Posted tagged ‘we love local government’

This post is urgent

May 18, 2012

You’ve got mail!

To: Reader, Readers, Skimmers, Non-readers

CC: My boss; your boss; Finance; HR

BCC: My colleagues who I need to know that I am taking this seriously

Subject: URGENT: Action needed!!!

Dear Readers,

It has come to our attention that readers of this blog have NOT been reading the blog early enough in the morning. To make matters worse it has been reported to me that some readers of the blog have not been reading the blog consistently.

I have also heard of some readers who only skim read the posts.

This is obviously NOT acceptable and I write to you asking for this to be rectified straight away!!!

As such, I expect an immediate response from all of you covering the following points:

  1. WHAT YOU WILL DO TO RECTIFY THE SITUATION
  2. BY WHEN

I should also remind you of comments made in previous communications on this topic. As the boss has said recently:

Please enjoy today’s post.’

I am not going to report back to my boss and tell him/her/it that this has NOT been fixed by each and every one of you!!!

<Insert name of defenceless admin officer> Localgov: I would like to remind you that you are meant to be RESPONSIBLE for this issue. Please inform all readers as to their duties regarding this. I also expect a full report from you accompanying a new procedure manual for monitoring the reading habits of the readers.

ALL: Let me REASSERT that I expect this situation to be fixed within the next <Insert random timescale> and will not accept any excuses.

IF YOU DO NOT FIX THIS I WILL BE FORCED TO ESCLATE THIS TO YOUR BOSS’S, BOSS’s, BOSS’s BOSS!!!

WLLG

PS. This is obviously not that urgent or I would have picked up the phone or come and seen you in person. But I am angry, running out of the door and won’t have a chance to bug you about this for at least four days and I needed to make everyone in the organisation know that I am taking this very seriously indeed.

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 We’re not angry in real life… Honest!

That was the local government week that was

May 11, 2012

More content than the Queen’s Speech

It was the Queens Speech this week. The WLLG bloggers were a bit disappointed with the Government’s progress on any number of key issues with the localism agenda and social care reform agenda seemingly ground to a halt as the Government prioritise other issues. As much as we try it is very hard to get excited about the Government legislating to complete the abolition of the Audit Commission they announced two years ago.

There were some good bits within the speech and some relevant to Local Government and you can find them summarised on the LGIU blog:

It is good to hear that there will be a Bill to create new powers for the Children’s Commissioner and improve services for children in care, both things that the LGiU has been campaigning for. Similarly, we welcome mention of legislation on the future funding of adult social care although we are concerned that the plans are vague, and we would urge the government to confirm that legislation will follow the forthcoming White Paper.   Chances of a lasting settlement on social care funding seem greater to us if the momentum is maintained and if we are far enough away from the next election.  The lessons of 2010 are that once an election is on the horizon any political consensus will break down.

And whilst checking out the LGIU do check out Andy Sawford’s alternative Queen’s Speech which is very sensible and includes:

  • The Community Budgets Bill
  • The Localism and Statutory Duties Bill
  • The Social Care Funding Bill
  • The Children’s Services Bill
  • The Primary Justice Bill

Meanwhile, whilst we were disappointed by the Government’s programme we were equally disappointed by the LGA’s response where their key messages were:

  • 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.

Talk about burying the lead!

Meanwhile, in non-queens speech blogging we really liked this piece from Flip Chart Fairy Tales about the battle between the younger and older workforce. Apparently, some commentators are arguing that we need older workers to stand aside to make space for those younger staff who have no jobs. Instinctively, this sounds like nonsense but Rick dissects it with characteristic verve:

Calling on older workers to retire and make way for the young might sound like a good idea. It is no way to solve youth unemployment though. As ever, keeping as much of the population as possible economically active is what makes for a prosperous and stable society. If a greater proportion of people are over 65 it makes sense, therefore, for the over 65s to stay in work. Given that people in their sixties are healthier and fitter than in previous generations, that is now possible. The same factors that make people live longer also enable them to work for longer.

If we are to counteract the costs of ageing, more older people will have to carry on working. Far from taking the jobs of the young, the working elderly are more likely to keep spending and creating jobs for the young. Accusing older workers of  job-hogging fits in neatly with the fashionable generational warfare narrative but it is nonsense. If we are to deal with the consequences of an ageing population, that ageing population will have to keep working. And that will be better for all of us.

