Posted tagged ‘links’

That was the local government week that was

March 30, 2012

New week; same rubbish picture

Another week and another big Government announcement that will have a large impact on local government. Thus, where the budget led last week the National Planning Policy Framework followed this week. As always on these big days we are indebted to the Guardian Local Government Network for keeping us appraised of what is going on. This summary of responses from key stakeholders was a useful quick catch up. As this comment from the Chief Executive of the National Trust demonstrates it also showed that the response was actually fairly positive:

There are a number of important changes that have been made to the draft, responding to concerns that we and others raised. All these changes improve the document and give it a better tone and balance.

Now the serious business of planning begins. The country needs huge effort at a local level to get plans in place that properly reflect the integration of social, economic and environmental goals, and protect places people value.

However, if like us planning is not your thing this wordle from @gaillyk summed it all up very quickly:

Whilst talking about local development this story from the USA tickled me. Yes, we have some lobbying of local authorities over planning issues but US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a lobbyist dedicated to helping him build his house. As Politico report:

At Mitt Romney’s proposed California beach house, the cars will have their own separate elevator. There’s also a planned outdoor shower and a 3,600-square foot basement — a room with more floor space than the existing home’s entire living quarters. Those are just some of the amenities planned for the massive renovation of the Romneys’ home in the tony La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, according to plans on file with the city. A project this ambitious comes with another feature you don’t always find with the typical fixer-upper: its own lobbyist, hired by Romney to push the plan through the approval process.

No matter what happens with our more localised planning system please don’t ever let us learn that lesson from our American cousins.

Thanks to @williamoulton for alerting us of the impending end of the executive and scrutiny function and the replacement of it with good old fashioned committees. As the Local Government lawyer reports:

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Watching Healthwatch

February 21, 2012

We have discussed on this blog before about the benefits of moving about and becoming part of a wider local government family, and by living this ideal I recently came across something which has not really crossed my radar too closely until now.  On a semi-regular meet up with a colleague from another borough, I discovered the weird and wonderful world that is Healthwatch.

What’s that you say?  You’ve never heard of Healthwatch before?  Well, you certainly wouldn’t be alone.  This idea is part of the Health and Social Care Bill which is currently working its tortuous and controversial way through the system, and aims to replace LINks, or Local Involvement Networks.  What’s that you say?  You’ve never heard of them either?

LINks have been around now for a good few years, and have aimed to help local people have more of a say about the quality of healthcare in their area.  They are networks of people, usually hosted by a separate organisation and based around the involvement of volunteers.  Healthwatch apparently looks set to take these responsibilities and add some others into the mix, adding a little more teeth and a few extra pennies into the mix for good measure.

These may be very good intentions, but what hope is there really when so few people even know of its existence? (more…)

That was the local government week that was

February 3, 2012

Did anything happen?

This week on the blog we have looked at officer neutrality, council websites, local government managers and the balance between working in local government and having a young family.

‘But what else has been happening in the on-line world of local government?’ I hear you ask; well, quite a lot. So without further ado:

It’s no secret that the cuts made by the Government are going to have a major impact on those councils in poorer areas but stories like this one from the Independant really do bring it home:

London and the North of England have been especially badly hit by the cuts, according to research by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

“Overall cuts in local government spending (excluding education) are largest in both absolute and proportionate terms in the high-spending regions of London, the North East and the North West,” said the IFS in its 2012 Green Budget – a precursor to the Chancellor’s Budget each spring.

Average cuts in London between 2009-10 and 2011-12 were equivalent to £221 per person or 11.2 per cent. Cuts in the North East were equivalent to £169 per person, or 12.6 per cent. In the North West, the average cut was £156 per person, or 12 per cent.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies was also in the news this week when they suggested that the Government’s reform of the pension system was not actually going to save the Government any money over the next 20 years. As the Telegraph explained it:

The institute concludes: “In general, lower earners in the public sector will actually get a more generous pension as a result of the recently announced reforms. That is, they will be able to retire at age 65 with a higher annual pension than they would receive under current arrangements. Conversely, higher earners are likely to lose out.”

There are two real lessons from this. Firstly, the lesson that every local government manager knows; before you get any sign off for a project make sure that your costing of the project is correct.

Secondly, it is amazing how much bad information has infected the debate. The Government were trying to convince everyone that this change was an absolute necessity when it wasn’t and the Unions were actively campaigning against a policy which eventually ended up benefiting the poorest workers and reducing the benefits of the highest paid. When you put it like that it almost seems the wrong way round!

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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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That was the localgov week that was

November 4, 2011

Some things to read

Welcome to week 2 of our series of Friday review posts looking at the writing, blogging and things of interest out there in the world of local government. In no particular order the following posts interested us:

We often find our posts on the website of the Taxpayers Alliance and wonder if they have read them before they are put up. In this spirit, we would like to recommend the work of Ruth Keeling who has applied some of her characteristic journalistic rigour to their latest ‘open data’ project; this time about plane travel by council employees. As well as busting some myths the post makes the important point:

But the most important point is this: some of these councils did take the opportunity – in their FOI response – to make their case and offer justification of the spending and the TPA decided not to pass that information on to taxpayers.

