Archive for June 2011

The Hidden Barriers of Leaving Local Government

June 16, 2011

What? There's no detailed person spec to answer?

Here at welovelocalgovernment we try to cover all elements of the local government experience. And so, when we were contacted with the offer of a guest post (we do love a guest post!) that would discuss the problems local government employees might face if trying to leave the sector we jumped at the chance.

If you’ve got an article or topic you’d like us to share with our readers send it in to welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com, but not until you’ve enjoyed this from the ‘mysteriously’ named Headhunter.

When the private sector recession was happening a lot of people decided they wanted to think about working in local government, and they encountered a number of issues of cultural unfamiliarity, including the vey different recruitment process blogged about recently.

There are analogous, but in some respects worse, challenges for the many people who are now, voluntarily or otherwise leaving LG and looking to the allegedly burgeoning private sector for their next job.  (Any redundant public servant should of course be reading about the journey of the now re-employed redundant public servant.

Surveys have shown that public sector managers are harder to place in the private sector and that whilst people are looking to the private sector for their next job they are pessimistic about getting there.  What does this mean, in practical terms, for individuals making the journey? And how much of that can I realistically cover in a blog post?  I’m a headhunter, predominantly recruiting for Chief Officer roles having been a chief officer myself, but having started my career in the private sector.  This is what I think…

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Throwing away localism?

June 15, 2011

An excuse to show my favourite bit of graffiti

Unless you’ve been buried under the nation’s burgeoning mountain of waste, which apparently is spilling over from landfills to cover our streets and will continue to do so unless it’s disposed of weekly, you will have heard that the government have made a bit of a u-turn when it comes to the issue of weekly bin collections.

Eric Pickles has been championing the case for weekly bin collections for years now, and decided that there was no way he was going to sit back and allow local authorities to decide for themselves how often the rubbish should be collected in their areas.  After all, they can’t possibly know what local people really want or how much better weekly collections would be, so he issued something of an announcement to say that it would be so: weekly bin collections for all.

The thing is, nobody managed to explain to him that this might cost a few quid.  In fact, it might cost around £140million, or about 7927ish experienced staff nurses (I’ve always wanted to find an opportunity to describe things in this way, ever since local government “waste” started being described in such terms). (more…)

From the Town Hall With Love

June 14, 2011

Why yes, this is how I normally dress for the office...He glanced over at the security guard.  From memory he couldn’t recall the guard’s name – Dave perhaps? – but he knew just how much of a serious problem Dave could be.  Dave looked out over the surgically clean foyer, his gaze easily and confidently surveying the scene before him, ever alert for potential threats or security breaches.

A cold bead of sweat made its way down his back as he assessed his options.  To run would draw attention to himself, and there was no guarantee that he would make it through the barriers before they crashed shut, trapping him in place or perhaps worse.  All other access points had been considered and reconnoitred in the past; all had been found secure and impassable – all that was left was a frontal assault.

With a suddenness that surprised even him, he began walking forwards, trying desperately to keep his gait easy and his step confident.  The urge to glance to the side was almost overwhelming, but he managed to focus on a small sign in the distance and restrict himself to no more than one step for every two pounding heartbeats.  Would he make it through the side entrance unscathed, unchallenged, unnoticed?

That was the moment he vowed to himself that this would be the last time he forgot his Council ID. (more…)

Local Government zombies

June 13, 2011

At least he's dressed appropriately

I promise you that I wrote this piece before I got sight of this wonderful BBC Story. Nonetheless, don’t let that stop you enjoying both the BBC story about a bizarre FOI request and the below, slightly more serious, discussion of ‘undead’ staff.

It is one of the peculiar cruelties of the public sector that once staff have been notified of their imminent departure from their jobs they are then asked to stay on and continue working for three months until their notice has expired.

These people become the local government zombies; they are ‘dead’ and yet they are still here, walking around; ‘undead’.