On the topic of the fate of the young this piece from the Guardian Local Government Network could not be more unhappy with Kate Davies arguing that we are now facing a housing crisis for young people that is perhaps not going to ever improve:

Call me naive, but I had always assumed that things could only get better; that progress was what happened over time. My parents’ life was a big improvement on their grandparents, and mine on theirs.

Scientific advances, greater freedom, less poverty and more opportunity would – I thought – ensure that each generation would do better than their predecessors. I had taken the onward march of mankind for granted.

But now the evidence shows that we are going backwards.

A bit too pessimistic for my liking but the housing crisis for young people is certainly real and not being addressed properly by any politician (see Queen’s speech above).

Who would have known that there was a website called public sector travel? Well, there is and they had an interesting article this week about the endless pain caused to local government by EU procurement rules:

The Local Government Association has called on Whitehall to roll back what it sees as needless complexity in procurement flowing from the European Union.

In a procurement pledge for the local government sector, the Conservative-controlled LGA said: “Public procurement is highly regulated particularly by the European Union and over the years the European procurement rules have become more and more complicated.

“We need help from government to put the power of procurement back into the hands of local government.”

We tend to agree that there is need for reform but are not holding our breath!

And finally my favourite tweet from a council twitter account for quite a long time is this classic from Surrey Matters:

Nut lovers, did you know nut shells make great compost? #6thingsyouneverknewyoucouldcompost

Is this genius… or madness?

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

Election day in the jungle

May 3, 2012

The polling station is always quiet early in the morning

Welovelocalgovernment has built up a network of contributors from around the country. It was therefore no surprise when one of our local government friends sent us a transcript from a local election campaign headquarters.

The following briefing allegedly took place in the campaign headquarters of Simba the Lion in his campaign to win the local ward of Jungle East. The other voice in this transcript is that of his advisor Nyoka the snake.

S: Nyoka, what’s the update? Am I going to manage another term looking after the vines and managing the gradual decline of the forest due to logging decisions made nationally that strip my resources?

N: Wow, you’re in a cynical mood this morning

S: Must just be election blues; I’ll be alright in the morning. So how’s it going?

N: We’re right on track Mr S; as always the main concern on election day is getting out the vote. As usual I’m having a little trouble persuading the campaign volunteers to just talk to people they know are going to vote for us.

S: Ah Nyoka, now who is the cynic? Part of the joy of politics is the debate about issues with people who disagree with you. Should we be relaxed about tourists coming to gawp at us? Should we support limited destruction of our habitat if the rest is better protected? Should we be stricter about the local residents who throw their own faeces at passing animals and then hide in trees? What is my position on birds being given equal rights to animals? And what about the insects? These are the debates that matter and why people come out and vote.

N: On the contrary sir, those are the debates that matter in the weeks preceding the vote. Today, only turnout matters. We want our voters to show up and we want the Chuwi (Simba’s main opponent) supporters to stay at home.

S: Go on then; how is our get out the vote effort going?

N: Well, it’s the classic problem; we have pledges but I have no idea whether the animals were telling the truth. We’re particularly strong in the eastern section of the ward where the monkey vote looks firmly in your camp. However, you know the monkey’s; young, free-spirited and not particularly interested in politics. As always, we’re really concerned that they won’t turnout. However, we’ve got some really enthusiastic young female monkeys on staff and they’ve pledged to spend the whole day in the trees persuading them to come to the polls.

S: What about some of the hard to reach communities within the jungle?

N: A classic problem. I suppose there are two theories. Take the leopards for example; one is that we’ve just done a really bad job at reaching out to them but on the other hand maybe they just don’t really care about politics at all and don’t want to be reached. We’ve tried a bit this election but when push comes to shove we’re going to focus on the community that turns out.

S: So, how are we going with the tortoises?

N: Well, as you know we could manage nearly 100% turnout from the tortoises. For some reason the elderly members of the junlge have always had good turnout rates. My campaign volunteers are out there offering them lifts to the polls as we speak.

S: Lifts?

N: It’s best you don’t know the details sir but it involves monkeys, vines and tree trunks.

S: Erm, ok… So tell me; how did we do with the community leaders?

