector and to co-design solutions that will make a real difference to the communities and businesses councils serve.

Throughout my time as the Leader of Trafford Council, I experienced and valued the dedication of council officers first-hand.  Whenever the chips are down our councils are always on the front line – adapting in the best way they can to respond to ever evolving circumstances. This was of course during ‘peacetime’, what now seems to be a distant world away from todays reality.

I have played my part in coordinating action between councils, businesses and central government. In Greater Manchester, the devolution of powers and funding (concerning transport, housing, education and skills, justice and employment support to name just a few) is an example of how thinking the seemingly impossible can deliver positive outcomes.

These things don’t just happen on their own.  They happen because of the people with the drive and vision to make them so. As ever, councils will be one of the first institutions to formulate a revised approach once the immediacy of this response has subsided: picking up the pieces; supporting local communities and playing a vital role in the renewal of our economy.  They won’t be able to do this as singular organisations own and Cratus stands ready to play our part.

Some councils may be fearful of what the future may hold, yet much of the power is in their own hands.  Without question, they should be compensated and resourced properly but those that will prove to be most resilient will be those who start thinking: “What can be done today to prepare us for tomorrow?”.  Setting the right tone and being resolute will be imperative while on the long hard road ahead; it is their job now to create the environment for the right interventions to be made.

Councillors will need to be bold as the pressures they face will require different approaches to those of the past.  If they do, they will be making their own unique contribution to democratic renewal and unleashing the power of local government to succeed.

The private sector will need to reassess its approach to engaging with Councils.  It won’t be acceptable to simply meet social value obligations by ticking a few boxes and throwing in a few apprentices.  A whole value proposition for local communities will be a pre-requisite for progress to be made.  How the private sector behaves and the narrative it builds around propositions will be more important than ever and those who do this well will succeed.  All because local government will be a sector acutely aware that there will be those out there who wish to exploit this crisis and who, rightly, they will want to avoid completely.

We can help our private clients navigate this new world of local government – supporting the formation of propositions that are likely to gain traction, add value and be taken further.  We can curate relationships with those who with whom they are needed and together can deliver solutions that will work for local people and wider communities.

Cratus has assembled an unrivalled team to help councils and private sector clients realise their shared goals, including Steve Quartermain and Dame Mary Ney.  Steve recently joined Cratus from MHCLG after a successful spell as the Government Chief Planner and Mary was the hugely successful Chief Executive of Greenwich Council.  The plethora of talent that builds the foundation of our team equips us to help councils and clients respond to the questions they never thought they would have to answer.

So, whether you work in our councils and want support to adapt to this new world or are in the private sector wanting to engage more effectively with local government – Cratus is here to make that happen.

We are entering the eleventh hour for conscious decisions to be made that will change the way councils and the private sector work hand-in-hand for the betterment of society.  If the moment passes, it is lost and the road to recovery will be more difficult still.  Please make contact today and find out how our world being local can help you today, tomorrow and into a brighter future.

Graduate Intern, Communities