LLG Says Farewell to the Bulletin Editor and Reflects on his Local Government Legal Career

Publish date: 22/12/2017

Tony Kilner has been shrouded in mystery for many of you; known only as the man behind the LLG Bulletin. However, on this, the last edition week of Tony’s brilliant and informative update, we look back at his many years of involvement with LLG and its predecessor companies and find out what Tony thinks about the current state of play in the field of local government law (and he should know!).

Tony attended Guildford Law School which happily in those days took approaches from legal firms and departments for article clerk positions and passed them onto their students (very different from the obstacles facing trainees these days). In consequence, he found himself at an interview with many of his friends vying for a position at Ilkley Urban District Council. Despite the competition, he was offered the job and commenced with the authority covering a host of legal areas and hitting the ground running in 1970. The authority was subsumed by Bradford Metropolitan District Council and following a choice of placements at a number of the residual County Councils and Districts in West Yorkshire, Tony accepted a position as a litigation lawyer at Bradford in 1994. He recalls sitting in a tiny bare office and lifting out the papers he had brought with him to commence work, going on to cover all manner of litigation cases including the high profile Rate Support Grant appeal in the House of Lords. Tony stayed with Bradford for 31 years until retirement in 2005. He had held the post of Assistant Director for many years but following a reshuffle and period of poor health, elected not to apply for the Director post, culminating his last few months as the Acting Deputy.

Tony recalls enjoying a wonderful if sometimes pressurised career, with always something new and challenging popping up daily. Reflecting on being summoned to the Leaders office and taking the long walk down to the office mooting what disaster had occurred this time; Tony had to rely on his wits and pick the pieces apart to address the problem (something we can all relate to). As a senior lawyer, he reflects, the role was more about managing the political process. For many lawyers he acknowledged that after years of studying they wished to remain doing the job of a lawyer and concentrating on the law, however for him, the most amazing opportunity afforded by local government was to become involved, to influence and find a resolution.

Tony Kilner joined the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors (ACSeS) in 1995, attending the odd conference and forging relationships. However, his first introduction to Solicitors in Local Government was his attendance at the Weekend School in the 1970's when Harold Wilson was the guest speaker. Tony recalls the event not only for the prestigious speaker but because he slipped out on the Saturday afternoon to watch the long anticipated 'Star Wars' film at the Oxford Odeon. Around the time of Tony's impending retirement, ACSeS decided to create a development and policy officer role which for Tony was a useful co-incidence. He commenced the role in 2005 and a year later, identifying a gap, produced the first Bulletin edition focused on content for monitoring officers and heads of legal; It was a big hit! So popular in fact that he soon became aware it was being circulated to all manner of CEO's, Leaders and even the Communities and Local Government Department. Alarmed by this knowledge (given the free tone of some of his editorial comments accompanying the edition) he swiftly modified his commentary. When ACSeS merged with LLG, Tony modified the content again to take account of the broad range of LLG's members now receiving the bulletin and we have the version today which we are all familiar with. The format of the Bulletin has remained the same for years. LLG once took a hasty step in amending the format style but the sheer number of email complaints received saw a revision next edition back to the tried and tested format. Tony recalls this incident prompted the most emails on one subject he had ever received; which just goes to show how popular the Bulletin is!

Looking to the future, Tony feels it is a mistake and a misunderstanding of the legal skill held by lawyers to downgrade the role of Head of Legal, which he feels strongly should be involved with the CEO's team and be seen at committees and council meetings as the lawyer responsible for good governance. The consequence of restricting local government lawyers, results in not having the most skilled people (legally or professionally) to know when things are going wrong and to pick them up and resolve them before a disaster occurs. It is unfortunate that the role is not viewed in the main anymore as a vital position within the infrastructure of the organisation but rather someone to go to when a major problem arises- that, he argues, is entirely the wrong attitude. Reflecting on his career, local government, he argues, "provides a wonderful platform to go on and work in other areas of the public sector should you wish and with the interplay now between the private and public sector it really is a great career; very meaningful and satisfying".

LLG would like to thank Tony Kilner for his great dedication to the organisation and life-long commitment to local government law and practice. His weekly Bulletins have been a staple of the membership offering and a must-have email on a Friday afternoon. LLG wishes Tony a wonderful retirement and looks forward to welcoming him at the annual Weekend School Dinner in March 2018.

The Bulletin returns in January 2018 under the stewardship of yet another veteran of local government law. Watch out for the blog in the new year to meet the new Editor.