N: Well sir as you know we’ve had quite a robust community campaign; focusing on those individuals who are influential within their community. In particular we’ve focused on the elephants this year.

S: Always a success; they can be very hierarchical.

N: Well, it does seem to be shifting a little. The younger bulls are less likely to simply follow the advice of their seniors. We’re still trying but we might need to reach out to the whole community in the future.

S: Good advice Nyoka, we shall make a real effort on that in future years. So what about the bird community?

N: Well, your twitter account has been very successful at reaching out to them. (Boom boom!)

S: So, what do you think are my chances? Am I going to be returned as the councillor for Jungle East?

N: As always this will probably depend on the turnout of the small mammals; they are the classic swing voters and tend to vote for the candidate they think is going to win. Which is confusing as we never know who that is going to be. Nonetheless, we both know that Chuwi offended the antelopes with his ‘all look the same to me’ comments so I think we should be ok.

S: So, let’s move to the more important question. Will I get a cabinet position on the jungle council?

N: I’m working on it….

(Nyoka winked at his master and slithered out of the HQ.)

S: (whispered) Plausible deniability…

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

That was the We Love Local Government year that was

December 23, 2011

And yet still anonymous

As this is the last posting Friday of the year we thought it would be a good opportunity not just to review the week in the world of local government but actually the whole year. And what better, and admittedly more self indulgent, way to do so than by choosing our favourite We Love Local Government posts from each month of 2011.

So, without further ado that was the we love local government year that was:

January

Picking our favourite post from January was tough but in the end we passed over a guest post comparing local government to a (pirate?) ship and a slightly controversial post looking at the power of children’s services departments to get what they want simply by uttering the words: ‘you can’t do that; if you do a child might die’ and picked our local government ‘Dear John’ letters featuring such classics as:

Dear resident,
At least make the effort to learn my name
Sincerely, councillor

Dear councillor,
The three years out of four when there aren’t elections still count on the calendar
Sincerely, resident

Dear 2006,
Where’s all our money gone?!
Sincerely, 2011

Dear job security,
It was nice knowing you.
Sincerely, a Public Sector Worker

Dear Local Government,
F**k you!!!
Sincerely, Eric Pickles

Dear Bankers,
Be warned, I’ll be back!
Sincerely, schadenfreude

February

In February we discussed who we’d like to see working in Local Government (Stephen Fry as Head of Comms anyone?) and pondered why the DCLG had become the Department for Criticising Local Government but our favourite post was when we took a stab at helping Eric Pickles with his bonfire of local government duties. Some of our favourites were:

DCLG_076 Have regard to Local Area Agreement  targets

Only regard, we don’t have to actually follow them?!? Who writes law like that?

DCLG_083 Promote democracy (not yet commenced).

It’s the fact that it is not yet commenced.  So at the moment we don’t need to do anything about what our whole system is about – democracy? Really? And if we’ve survived this long without the regulation do we really need it?

BIS_034 Enforcement of Nightwear (Safety) Regulations

Do we have to ensure everyone is wearing appropriate pyjamas?

March

In March we had a look at the increasing complexity of the password setting regime in local authorities and pondered whether a battle between civil servants and local government workers was in anyone’s interest, but our favourite post by far was when we produced our guidelines on how to stifle creativity in local government including such gems as:

2. Create a steering group

No project worth its salt can be delivered without the aid of a steering group, so insist that one is brought together and engaged with before anything is proposed formally.  There will need to be people there from at least six different services, so make sure they get them along even if they don’t want to come.  The more people who are involved, the more changes will be suggested for scope and aims, so the less creative it will end up.

April

In April we looked at the sure sign that you had ‘made it’ in local government and were very grateful to be mentioned as an influential voice in local government by the LGC. However, our favourite post by far was a guest post from someone describing themselves as having a non-job:

My name is xxxxxx and I have a non-job.

There, I’ve said it. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

I have never worked directly with a member of the public. I have not cleaned streets, looked after disabled adults, planted flowers, been a lollipop lady, cleaned a sewer or even planned a new traffic scheme. Looking back on my career I cannot point to one example where my work ‘directly’ benefitted a member of the public enough that they would be able to say; ‘that xxxxxx, she did  a really good job for me today’.

…. The public might not see me or care whether I exist or not but my colleagues seem to value my work. I’m also fairly certain that if my job did not exist then someone would have to invent it or front line staff would be doing it in their ‘spare’ time.