This is not only wasting councils time, and therefore taxpayers resources, by requiring them to provide this information a second, third, fourth time in responses to queries from local journalists and residents, but it has also stimulated an uninformed and unintelligent debate because only some of the information has been made available.

FOI and open data are fine but there is a responsibility on all of us to use them properly.

An interesting speech from Hilary Benn at the LGIU’s localism and austerity conference. It’s early days but surely Mr Benn cannot be as absolutely anonymous as his predecessor Caroline Flint. The speech doesn’t say much that is new (but I guess he’s only just getting his head around the brief) but this statement pleased us here at WLLG:

Some (Government proposals) are plain incoherent. When money is tight, and CLG has faced huge cuts, to suddenly find £250m to try to bribe councils into changing decisions they themselves have made  – in the spirit of localism  – about how to collect  people’s rubbish is bizarre and smacks of Whitehall knows best.

Meanwhile the effervescent Richard Kemp got it right about adoption in this short piece:

I am not defending poorly performing councils. If there are councils who just cannot cope we need to understand that and do something about them. One way forward is peer intervention and training not draconian take overs.

The trouble with league tables is that they are crude; they take no account of the circumstances of the council and therefore give few guides to the efficacy of the team.

One of my youth work colleagues recommended that I read this piece about the riots and linkages to youth work. It is one of the best things I have read about the riots and well worth a read. It is quite long though so picking out a summary paragraph was tough. I opted for one from the introduction:

As we will see, it is best to avoid notions such ‘Broken Britain’ and simplistic linkages to reductions in government expenditure on young people and youth work if we are to find sensible solutions.

We have our differences with Eric Pickles (I won’t list them all) but this sketch from Simon Hoggart appeared particularly mean spirited. In one short article he mocked Mr Pickles for being northern, southern, fat (many times), thin (once), an alien, slow, dim and a Duracell bunny with an expiring battery. No wonder more people don’t want to get involved in politics. All done with a sneer and just a hint of school-yard petulance.

Just to show that we are not anti-Guardian the Guardian’s excellent Local Government Network (which is 1 year old today: Happy Birthday by the way!) had a really good debate about the council of the future. As always these debates are made by the people who take part and this week was a bumper crop. Check it out.

Could cloud computing really be on its way?

A short post from Simon Wakeman here, but it does link to some very interesting work being done by Westminster Council on comma tracking:

Finally, we want to take this opportunity to say goodbye to one of our favourite blogs which unexpectedly vanished from the web about two months ago. Fighting Monsters was an excellent blog about social care written by someone who not only understood her field but had a real passion for her work, the people she worked for and importantly for making it better. The blog is officially closed but the anonymous author has opened up the archived posts to say goodbye and to allow people to access the resources she had built up there over the three and half years.

The blog is a sad loss to the world of public sector blogging but we wish our anonymous friend well and hope that the projects she goes onto are equally fulfilling.

Do check out her blog whilst you still can.

This is the localgov week that was

October 28, 2011

Some of our favourite blog posts this week

One of the things we love most about writing this blog is the excuse it gives us to spend time on the internet, reading other blogs for ‘research’ purposes.  Since we began writing all that time ago more than a few others have joined us in the blogosphere, regularly educating and amusing us in equal measures.  Some agree with some of the things we write here, others point out all of the things we haven’t thought of or which totally disagree – which is certainly no bad thing.

So in an effort to spread a little blogging cheer we wanted to point our readers towards some of the blog posts we have particularly enjoyed over the past week.  If we missed one that you thought was particularly good then tell us about it in the comments below or tweet us a link (@welovelocalgov by the way) and tell others all about it.  And if you come across something interesting over the next week or so, you know who to tell!

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An unhealthy situation

September 29, 2011

Council staff may need to get that doctorate after all

My husband’s birthday is coming up soon.  I know it’s coming up, and that I will be expected to buy a nice present, perhaps cook a nice meal and maybe if he’s lucky arrange a bit of a party, but so far I haven’t.  Life’s been busy, other things have taken my time and attention and generally I’ve let it slide, no doubt to remember again a few days before and pick him up a ‘humorous’ card, a Chris Ryan novel and some random golf-related stuff.

In fact, I’m feeling very local government about it all.  You see, councils up and down the country are going through the same thing.  In 2013, the responsibilities previously undertaken by the PCT around public health will transfer lock, stock and anti-smoking barrel to their council counterparts.

2013 is just 15 months away.  If you were wondering, that’s 66 Mondays away from the day this post goes live.

But are we in the council ready?  Have we got long term plans and strategies in place to handle these changes, with work currently underway to prepare the ground for an influx of new officers and workstreams, working to understand how we can avoid simply tagging them on to other areas but really make them part of an integrated service and weaving them into the service delivery plans of their new colleagues? (more…)


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