Staff Development Programme


Please note: Applications for the 2021-22 Staff Development Programme are currently on hold while we await the lifting of covid restrictions. We look forward to bringing rising stars together again in the near future. Details of the scheme, and how to apply will be made available to all member councils as soon as possible.

The Staff Development Programme is a scheme for talented district council officers run by the District Councils’ Network to provide training and support to district council employees and has three main aims;

  1. Make attendees aware of the key policy issues facing district councils and equip them with the strategic knowledge they need to succeed within local government.
  2. Help attendees develop the skills to deal with the changing landscape of local government and take ownership of their development
  3. Support attendees development by allocating a mentor for every participant.

The programme consists of four core elements described below which will give participants the information and skills needed by future senior leaders in districts to identify areas where, services, process and planning can be improved.


We hold four seminars addressing the key issues facing district councils and providing high level speakers to both inform and inspire participants. This year the three seminars will be:

October: Working in a political environment
January: The future for local government
April: The DCN Challenge – Becoming a senior leader for the day
April: Reflecting on your development

The final event, The DCN challenge, will give you the opportunity to act as a senior leadership team during a challenging time at a council, it will be your innovation and delivery that develops a strategy for change.

The DCN Challenge

At its core is “the DCN challenge” which is the creation of a real project for participants in their districts, with the support and encouragement of the DCN.

This challenge will highlight that participants, as frontline workers, have a unique perspective on the public services and support they provide. We believe that in what are uncertain times for districts we need more than ever to enable our staff to drive the change in their localities

Past projects have included;

  • Slimming down the number of forms used in a shared service council
  • Creating a web form that feeds data directly into council systems rather than having staff do it manually
  • Evaluating the costs savings of a ‘halfway house’ for chaotic health users

And many more. Each of these projects should be tangible, deliverable and challenging but fortunately we will not leave you to achieve those goals alone as we will be providing the following support.

The Mentor Network

We have developed an extensive network of mentors over the years who provide valuable advice and encouragement to participants. Each participant will be assigned a mentor who is currently in a senior position in a district council who will help them in their personal development over the course of the programme.

This aspect of the programme has received fantastic feedback over the years.

The Knowledge Hub

We provide a private online forum which participants can use to share information, discuss projects and ask for help with dealing with tricky situations. It has been tremendously successful in creating and keeping the conversation going in between sessions.

How to apply?

Please note, there are a limited number of places on the programme and we can only accept 1 or 2 candidates from each authority. We ask that all applicants meet the following criteria;

  • Support from senior management
  • Support to attend at least three out of four events
  • Have worked at a district council for over two years
  • Have the drive to create real change in your council

Please note that although we aim to provide all events for free to our members there is a £199 charge plus VAT for all participants on this course in order to help us pay for venue hire, catering and administrative costs throughout the programme, as well as an overnight hotel stay.

Feedback from the programme

“The programme has certainly helped me to gain confidence in my abilities and every session was a pleasure to attend. I have many colleagues just starting out on their careers who I feel would hugely benefit from it and so I would happily recommend this programme; Actually I often found myself wishing that my team could be sat with me… !”

Melanie Baldwin, Christchurch and East Dorset Councils

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to go on this course I found it excellent. I’ve made some great contacts. My mentor is great and I’ve spent a great day shadowing him. I would encourage people to get involved with the SDP, you make so many contacts and pick up great ideas and ways of working. The DCN are a great support. Take this opportunity with both hands!”

Katie Gee, Rochdale Borough Council


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