Posted tagged ‘guest post’

In (partial) defence of the Tax Payers Alliance

June 6, 2012

Needing a good defence?

One of the things we love about this blog is the guest posts we receive from our readers. Some of them are from people keen to make a point, some from those wanting to discuss their work or workplace and some just want to start a debate. Today’s is firmly in that last category and we love it, even if we don’t necessarily agree with all of it. If you have a post you’d like to submit please send it to us at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com but not before you’ve enjoyed (and possibly responded to) this:

One of the aspects of WLLG that I enjoy as an avid reader is the ability it has to represent different views, reinforcing the notion that Local Government is not a homogenous entity but has different views.  My last guest post was in defence of Eric Pickles, and the title of this one might be a surprise as well.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance is set up to represent the views of taxpayers in the UK and is a very successful campaigning organisation, which is well connected and well funded and has some very talented people working for it and in its alumnus.  Its role is to hold public services to account for the public money that we spend and to point out waste and inefficiency: this makes it perfectly understandable as to why certain people don’t like it; much like many have disliked Private Eye’s Rotten Borough column.

There is a real and legitimate role for organisations like the Alliance to hold public services to account for what they do and how they spend their money. I personally don’t believe that public organisations are any different to private organisations when it comes to waste and inefficiency, but I understand that as we are spending public money we need to be held to a different standard and a higher level of scrutiny.  The Alliance does a good job of this but perhaps is insufficiently nuanced in how information is reported.   There is a clear need to publish information that we as public services should, but often when that information is published the context is missing. 

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What’s in a name? That which we call a Rose by any other name would smell so sweet

April 19, 2012

Now go on, you didn't expect to be seeing them today, did you?

It’s been ages since our last guest post (well, since 26 March anyway) and we were beginning to think that perhaps no-one else had any interesting or amusing points about local government which they wanted to share with us and our readers.  That was when this work of art popped into our inbox (welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com by the way) and proved us wrong in the most wonderful way, so here it is in all its glory.  If you’ve got something you think would interest or amuse us or our readers send it in and you too could see your name up in pixels, but first enjoy and chip in yourselves.

The colleague who sits next to me is a slammer.

Most of the time she is very calm at work; while everyone is stressed she is usually the relaxed one. However she does get stressed and she deals with this by slamming down the phone. She will tend to be as sweet as pie on the phone but I know she is angry at the caller because she slams down the phone at the end of the conversation. At times this may be led by an appropriate outburst.

The other day she really slammed down the phone. Any harder and she would have broken the head piece, gone through the desk and met the floor. Once said phone was down, she whispered under her breath, in that kind of whisper that everyone care hear within a mile of you, “No Madam I am not going to refund your *%*! parking ticket, as my job is to collate performance data on education, not to deal with parking tickets and anyway, I have no idea what our *%”! parking policy is.” What had caused this outburst? Quiet simply the call centre had put through a resident wanting to complain about parking to someone who had nothing to do with parking.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. When a call comes through that has nothing to do with your job. Sometimes you can understand the mistake (I know Scrutiny Officers get calls about security), sometimes it is just bizarre (I know an Engagement Officer who gets a call about the Borough’s flood defences). But you know what? I don’t think it’s the person at the call center or reception’s fault.

No; its our job titles.

Look at your job title now. If you had no idea what your job was, would you understand what it was you did just by your job title? I’m willing to bet the amount of the Country’s Deficit, that the answer is no. I’m also willing to bet you are sick and tired of having to explain what it is you do after you have met someone for the first time and they have given you a blank look when you have told them your job title. You may even have a set phrase, “Its like…” I’m also willing to bet that the majority of your friends and family haven’t a clue what it is you do, because they have turned off before you have even started said explanation. And you know what, nearly every job title in local government is like this (go on look at the job title of a person in the team next to you…see, I’m right!). (more…)

Shades of Grey

March 26, 2012

So much better than black and white

We like a good guest post; especially one from someone who makes us think. Today’s is just such a post and we hope you enjoy it and reflect on it. If you would like to submit a guest post for the blog please drop us a line at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com but not before you’ve read this:

There’s a new guy working in my office and to be honest he makes me feel really uncomfortable.

The reason for this discomfit is fairly simple really; he sees things in black and white and isn’t afraid to say so. If something isn’t working in our department his response usually consists of:

well, why don’t we just do it differently?

I have more than once found myself responding to this question with a complex discussion of why things are done the way they are and why it has proven difficult to change things so far. It’s not that we don’t want to change things it’s just a lot more complicated than that.

And if a member of staff in a different department isn’t following process in the way we think they should be my new colleague will ask:

and are they being disciplined for this?

Again, I have found myself defending the members of staff and pointing out that there are different interpretations of the right way to act and that just because people are doing things differently this doesn’t mean they are necessarily wrong, even though we agree that we think they are.

So why does this all make me feel uncomfortable?

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In defence of Eric Pickles

March 6, 2012

Does he need defending?

It’s a guest post today and with a title that needs no introduction. So without further ado courtesy of a guest poster, ‘In defence of Eric Pickles':

There, that got your attention.  It’s not completely true, as in, we’ll be defending some other people as well.

