Posted tagged ‘guardian’

That was the local government week that was

April 13, 2012

After a week off the blue keyboard returns

What will the world be like in 2020? We love a bit of futurology and this piece from Claudia Megele on the Guardian Local Government Network gazes into the crystal ball and tries to make sense of local government in 2020. Just as a flavour of what you would see when you clicked through:

In spite of the coalition government’s bold rush toward privatisation of public goods and services, the profit-driven model will prove insufficient to tackle the complexity of problems and services required. The needs of citizens and communities will require co-ordinated services that will lead to a stronger recognition of the role of local government – and the eventual need to rebuild its capacity.

However, this will require local government to rethink its revenue sources, a renegotiation of labour relations, and rebuilding citizens’ views of community and society.

Local authorities are always on the look out for more cash and the latest opportunity is a tax the Government are planning to levy against late night pubs and other establishments. As the Independent report:

Local authorities are entitled to a greater share of a new £18m levy designed to force pubs and clubs to pay for the social cost of late-night opening, council leaders claim.

The cost of running services such as taxi marshals and street wardens to help to make Britain’s booze-soaked city and town centres safer in the early hours will not be met if the share of the proposed “late-night levy” remains capped at 30 per cent, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).’

This is just another example of two public agencies (in this case police and local authorities) fighting over resources which they would both use to tackle the same problem, together. We’ll fight it out for a few weeks and whilst it will impact our bottom line the services we provide will remain unchanged, on both sides of the coin. Sad really isn’t it?

We’re fans of local democracy and always slightly disappointed at the state of the current local democratic process. Thus, we were heartened to see a couple of blog posts this week looking at how we could improve that process. If you also care about this then do take a peek at this post from Puffles’ best friend and this one from the ever insightful Toby Blume. Toby ends with a classic call to arms:

 I may not want to go to a political rally, a public meeting or a local hustings, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested.

Surely there are some social tech people who might usefully turn their attention to helping our political parties become more sociable in the interests of democracy and political engagement?

Let’s only hope there are people out there who are prepared to respond, and more importantly political parties who are willing to listen.

John Harris, one of the comment writers for the Guardian, is paid to have opinions and is therefore paid to be slightly polemical. The problem I often have with such a polemic is that it makes me angry even when you basically agree with it. And such was the case when I read Mr Harris’s piece about elected mayors. Entitled: Elected city mayors: the delusions and dangers of power freak politics’ Mr Harris argues:

What the great mayoral delusion really highlights is the modern establishment’s talent for messing with things for the sake of it, with no sense of history, experience, or even clarity about what exactly they want.

His argument is based in large on four parts of the country: Birmingham, where he doesn’t like the New Labour nature of possible candidates; Doncaster, where he doesn’t like the incompetent mayor; Liverpool, where he doesn’t want the current Leader of the Council to win and Manchester, which doesn’t have a Mayor, is successful and where the Leader agrees with him.

It would be fun to devote a whole blog post to dissecting Mr Harris’s bluster but shall we stick with this:

Low turn outs are prevalent in almost all of local government, incompetent politicians are not exactly unknown in local authorities, some mayors have been very successful, and you can’t dislike a system because you dislike the candidates or the diversity of candidates (Mr Harris had already set up these straw men before he lit his fire torch). Apart from that it was a well reasoned and thought through piece.

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That was the local government week that was

March 2, 2012

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.

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That was the local government week that was

February 10, 2012

Goodbye to a mild January, hello to a wintry February!  While local government has been working to cope with the snow, other work has not sat still.  Here’s our round-up of some of our favourite blog posts of the week.  If you’ve got others you think we’ve missed, tweet us @welovelocalgov or share it in the comments below.

Coming hot on the heels of our own post looking at local government websites comes this thought provoking post from Ben Welby, in which he talks about the possible implications of the recently launched gov.uk website.  We are cautiously excited about the possible options ahead of us, and Mr Welby puts this across across perfectly.

And it’s all happening in the open. Since before the launch of AlphaGov there has been a steady flow of information covering the wider strategy for how the Government Digital Service imagines the future to look. The code is open source and therefore freely available, fixes are being contributed by the public and the beta is changing on a dailybasis. They’re up front about what’s not there (yet) but they’re equally clear that gaps will be plugged as and when they get there.

