That was the local government week that was


While we blow off some steam, here's some great links from this week

Today is a day when a little routine may very well have stopped us saying something which might just have got us in trouble.  After a tip off from some of our tweeting friends (many thanks by the way!) some of the WLLG crew plonked ourselves in front of the telly and watched ITV present what they thought was a balanced assessment of whether it’s better to work for the private or public sector.  Suffice to say that, from our perspective at least, it was a less than neutral affair, and we are working out our response right now!

So in the meantime, here are some of our picks from the blogging week.  As ever, if you’ve seen something great which we’ve missed then tell us in the comments below or tweet us @welovelocalgov.

To start with, Dan Slee has once again mined a rich vein of thought and pointed out something which in hindsight sounds perfectly obvious (a much under-rated skill, we assure you) with a post about Facebook pages.  That’s right, pages rather than page; the premise that having one page to rule them all, one page to bind them may not actually do you much good.

Look at New York City. They have 5,000 people liking their City Council Facebook page and a similar number on Twitter. But they have 400,000 following @metmuseum as well as 1,300 liking an AIDS initiative.

Or look at the Scottish Island of Orkney. On Twitter 2,000 follow the council, 4,000 like their library, 400 the story telling festival and 80 sign-up for the jobs feed. So in other words, twice as many like things the council does rather than the council itself.

It’s that last sentence which rings most true to us, and one which councils would do well to wrap their heads around.

Over at the LGiU came the results of the 2012 Councillor Achievement awards.  To single any of the winners out would do a disservice to the rest, so instead we’ll just provide a link directly to the list and tell you to head on over and check it out.

Our good friends over at the Guardian Local Government Network highlighted an advice-filled piece sharing some great advice for those looking at building up the skills and experience needed for a long career in local government.  With fewer posts opening up and greater competition than ever before for these, anyone looking at applying needs to think well in advance of what they can do to make themselves stand out from their peers.

“Management positions will have a much broader portfolio of responsibilities. You can no longer just be a chief officer of planning services: you will be responsible for the whole place environment, incorporating transport, waste, and other areas that might be outside your area of technical skills,” says Keith Power, director of workforce and employment at North West Employers.

“The positive is that it means potentially more pathways to senior positions. They’ll be slower and require people to pick up more experience and a broad range of competencies in different disciplines along the way, but people will no longer be shut off from developing simply because they’re not experts in a particular field. You no longer need to be an expert: you need to be able to manage people who are.”

Our thanks go to @anngriffx for pointing us to this guide on how to ask good questions at a public meeting.  Having sat through interminable ‘questions’ which go on for far longer than the answer could possibly be, this advice should be required reading for every questioner.

After briefly welcoming or thanking the speaker, it is time to give one example that provides context for your question. One example cannot be stressed strongly enough. This is not the time to launch into a comprehensive history of the issue you are about to address; if the speaker and audience members are unfamiliar with the backstory there is no point in asking the question anyway and no time (nor available attention) for you to establish the necessary information. This is not an appropriate time nor place for you to educate the speaker and audience on an entirely new matter. However, if the speaker and some members of the audience are familiar with the issue you are raising, one example should suffice to trigger their memory and allow them to understand fully the context of your question.

Not strictly local government specific perhaps, but this piece from Sarah Lay entitled Cannibal Ambition she grapples with being tagged as having ‘ambition’ and being ‘career focussed’.  As people who have been attacked with similar titles and tags ourselves, we entirely empathise!

I do not think of myself as ambitious and that’s because in my internal thesaurus the word is interchangeable with ‘ruthless’, ‘isolated’ and ‘power-hungry’. I do not like to think I am any of those things although I concede I am competitive in petty things, despite it not being one of my best traits.

No, ‘amitious’ was a dangerous and unwanted quality. It was Lady Macbeth, the Iron Lady, power shoulders and making a million before 9am. It’s drop-kicking kittens on your endless pursuit of getting to the top. It’s shunning femininity and motherhood and being unkind. It is a prison of your own making that cuts you off from others and locks you onto a set course.

Over at the Impower blog, the topic of co-op councils is looked at as a potential route for many local authorities.

The development of the Co-op Council network holds out the promise of a genuinely new era for local government but it requires a significant shift in the way we think about the work of local government. The movement has the potential to develop a whole new way of working, in touch with the times, able to respond to the challenges of diminished resources, but to do so by liberating people from  constrained roles, drawing people together in a spirit of community and co-operation and humanising the work of public services.

Whether or not large numbers of councils follow this path, we wait with great interest to see how they go and the lessons which can be learnt along the way.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

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