May

In May we joined in a larger debate about the future direction of young people in local government, looking in detail at the National Graduate Development Programme and asking if there could ever be such a thing as a council officer prodigy. Taking a step back we also had a look at the different personality types that end up working in the council including:

The Man from Del Monte

This may date me, but as all of a certain age know; the man from Del Monte, he says Yes.  And so does this person, agreeing to take on just about every single project or task asked of them, and many of those given to their colleagues as well.

The Jobsworth

The bane of Joe Public, the Jobsworth is that individual who will not do anything that isn’t covered by policy or procedure, even if their actions will exacerbate a situation.

And

The Pitbull

Usually found in more senior roles, The Pitbull has a reputation far surpassing most others.  Willing to fight almost any fight, they appear to take pleasure in actively opposing others and revel in conflict situations.  They tend to not beat around the bush, instead going straight for the throat and ripping the life out of whatever project or minion who has had the misfortune of getting in their way.

Plus many, many more besides.

June

In June we discussed whether councillors should have iPads (they should) () and whether we should be proud of our failures (we should) and published our favourite ever guest post entitled simply, ‘you want me to do what?!’:

The fun really began when I showed her the final draft the day before the presentation, and was told ‘this is great, but what I want is for the notes to be hand-written’.

Let’s let that sink in, shall we?

The notes, which I’ve already typed up and are much neater than any hand-writing could be, are to be hand-written. I point out that I have the handwriting of a 4 year-old with learning disabilities. I ponder with her the dangers of having one copy – what if it gets lost or damaged and then has to be rewritten again? To no avail. They are to be hand-written. I mean, what other work could I possibly have to do that would take precedence over writing these notes out?

‘Oh, get someone else to do it’, comes her advice. So I do ask one of the team administrators to do it (more of an apology than a request), and they have the same reaction as any sane person would. It’s embarrassing. It’s a palpable waste of time.

July

In July, we sent a break up letter to our job and asked staff to join us in a little bit of council Bingo, but the stand out post was one discussing the complex and often misunderstood issue of mental health in the workplace:

For those of us in local government these are incredibly stressful and difficult times.  Even the most stoic and mentally healthy person can find themselves wobbling at the moment; tempers fraying, long silences growing, work and relationships suffering as the constant and increasing pressures and responsibilities are placed upon them.

For those of us who were fighting mental health problems even during the ‘good old days’ of local government, things can be a fair bit harder.

Having gone through my own dark times, the past few months have been rough to say the least.  I’ve hidden my own mental health issues from all, even avoiding naming them to my partner for fear that they would treat me differently.  I know that they know, it’s been a huge elephant in the room so many times, but giving it a name might give it power so we’ve skirted around it as only couples can do.  I knew that I shouldn’t be depressed and couldn’t work out why I was – it was as much a part of me as my eyesight or appreciation for Glee (two unrelated facts, I assure you).

August

In August there were riots and we took the view that the response from local authorities up and down the country showed the real value of councils and, despite a lot of media attention, the limitations of the Big Society in this context. Meanwhile we pondered the collapse of the councils corporate centre and got ourselves involved (inadvertently) in a massive row with library campaigners in Gloucestershire. Our post reviewing the dispute and trying to get to the bottom of the real issue in GCC (as opposed to our supposed plan to get personal promotions by shutting libraries?!?) is our pick of the month:

Getting to the bottom of what is actually going on is difficult so being the unashamed local government officers that we are I decided to delve into the committee report that was agreed at the council.

The report does not make happy reading for anyone who cares about local government. Gloucestershire Country Council was being asked to make the following savings:

The total of these adjustments, which have been incorporated into the MTFS, produces a budget for 2011/12 of £396.156m.  Council tax remains at £1090.50 for a band D property with no increase for 2011/12.  Over the four year period the savings required to balance the budget are £114m compared with £108m at the time of the draft budget.  This increase is due to the lower than expected settlement.  Further details are set out in the attached MTFS.

That’s a huge reduction in spending; even for a large county council. The council is lopping off over a quarter of its budget.

