Support for Haringey Corporate Delivery Unit

We have been working with Haringey Council over the last 18 months to support them to adapt the central government model of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) to develop their own delivery unit to help meet the many challenges facing an inner-city London borough. Haringey is the first Local Authority in the UK (that we are aware of) to adopt the PMDU model.

The Institute for Government have recently published a report* authored by Zina Etheridge (Haringey’s Deputy Chief Executive) and Peter Thomas (ex-PMDU) looking at the lessons learnt to date. The report concludes there is much that other Local Authorities could learn from Haringey’s experience.

Zina and Peter’s case study walks through 11 key elements they argue have been necessary to set up a successful delivery unit, comparing the PMDU approach with that taken in Haringey. We agree with them all.

Peter’s evaluation of the unit’s progress has highlighted a number of successes as well as challenges for the next phase of the Unit’s development. Again we recognize and agree with all of Peter’s analysis. We would highlight three factors in particular that we think help explain the Unit’s success to date:

  • Ambitious and bold leadership. The decision to create a delivery unit in Haringey in the first place was a bold one. It owed much to the willingness of the Chief Executive and Leader to take Zina Etheridge’s original proposal on trust. Since the establishment of the Unit both the Leader and Chief Executive have shown their commitment to delivery and given significant personal time to support the work of the Unit. For example they both participate in regular performance stocktakes which have done much to highlight the challenges involved in improving outcomes for Haringey’s residents. Without this commitment it is difficult to see how the Unit could have made the impact it has.

  • Adapting the PMDU model to the local context of Haringey. As Zina and Peter recognise the Unit would never have worked if it had tried to simply replicate the PMDU model wholesale. At the same time it was helpful to the Unit’s new members to understand what had made PMDU successful. Isos worked closely with the Unit in its early months to introduce them to the PMDU tools and techniques and to discuss openly what they thought would and wouldn’t work in Haringey. As one of the team commented to Peter this created the space for the team to decide how to adapt and apply the PMDU tools and processes:
    ‘What they [Isos] did very well was teach us about the PMDU approach. Rather than tell us, ‘This is how you do it’, they would ask us questions, for example, ‘How will we communicate with priority leaders?’, and we asked them questions back like, ‘What did you do?’ or ‘What were the pitfalls?’, and then we thought about how we would apply that in Haringey….’**

  • A small team of highly capable and talented individuals. As Zina and Peter recognise a key part of the original PMDU success was the quality of people and their ways of working. Haringey’s success also owes much to their ability to create a small team of highly capable and talented individuals to lead the Unit’s work. They make clear it was a deliberate recruitment strategy to create a team with a mix of ‘insiders’ who knew Haringey well and ‘outsiders’ who could bring a fresh perspective. The quality of the team enabled Isos to tailor our support accordingly and allow the Unit to quickly take a lead role. The head of the unit and individual team members deserve much credit for its success to date.

To read more about how Isos supported the establishment of Haringey’s Corporate Delivery Unit please see the case study of our work here. You can contact us at to find out how we could support you.

* Z. Etheridge and P. Thomas Adapting the PMDU Model: The creation of a delivery unit by Haringey Council, London: a case study’

** Quote taken from Etheridge and P. Thomas ‘Adapting the PMDU Model: The creation of a delivery unit by Haringey Council, London: a case study’

Simon Day