Archive for the ‘The future of Local Govt’ category

What a wonderful world (of local government blogs and blogging)

June 25, 2012

Last week we wrote a number of different posts exploring themes within local government. There was one area, in particular, that we didn’t cover and that was local government blogging.  Today, it’s time to rectify this.

When we started our blog there didn’t seem to be a lot of other local government blogs out there. There were of course some that we have now discovered but equally the quantity and quality has grown over the last few years. Thus, when we sat down to write this post it was a real challenge to narrow them down to a short enough list to fit in a post. We’ve tried our best to catch all of our favourites but if we have missed you out we can only apologise. Now without further ado let’s get to it:

Guardian Local Government Network 

Why? What can we say? Whilst we have our occasional disagreements with the Guardian it is surely hard for local government professionals, of whatever stripe, to challenge the notion that the Guardian Local Government Network is an invaluable resource for all local government staff. The posts are captured from a range of authors and cover a vast range of local government specialities. If you’re not a member then make sure you sign up.

One to read: It’s impossible to pick one post but if you want a feel of what the GLGN is about why not read this piece about the new homes bonus.

Richard Vize column: 

Why? Whilst we’re talking GLGN it is worth mentioning their contributing editor, Richard Vize. Richard’s weekly column is unique amongst local government writers in that it gets right under the skin of some of the major issues impacting the sector and is always worth a read, even on the rare occasions when we disagree with him.

One to read: Richard’s take of Eric Pickles’ high street plan is well worth a read: 

Flip Chart Fairy Tales 

Why? Because it is one of our favourite blogs and although not about local government it does address issues of public sector reform and even when it doesn’t we are yet to find a post we didn’t enjoy reading.

One to read: There is so much to choose but a post entitled Culture eats strategy is always worth a read; a little provocation for those of us embarking on transformation programmes 

Not so Big Society

Why? This is a blog about health and social care written by members of staff who work in social care. Reading the blog no-one can be in any doubt how much the authors care about the people they work with and the policy context they are asked to work in. Anyone interested in these areas should check out this blog as a fantastic counter balance to whatever else is being reported.

One to read: The integration of health and social care is increasingly a hot topic in local government and this post tackles the issue from the first had perspective of mental health.

LGIU Blog: 

Why? We really like the LGIU; the slightly scrappier alternative to the rather staid LGA. Plus, they have a blog and they aren’t afraid to use it. The blog varies between policy blogs, extracted from the wider reports they specialise in (and which should be a key part of your working reading), comment pieces, guest posts and extensive coverage of local government elections. Always worth a read.

One to read: Why not check out this post about Health and Well Being boards and the ever changing health agenda?

Comms 2 point 0: 

Why? Becuase if you are a communications professional working in the public sector this is a blog and information hub just for you. It’s written by communications professionals and always has an interesting thing to say. Plus, it gathers up lots of other interesting links and highlights them for the discerning communicator. Plus, their twitter account has links to five interesting articles almost every morning.

One to read: This post about what comms teams should look like in 2012 seems eminently sensible and is well worth a read.

Dan Slee Blog

Why? Because we are massive fans of Dan Slee and so should you be. A contributor to Comms2point0 Dan’s a local government communicator and as far as we can make out simply a top banana. His blog is about social media and digital communications in PR and local government and is well worth reading.

One to read: 11 Golden Rule for Social media in an organisation. Does exactly what it says on the tin.

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Use the staff-Force

June 22, 2012

What better way to end a week of posts reflecting on the wider context for local government than to reflect on the local government workforce?  Well, we couldn’t think of anything either, so here goes.

Like many service industries, and indeed like most organisations in existence, local government is almost entirely dependent on the quality of the people who work for it.  Whilst it is not universally the case, generally those councils who contain and retain the best staff deliver the best services, and the converse is just as true.  This poses the sector a number of inter-related challenges.

Firstly, the local government workforce is getting older and local government has struggled to attract and retain the calibre of new recruits to leave people confident in the future of the industry.  On the one hand this has resulted in staff who are increasingly experienced in their field, but of course holds the danger of a potential lack of innovative new ideas coming from people new to the sector.

A key point of ingress for these newcomers has for the last few years been through the NGDP programme.  However, it has become clear that this excellent stream of talent appears to have been dammed, with fewer councils taking on graduates as well as investing in their training and development.  This short term quest to save a few pennies promises to cost many, many pounds in the future.

Secondly, whilst local government staff are not, relatively speaking, badly paid the recent attacks on the pay and conditions of council workers has damaged morale and has the potential to put people off joining the sector. (more…)

An engaging conversation

June 21, 2012

Our week of local government introspection continues with part four today, and as yesterdays post seemed at first to be similar to one earlier in the week, so today’s touches on yet remains separate to another post, namely that around digital engagement and innovation.  Before exploring this link let’s start at the basics.