The council ran a (much criticised) consultation asking people which services they should protect and the answers were the following:

Care of older people
Care for vulnerable adults
Child protection and care for vulnerable children
Fire & Rescue
Supporting thousands of voluntary carers

Anyone who works in Local Government knows that the majority of the council budget is taken up with five services: the top three above along with Highways and waste. In County councils only the top three are within scope so my bet is that they massively dominate all spending. Thus, any protection of those five services (which make up maybe 2/3rds to 3/4s of any unitary council’s budget), or even three of them, means disproportionate cuts to everything else. It is this which probably led to the eye watering 43% (yes, you read that correctly; 43%!) cut in the libraries budget.

Once they had protected all those other services it probably became necessary to cut deep elsewhere (1 in 6 staff were to be made redundant as well!) and by the looks of it that included libraries.

September

Never afraid to shy away from issues in September we asked why people thought having a degree was a necessary skill for many local government jobs, discussed a provision in the localism bill that provided for non-binding referenda (the point of which was and is unclear and was thus later removed) and tried our best to pick our way through the dispute at Dale Farm:

This is the beginning of the end to a process which began a decade ago, when the Council began trying to move a then-smaller group of travellers on from the site but were unsuccessful.  It is difficult to pick some of the facts from the story without coming across as biased towards one viewpoint or another, and not being immersed in the situation we don’t want to say whether one is in fact right or wrong, but it’s worth for a second reflecting on the challenges the Council faces here.

In the first place, they are being pressurised by local people to move this group on.  According to their consultation findings, they claim an overwhelming majority of local people want them to take the action that they are now trying to push through, with few arguing for the opposite.  If they stood aside and allowed the traveller community to stay on their site then they would be going against the wishes of the pre-existing local community.  This of course assumes that good practice principles were followed when undertaking this consultation, but we have to believe that if they hadn’t been then they would have not got as far as they have to date.

They also have many years of planning law and regulations to consider.  Over the years, countless buildings and developments will have been proposed to the planning department for a huge variety of structures and potential communities.  Some will have been successful, others will have fallen foul and not been allowed.  By the looks of things, the travellers have developed the site they are on without going through these processes and/or abiding by the findings of the planning department, carrying on with their own plans regardless.

It has also taken years to get to this stage.  The Council will not have been sitting idly by during this time waiting for it all to come to a head before moving in, which makes this last minute reprieve for the travellers a little puzzling.  They will have surely been trying to abide by the law and contacting the community to tell them their concerns and the issues which were arising, and looking for an easier, quicker, cheaper solution.  To think that years of acrimony and mistrust will be swept aside within a week and an amicable solution reached seems a little too far in the realms of fantasy for me.

October

In October we took aim at the Government over their one year council tax freeze money that would have simply made the deficit bigger for councils in one year’s time and urged councils to start talking about snow (which has so far turned out to have been really sensible… Oh, wait…). However, we also spent part of the month celebrating out 100,000th hit on the blog and published a special post asking some of our readers why they love local government. It was an uplifting piece concluded by our own thoughts:

And what about us?

We Love Local Government because:

Within the catch all term ‘local government’ is a diverse, complicated, at times bizarre and yet dedicated, brilliant and innovative organism. At its best local government can make a lasting difference to the lives of the residents it serves and even at its worst you can guarantee that the motives will be good and that there’ll be something interesting to talk about. It’s a place where things done perfectly go unnoticed, whilst the slightest hiccup makes news columns big and small, which attracts some of the greatest thinkers and doers working today along with more than its fair share of those whose only purpose in life is to serve as a bad example to others.

Like any relationships, our love of local government has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, its moments of pure inspiration, its moments when the acronym WTF?! is the only way to describe things.  It may drive us mad at times, but if nothing else it will always drive us someplace interesting.

Local government is all this and so much more.

November

In November we gave advice for newbies entering local government for the first time and made a plea for better presentations and proposals from ICT companies as we argued that getting simple ICT shouldn’t be complicated. However, the story that dominated all others was the local government strike. Whilst members of the blog team disagreed about whether or not to go on strike, this advocacy of the strike action represents the thoughts of one of us on the picket line and hopefully many of the others who joined them that day:

Finally, I’m striking because Local Government and the Public Sector is being forcefully changed.

From cuts to new acts, I see a Local Government changing into something I don’t recognise.  Though the issue is pensions, for me this strike is about a lot more.  It is about the future of the Public Sector.

That is why I’m striking.