If ever you were to believe hype, I’d say this would be the moment.

Some of the WLLG crew have got in trouble in the past for constantly asking ‘why not’ rather than ‘why’ when an idea for a new project comes up; depending on the situation, either question bears asking.  However, the ever inspiring @helreynolds of Monmouthshire fame has popped something on the always interesting comms2point0 blog post asking a different question altogether; ‘what if…’ (more…)

That was the local government week that was

January 20, 2012

Our weekly top reads

Another week gone, and another week closer to Winterval 2012.  As ever, today we share some of the blogs which we have enjoyed over the past week.  Some of them may even interest you too…

Is teamwork obsolete?  Well, perhaps not, but this thought provoking piece from the New York Times poses this question as it explores how isolation and privacy may actually lead to creativity and innovation.

SOME teamwork is fine and offers a fun, stimulating, useful way to exchange ideas, manage information and build trust.

But it’s one thing to associate with a group in which each member works autonomously on his piece of the puzzle; it’s another to be corralled into endless meetings or conference calls conducted in offices that afford no respite from the noise and gaze of co-workers. Studies show that open-plan offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted. They’re also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, stress, the flu and exhaustion. And people whose work is interrupted make 50 percent more mistakes and take twice as long to finish it.

We’ve had a few things to say in the past on the merits or otherwise of council newspapers, but love them or hate them perhaps they aren’t as dead in the water as we though.  The excellent Comms2point0 blog (which you really should subscribe to by the way) went to the effort of pointing a few stats out for us.

44% of households still buy a daily newspaper.

Of the 2.940 articles from releases and enquiries mentioning Halton Borough Council in the past year 57% appeared in local papers and more if you count their websites.

Out of more than 833 enquires more than 72% came from the local press – and the resulting stories appeared in the papers or their websites.

Look through the news threads on Twitter – see how many link to stories originating from newspapers. I have yet to have one media enquiry from a blogger – although I would welcome them.

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That was the local government week that was

November 25, 2011

Our favourite blogs of the week

Yep, you guessed it: it’s time for our weekly round up of our favourite blog posts from the week.  With so many great posts out there it’s sometimes tough to pick just a few, so if you’ve got some great links to share with us then leave a comment or tweet us (@welovelocalgov) using #localgovblog

We know it was last week, but this piece on some open data apps appeared after our round-up so it’s a bit late.  The Guardian take a look at open data in all its glory:

The Appathon, a marathon for app developers, is a techie testing ground.

The idea was to give UK students some government data to play with, and the results provide yet more evidence that our talent and entrepreneurial flair is alive and flourishing, to match that in Palo Alta.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/public-leaders-network/2011/nov/18/open-data-all-in-app

It is unacceptable that you have not read this yet (unless you have of course, in which case well done) – a simply brilliant transcript of Chris Chant’s thoughts about the way IT in the public sector is done.  Of course, we agree with it all 100%, and appreciate that overall our current setup is not where it should be.

It is unacceptable at this point in time to not know the true cost of a service and the real exit costs from those services: the costs commercially, technically and from a business de-integration standpoint. So, how do we untangle our way out of a particular product or service. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the discussion that says, we need to get away from that, and we can’t because of the complexity of getting out from where we are, and of all the things that are hanging on to that particular service, that we can’t disentangle ourselves from. (more…)

That was the local government week that was

November 18, 2011

Same picture; different stories

It’s a bumper crop of local government blogging and other news this week so without further ado:

One of our favourite blogs is flip chart fairy tales and this week’s discussion of local government cuts, and the ‘great local government fire sale’ that is accompanying them, was particularly accurately put. As the author (Rick) points out:

Councils desperate to get costly services off their books may well grasp at such offers without thinking too hard about the longer-term implications. In some areas, smaller firms and social enterprises might not even get a look in.

This is the sort of thing that happens in all distressed organisations. Companies that are facing bankruptcy tend to slash and burn in a breathless struggle to dump their costlier activities. Sudden and drastic budget cuts will have the same effect on local authorities.

The ever excellent Simon Parker has written a helpful post about the Public Account Committee’s report on local government finance. As he says:

Reviewing the formulas is necessary but not sufficient. The problem with changing the rules is that it redistributes money: some councils get more and others get less. That requires a government with the political guts to shift funding around the system. And that is where things get tricky.