Starter for ten: What is engagement and why bother with it?  A pair of very simple questions perhaps but worth asking.  Engagement in relation to local government centres around how we involve local people in the planning, running and evaluation of our services, and comes in a number of forms and methods.  Popular engagement techniques include surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, workshops and interviews, but can also be as creative as World Cafes, PinPoint, Open Space facilitation or Planning for Real.

As for why, well if you have to ask this then perhaps you’ve not been around local government for too long.  The business case is fairly simple: firstly we are told we have to, secondly it helps us builds a two-way relationship with residents and thirdly good engagement actually opens up a huge world of knowledge which we otherwise may not find out about.

We’ve often remarked that you should never throw away your drainpipe trousers as sooner or later they will come back into fashion, and so it seems to be the case with approaches to community engagement.  There is no one single way of doing this, and so successive governments have tried various ways to encourage or force local authorities and residents to engage with each other.   (more…)

It’s the people stupid

May 28, 2012

Are they truly smiling or just complying?

How many times have we heard the spiel from a consultant or a new Chief Executive promising us that a new structure, new way of working, new computer system or new approach to reviewing the local authority will deliver the savings or improved service we need?

The answer of course is many many times.

As regular readers of this blog will know we are generally fairly sympathetic to this approach. Too often local government is trapped in the belief that we should just continue to do things the way we always have and there is a lot to learn by considering problems from a different point of view or by applying sensibly thought through management tools and techniques. At the same time we get trapped in our management silos and forget that the main aim of the work we do is to serve our customers.

Indeed, sometimes the change is useful even if it is not perfectly designed as just the act of changing things can be beneficial.

However, over the past few months I have been reflecting on the changes we’ve tried to make in our local authority and the one deciding factor in each case of success, and indeed each of failure, has been the people involved. Perhaps, the hardcore systems thinkers amongst you will be shouting at this screen that if that is the case then we’ve obviously chosen the wrong solution to implement or simply not done it properly. My observation is based on nothing but anecdotal evidence but to me it seems that the people involved, especially at management level, are just as important, if not more so.

This should not be a surprise really. We all know who the really good people are in local government and have a pretty good idea who the poor ones are too. However, what was a surprise was how absolutely the staff involved influenced the success or otherwise of the work.

This has a few different elements:

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Do we employ the right people in local government?

May 23, 2012

Answering questions…

Our good friends at the Guardian Local Government Network deliver each Friday a local government careers e-mail. The e-mail includes a link to their ‘working lives’ blog where local government employees describe what their job entails; a section called ask our members where local government people can ask for career advice and links to jobs and helpful career based articles. If you haven’t signed up before now you should.

All of this is by introduction to today’s post which seeks to answer the GLGN’s career question of the week:

Is local government employing the wrong type of people? Does it need to think about bringing people in from a much wider group, rather than focusing on people with previous public sector experience?

This is a common question and one that is often asked of the Whitehall civil service; an institution that generally employs policy generalists at the age of 25 and then at 45 after twenty years doing just that expects them to run departments, mange substantial IT systems and deliver complicated projects. Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, was particularly scathing of this element of the civil service and I have no doubt that the debate over civil service skills will continue under the current administration.

But how does this work for local government? On face value the two shouldn’t be comparable. Whereas the whole civil service is, and here I am stereotyping for effect, basically one big policy team, local councils usually have a small policy team outside of the Chief Executive’s office. The rest of the staff on the council are carrying out front line service delivery.

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LGAging behind

May 14, 2012

The Leader of all Local Government?

The WLLG team have been known to be fairly critical of our friends at the LGA. In a time of severe strain on the local government sector and when public understanding of local government seems to be reaching all time lows the response of the LGA has been, in our opinion, insipid.

As we noted on Friday the response to the Queen’s Speech was not a howl of outrage but a reminder that:

  • The LGA will continue its parliamentary lobbying work to ensure the best outcome for our member councils.
  • Councils have already shown remarkable resilience in coping with the spending cuts and local government is already the most efficient, transparent and trusted part of the public sector.
  • Within our legislative lobbying work we will be campaigning to ensure there is sustainable funding for local government going forward.

This is not to say that the LGA has been totally inactive. The letter organised by Sir Merrick Cockell pushing the Government to act now on Adult Social Care funding reform was a pleasant example of what the LGA should be doing. The fact that it was roundly ignored by the Government was a subtle reminder of the ineffectiveness of local government to influence the national agenda.

This is not the only example of failed leadership.

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