December

This month is still with us but we enjoyed taking a cheeky look at Freedom of Information requests and particularly enjoyed this guest post about a vote on the thorny issue of council prayers. However, our top post of the month was entitled ‘does motive matter’ and asks the important question of whether we need to have a public sector ethos to excel at our jobs (probably not). As the author says:

Many of the projects I eulogise about, bring people together for and whip up enthusiasm around are actually things that I wouldn’t do if I had a choice. Some admittedly do cross over into areas where I find genuine personal interest, but the majority I do because that is what is expected of the role. I deliver them and deliver them well, but lack the fire of conviction that my public reputation appears to support.

My question is simple: does this matter?

Does it matter that I deliver the required projects to the best of my ability even if deep down I don’t really have any interest in them or really care? Does it matter that I look on with envy at those who seem to have found their calling and their place in the grand scheme of things? Isn’t the important thing that these projects achieve or surpass their targets, that I am able to encourage the others that I bring along the way to believe even where I do not?

So, that was the local government year that was. Apologies for the really long post but we don’t plan to write again until the New Year so at least it will keep you going until 2012.

In the meantime, we would like to thank you all for reading and contributing to this blog and wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic 2012.

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

What a change five years can make

November 15, 2011

Predictions, predictions

Five years ago this blogger was in a very different place.  I’d just been made redundant from a third sector organisation thanks to the spectre of organisational bankruptcy, and were beginning my local government career as an SO2 worker (for those of you outside of the wonderful world of local government pay, this isn’t a sum that the Daily Mail would get too outraged by).  With no qualifications post-GCSE, no real experience of anything outside a very narrow and somewhat saturated field of work and no contacts, things were looking a little grim.

Fast forward on and things are looking a lot brighter.  Several career hops, a little hard work and a lot of luck sees me clinging on to a fourth tier role with an exciting team to lead and some very interesting work areas to own, shape and evolve as I see fit (within boundaries of course).  My ambitions in general are similar, but the world and my immediate targets have become very different in a relatively short space of time.

Why this trip down memory lane?  Well, I’ve recently been looking into some of our ICT and digital engagement strategies, which are coming up for renewal.  These are coming towards the end of their five year shelf lives, having been developed initially in 2007 and refreshed in 2009.  Reading through them has shown me just what a different place the online world was back in 2007.  Here are a few examples:

·         Facebook, which had been open to the public for a year, reached its first million users in the UK

·         MySpace (remember that) was the top social network by a fair margin

·         YouTube was officially launched in the UK

·         The first i-phone was released in the US, although the app store was still a year off

·         Twitter saw 400,000 tweets per quarter – today it sits at around 200million tweets.  Per day.

·         Internet Explorer 7 was a year old already (you hear that IT people – IE6 was even out of date in 2007!)

Now, I know 2007 is in the grand scheme of things a very short time ago; it’s not as if dinosaurs ruled the planet, Napoleon threatened the nation’s interests or even Man City were in the second division.  2007 was just a short time ago, yet the digital world has changed and evolved exponentially in the intervening half-a-decade.

Acknowledging this has happened is good, and reviewing how we work digitally is also good, but repeating the process of creating a single strategy that will shape and determine our IT action plans from now until 2017 seems just a tad strange to me, simply replicating the problems I am now coming across. (more…)

Who needs a Chief Executive anyway?

November 14, 2011

By the sea

Here at WLLG towers we are a big fan of local news and so it was with interest when a FOB (friend of the blog) sent us this story from the seaside town of Hastings:

COUNCIL leader Jeremy Birch has been slammed for his management shake-up plan which axes the chief executive and appears to give him more power.

Under the proposal, jointly written with deputy council leader Jay Kramer and published this week, the senior management team at Hastings Borough Council (HBC) will be cut from 15 officers to 10 with a team of three directors taking over the chief executive role.

The story has three very interesting points within it:

1)    Despite the opposition parties claiming that the abolition of the Chief Executive would lead to more responsibility for the leader of the council, this was rejected by the leader himself who claimed that:

There would be little change from current practices

This is a curious position to take. Five of the top fifteen managers in the organisation are going and the leader of the council reckons it will make no difference to his role or the role of his senior staff. Indeed, the top management team is being reduced from four to three with abolition of the Chief Executive.