He’s not wrong and as he mentions later on it’s going to take real courage from central Government to do something about it.

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That was the local government week that was

November 11, 2011

On this remembrance day we remember them…

It is week three of our little experiment reviewing the local government writings on the web so without further ado this is a rather shortened local government week that was. We hope you enjoy it and please do take advantage of the comments section to add a few extra comments in.

Congratulations to the Guardian Local Government Network for reaching their first birthday. As part of their celebrations they put together a little post detailing their favourite blog posts of the year. As they said:

What a year for local government. From scepticism over the ‘big society‘ to public spending cuts and the Dilnot report, there has much for writers, bloggers and commentators to chew over during our first year as a professional network. Here we select our favourite blogposts from around the web in the last year.

They’re not wrong and it doesn’t look as if the next year is going to be any different if the cuts, and necessary reform, keep coming.

Talking of cuts; the debate about the local government pension scheme does not seem to show any sign of abating. One of things that has annoyed us a little is that the funded local government scheme is being considered in much the same way as the unfunded schemes in other parts of the public sector. This letter in the Guardian seemed to cover it:

The local government schemes are funded – ie financial contributions by both employers and staff have been invested by skilled and prudent fund managers in order to provide our pension pots. My own local fund was estimated to be able to meet 99% of its pension liabilities just before the world financial crash (it is now recovering to sound financial health). There is no need for the coalition to effectively raid the local government schemes in order to bolster the exchequer, by an unfair impost on people who had nothing to do with the financial mess we’re in.

The civil service scheme is quite different – there is no fund because no contributions have been made and invested. Mark Serwotka and his members have my sympathy and support, but their argument with the exchequer is on an altogether different basis to ours.

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Are councils enviro-mental?

November 9, 2011

Ready or not, here it comes

We noticed that our good friends over at the Guardian Local Government Network are today running another in their series of excellent live web chats, this time on making councils greener. If you haven’t taken a look already, we suggest you head on over there.

This debate was brought to the fore in part thanks to a really good article by Faye Scott, which examined some of the threats and opportunities localism is presenting to the green agenda, we recommend you check it out.

This issue is one which has been troubling some of the WLLG crew recently. Before reading Faye’s article, we had been having similar conversations with coleagues about the way that the funding challenges facing local government are restricting the things we spend our money on, moving away from what we should be doing towards what we had to do.

To quote a couple of stats from the article:

• 37% of councils deprioritising climate change or state that it was never a priority

• 35% remain firm in their commitment to climate change and believe that action could even increase in the context of localism

• 28% are narrowing their ambitions to focus on reducing emissions from their estate and ceasing work on wider environmental issues.

The first of these stats is particularly shocking. Over a third of local authorities, having considered all of the implications, have decided doing their bit for the environment simply isn’t worth it. (more…)

You know you’ve blogged about local government too long when…

October 21, 2011

…You start repeating your posts!

As some of you would have noticed we passed a big milestone this week and it is possible that perhaps we celebrated a little too hard.

With the whole WLLG team out of action we decided that on this one occasion we’d reprint one of our old articles for your enjoyment. The following piece was written before we had a twitter account and before we had any pictures on our site; it was also the first blog entry that received more than 50 hits and subsequently got us the opportunity to write for the Guardian.

So, with apologies to anyone who read this first time through,

‘You know you’ve worked in Local Government for too long when:

  • You see chatting to the person next to you on the bus as a community engagement exercise
  • When a friend offers you a lift you think ‘Ah, the Big Society in action!’….. then you CRB-check them
  • You refuse to recognise a story as news until you’ve read it in an LGiU Briefing email
  • You have to have three separate people sign off approval for you to send an email to your mother, to ensure it has the right policy and community positioning and doesn’t contradict previous correspondence on the matter
  • You write all of your documents in the prescribed corporate font size and type for briefing notes, as anything else just doesn’t look right
  • You put together a project plan for your own wedding and diligently update it until the event
  • You go to a restaurant with friends and wonder aloud when the last Food Safety inspection was conducted
  • You have to get a purchase order signed off by your mum before you can do the shopping
  • When someone asks you what you want for your birthday you provide them with findings from a focus group and an evidence base
  • You don’t talk of your next door neighbour but of a resident
  • You know the exact person to contact when your bin isn’t collected (including which company the collection has been tendered to)
  • You ask your friends to fill in an equality monitoring form when they come to your party
  • You demand Gantt charts and RAG reports from your children’s school teachers
  • You don’t have an invite list for a party, you have a range of stakeholders attending
  • You start spouting jargon that you don’t understand
  • You check out all the parking signs when you travel through the Borough, to check whether they are estates or on-street
  • You smile at anyone in a high-vis vest in any authority doing any sort of work since “we’re all in this together”
  • You set your Children performance indicators for their homework.