I am troubled by the constant references to Mr Pickles’ girth.  Whether it is Nick Clegg saying that Eric Pickles is the only cabinet minister who can be seen on Google Earth or Greg Clark talking about the heavyweight presence that Local Government has at the Cabinet table, people enjoy a laugh at him, and at John Prescott before him.  This Billy Bunter style humour is unhelpful at best and possibly destructive, being redolent of Form 4B on a Tuesday afternoon.

People might say that he will laugh it off, and it is a bit of a joke and not serious, and he should develop a thick skin.  As a fattie in my younger days, I can tell you that it isn’t a joke, he shouldn’t have to laugh it off and why should he develop a thick skin.  It is unpleasant to know that when you wake up in the morning, you know what will happen.  Fattism seems to be the acceptable face of bullying in public life.  I wonder how long it might be before this gets referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission?

And whilst this is an issue for Mr Pickles and Lord Prescott, this distracts attention from the impending obesity crisis that we are facing.  Whilst we maintain an adolescent and puerile approach to obesity, we won’t get anywhere near sorting it out as a major public health issue.  The reasons that people are overweight are many and complex, much as those reasons as to why people are underweight and malnourished.  Understanding those reasons and looking to address them rather than resorting to fattie jokes surely has to be the best way.

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Putting the local back into local government

February 29, 2012

Middle Class council service delivery

We love a guest post and today’s asks a lot of questions; the most interesting of which is whether we’re trying to make everyone middle class (which certainly isn’t the focus where I work!). We hope you enjoy this post, think about it, and if you have a post you’d like to submit please drop us a line at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com 

One of the things that I do on a regular basis in my job is to look at what other Councils are doing to address particular issues.

I am one of those rather sad people who can spot the SOCITM organising framework for a website and be instantly able to find my way around.  I am often profoundly depressed about what I find when I look at some documents as I could cross out the name of X Council, replace with Y council, and it would still look the same.

I saw a comment last year which caused me to ponder, and I have been pondering ever since: ‘is the goal of all public policy to turn everybody to be middle class?’

There is a trait within all of us to find homogeneity in as many places as we could.  When my parents used to travel, they would always stay in a Travelodge and eat in a Brewer’s Fayre on the basis that you knew what you were getting.  I can understand that but personally would prefer to stay in a quirky bed and breakfast and take my chances on finding a little restaurant somewhere.  Mary Portas is right about our high streets becoming increasingly identikit and indistinguishable from each other.

There are too many times when we focus on the government element of our role and not enough on the local.

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A question of standards

January 25, 2012

Guest post alert, and this pleases us.  As regular readers will know, WLLG Towers is home to more than one brain, but even between us all we find a fair few corners of the local government world about which we know pitifully small amounts.  If you happen to have some thoughts to share about any such corner then please send them in to us at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com, as did today’s fantastic guest blogger DSO.  Enjoy!

In those heady days after the last general election, the coalition government sat down and hammered out a document, The Coalition: our programme for government, subtitled “Freedom Fairness Responsibility”. Included in the proposals for local government was a sentence which met with cheers from many local councillors: “We will abolish the Standards Board regime.”

Now, the Standards Board regime might have had a lot of reasons to be disliked, but it would never have been established if there hadn’t been a need for some oversight of ethical standards in the conduct of local councillors. The vast majority had no trouble sticking to the Code of conduct although they might have resented the necessity of legislating requirements to treat people with respect, not bullying and not to abuse their position for personal gain.

The real problems came from those determined to breach it on principle and from the complicated framework for dealing with complaints: investigations could drag on for months, there was secrecy concerning what information was seen and by whom, and no one was ever satisfied with the outcome of a Standards Committee hearing. Some of these criticisms were addressed when the regime was overhauled in 2008, transferring most of the work to local councils to speed up the process and bring local knowledge into play, but at the same time increasing costs for the local council. Everything had to be filtered through a first-stage committee meeting which could consider only evidence from the complainant and, based on this one-sided view, had to decide what to do next: investigate or drop it. An authority in the southwest received more than 800 complaints from one resident, and had to meet to decide what to do with each of them as the legislation didn’t allow the Monitoring Officer any discretion to dismiss clearly vexatious complaints. (more…)

Positive for yoof?

January 18, 2012

Same Words: Different Order?

We love guest posts and today’s is a classic environmental study; in that it despairs of the amount of paper wasted in not particularly ‘original’ research, studies and reports. The argument is quite strident and encourages debate so please do chime in. If you would like to submit a post for the blog please drop us a line at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com but not until you’ve enjoyed, and commented on (?!?) today’s post.

After a long day of long tedious meetings, answering phone calls, replying to emails, I try to take some time to catch up with the going’s on in the sector. Who’s tweeting, what report is out, who asked the most ridiculous question in PMs Question time?

Today I was catching up with a thorough read on the Positive for Youth report launched in December 2011. Whenever I open up a document that Adobe tells me is over 50 pages, it usually serves a quick scan, pick up on the important points and move on. However, being in the youth sector, I thought it important that this particular report should get a little bit more of my attention; particularly if the government isn’t going to change for a while…

The more I read this report, the more I kept saying to myself – surely someone has just copied and pasted this from previous papers, reports, academic studies, green and white papers. This isn’t anything new and actually, most of this is just recycled common sense.

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