Does the leader of the council believe that the Chief Executive was doing no work? Does he believe that there is capacity within the top team to take on extra work?

(more…)

Why We All LOVE Local Government

October 24, 2011

Love!

As regular readers will have noticed last week we broke through the 100,000 hits ‘barrier’ and celebrated accordingly with a slightly self-involved celebratory post. Obviously, we don’t apologise for that (we’re still bathing in a warm cuddly feeling which is absolutely baffling for our colleagues) but we do recognise that it did slightly miss the point.

The reason that this blog is successful (and we accept that success is a pretty relative term) is because of the subject matter; yes, local government. With this in mind we thought it only fair to have a post devoted to why we love local government and we asked some of our friends to help us.

So, without further ado here is the WLLG and Friends tribute to local government:

I’ve worked in both the private and the public sector. In my experience, per 100 employees, local government has more passion, determination, innovation, hard work, long hours, dedication, ridiculous arguments, office rocking laughter, success in the face of adversity, caring, blue sky thinking, cost focused, patient than any private sector firm. But most of all, very most of all, it has an army of personality and humanity. That’s why I really love local gov.

Louise Kidney (@LouLouK)

Because its where the rubber hits the road for quality of life. It has to make all the tough choices that Westminster politicians make, and really live with the consequences – and according to the public, it has more impact on people’s lives than westminster, whitehall or the EU. And finally the people – there are more cheerful pragmatists in local government than anywhere else in public services.

Ben Page (of Ipsos MORI fame)

I love local government at its best because it’s what makes our local communities work.  Imagine life without it – no social services for vulnerable elders and children, no libraries, no local roads or street lighting, hardly any sports facilities, no way to plan our towns and villages, a hugely diminished voluntary sector, even now hardly any schools, no local democracy, no one saying this is our special place and it’s great.

Roger White (HelpGov)

I love local government because the best councils are bursting at the seams with fresh thinking, and because it’s a place where new ideas can make a real difference to communities.

Simon Parker (New Local Government Network)

Living and working in the same borough. Makes you find out and understand so much more about the community where you live and love :-)

Antonia Dixey (@antoniadixey)

I love local government because it has given me the opportunity to work with impressive, inspiring people who are passionate about improving people’s lives

Richard Vize (Guardian Local Government Network Contributing Editor)

Despite all the challenges Local Government will face over the coming years, staff will come together and continue to deliver first class services to its citizens. “Challenge, Change and Transformation” is the way forward to reshape services not the re-introduction of “Compulsory Competitive Tendering”.

Cllr David Harrington (Ingleby Barwick West Ward)

Local government does things most folk take for granted but make our communities liveble. We’d be in a worse place without it.

Ben Lowndes (@blowndes)

I Love Local Government because it sets the local context and provides the services, so my family can get on and live our lives.

Neil McInroy (Centre for Local Economic Strategies)

I love Local Government because I can see some of the outcomes of my work on the communities I serve.

David Sommerfeld (@hebdave)

Large Government provides a dizzingly array of services to their communities from the familiar (schools, roads, bins) to the hidden (support for vulnerable families & adults). We get a lot of stick from Pickles, the press and the public when we get it wrong but what I love is that sometimes we are our own harsh critic and no other type of public organisation has the same level of internal challenge and desire to continuous improve.

Will Oulton (@Williamoulton)

I love it because it’s full of unsung people who work tirelessly to do the mundane, the important and the seemingly impossible.
Ben Welby (@bmwelby)

And what about us?

We Love Local Government because:

Within the catch all term ‘local government’ is a diverse, complicated, at times bizarre and yet dedicated, brilliant and innovative organism. At it’s best local government can make a lasting difference to the lives of the residents it serves and even at it’s worst you can guarantee that the motives will be good and that there’ll be something interesting to talk about. It’s a place where things done perfectly go unnoticed, whilst the slightest hiccup makes news columns big and small, which attracts some of the greatest thinkers and doers working today along with more than its fair share of those whose only purpose in life is to serve as a bad example to others.

Like any relationships, our love of local government has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, its moments of pure inspiration, its moments when the acronym WTF?! is the only way to describe things.  It may drive us mad at times, but if nothing else it will always drive us someplace interesting.

Local government is all this and so much more.

We suggest you come back here regularly to find out all about it.

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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