And finally:

You know you’ve worked in local government too long when…

  • Your job title is longer than your address
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

Progress Report

May 13, 2011

So are we happy with ourselves?There is simply no getting around it, and certainly no faking it: we are all local government workers. We turn up at our places of work, go to meetings, make project plans and evaluate them at the end. Some of us are also heavily involved in monitoring, and spend days looking at milestones and outputs.

With that in mind, we thought it might be good to do a little housekeeping and stay up to date with our monitoring paperwork. This blog has been going for some time now, and so we want to share a few things about how we feel we’ve been getting on.

Twitter

Hopefully, most of you will be aware that along with this blog, we collectively maintain a Twitter account. Originally inspired to do so by the now employed Redundant Public Servant , this glory of the modern era allows us to post slightly shorter thoughts and ideas regularly, and really engage with other people who have an opinion – positive or negative – about local government.

It was our twitter account that inspired this blog post actually, as this week we passed 1000 followers. Compared to such luminaries as Dominic Campbell, Andy Sawford or Ben Page this is chicken feed, with 1000 followers arriving most days along with the junk mail. However, we began this blogging oddesey surprised and delighted when anyone at all followed us, and collectively managed to look abashed when we hit treble figures.

To see that more than a thousand people check in to hear what we have to say is humbling and exciting; for these aren’t any old thousand people, this includes many people who’s opinions we all value and appreciate immeasurably. If you are one of our thousand or so you have helped us out constantly, challenged us with questions and often just made us smile. So our first thanks goes to you.

Posts

When we started this blog way back in November 2009 we thought that we’d do well to update more than once or twice a week. Since then we have added 243 posts for our readers to enjoy, covering all manner of issues and topics, from the surreal to the anger provoking. We’ve challenged national policy decisions which affect local government, questioned the situations we get ourselves into and shared a few gems which colleagues have sent us to inspire a laugh.

We’ve hit walls for inspiration occasionally, but between us all we’ve tried to stick to churning out a little something every day which we think people will enjoy. And some of our favourite posts haven’t even come from one of our regular blogging team: we are honoured to have been able to post some fantastic guest posts from time to time. Some have been serious, some have been a little more whimsical, and some have been amongst the most viewed posts we’ve ever had, so our second thanks goes out to anyone and everyone who has put fingertips to keyboards and sent us some thoughts to share.

Sharing

Inspired by a desire to share a few thoughts with a few people about a walking club, we put up our first post. It was read by about seven people a day, and the only people sharing it were the people who wrote it. Since then we have found ourselves shared like tomato sauce in a cafe; a little here, a little there and occasionally ending up somewhere we never expected to be.

We have written articles for those good people at the Guardian, been quoted by real journalists in real articles, been retweeted to all and sundry and been e-mailed around so much that some of us have had links to our own stories sent back to us (proving that for the moment at least our thin veil of anonymity is holding firm!). We have even been syndicated to other sites, sometimes even with our permission.  And to top it all, we lost our dignity a little when we found out that we had been listed in the LGC list of influential organisations.

That we are read by anyone in the first place still puts a smile in our hearts; that some of these enjoy our simple words enough to send them on to a colleague makes us a little giddy, so our third thanks go out to anyone and everyone who has ever tweeted, e-mailed, linked to our posted a status update about us or our posts.

And finally

Our final thanks are a little self indulgent, but also a little obvious. We want to thank all of those who share our passion for local government and appreciate the huge amounts of good it does, to all who do the big jobs and strategys, and to all who do the little jobs which no-one notices until they are stopped. So thank you to every single local government officer, whatever your pay grade, council, opinions or demeanor; we hope you all realise that we are not the only people out there who love local government.


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