The HR people in my authority would defend this state of affairs and claim that they are helpgin the zombies. The three months of notice give the staff affected a chance to get their life in order and to find alternative employment. What’s more we have a duty to these staff to offer them a new job through the council’s redeployment scheme. All good arguments that have a certain logic about them.

However, scratch beneath the surface and life for the local government zombie is not much fun at all and here’s why:

1)    In order to receive your redundancy pay you are encouraged to apply for ‘appropriate’ roles through the redeployment pool. This can mean an endless cycle of job applications and supposedly ‘shortened’ job application forms. Obviously, if you get a job through this process it is great but I know people who’s confidence has been shot by applying for endless jobs that they are unqualified for and then not getting any of them. (more…)

You want me to do what?!

June 10, 2011

Surely typing is a little more legible?Yep, you guessed it – it’s another guest post which has been sent in to us, and trust us when we say it’s a doosie!  If you have your own amusing anecdote or serious point to make about local government or life within it you can send it to us at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com – especially if it’s anything like this…

A few weeks ago my service head asked me to put together a Powerpoint presentation which covered everything that’s gone on in the department over the last year: our achievements, savings programmes, what projects we’re leading on, what is going to happen next year, and so on. Of course, this request came in at the last-minute – why would I need any time to research it properly and speak to the many people I needed information from? But that isn’t where the fun begins.

Nor does it begin when her only comments on the first draft I sent through read ‘more positive survey results info please’ (pretty much those exact words), or even when she actually did give me proper feedback and it consisted mainly of requests for information that she knew full well didn’t exist.

No, 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’. (more…)

The politics of an ever decreasing budget

June 9, 2011

But the worst is still to come

Prior to the local government elections in May there was a popular conceit running around the British press. This went something along the lines of:

‘Members of the public will only really get their head around the cuts once they start to really hit in April 2011.’

This in turn led to the general sense that the Government had survived the worst of the ‘cuts backlash’ when they, or at least the Conservative Party, got through the local elections unscathed. The commentators were, in this case, wrong.

I don’t want to argue that the cuts have not come. There have been cuts, and in some places the cuts have been quite heavy. I talk to colleagues/friends in the third sector who have seen quite large cuts in funding and some councils have been quite vocal about the cuts they need to make.

However, the cuts in April 2011 were in many ways just a prelude to what is yet to come. The reasons are multiple but most of it has to do with the way the local government budget works and the way the cuts were structured.

The announcement of the cuts was not made until October 2011.

This left local authorities less than three or four months to put their budget in place. Some had been prepared for the scale of the cuts but most of them were surprised by the front loading and the depth of the cuts in years one and two.

So what did some councils do?

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Is this the end of public sector tweeting as we know it?

June 8, 2011

Is blogging and tweeting worth your job?As those who follow us on Twitter (@welovelocalgov by the way) will know, recently we came across what we think is some pretty bad news.  A fellow tweeter, @NakedCServant, has apparently been digitally hunted down over the course of seven months by a specialist security expert brought in by the DCLG, and has now been suspended pending an internal investigation and disciplinary hearing.  You can read more about it at the LocalGov website.

None of us at WLLG know or knew @NakedCServant, but we obviously feel a certain kinship with them.  They were writing as an anonymous voice from within government, saying many of the things others were thinking and offering an insiders perspective of what was going on.  Yes, he may have occasionally wandered over the line a little and said a couple of things that they wouldn’t say in a public meeting, but no state secrets were revealed, no one was hurt and no money was made.  What’s more, he did all of this from his own i-phone, so can’t even be accused of using government IT resources for personal use.  They did however break their code of conduct, and now face at best an uncertain future and at worst an unmasking and a brief fifteen minutes of notoriety.

This raises some serious questions regarding the way all of us who comment on government – central or local – might potentially make use of social media and share our opinions.   (more…)

Away with away days

June 7, 2011

Corporate bonding?

As regular readers will know, we at WLLG love a good guest post, and today’s submission is all about the council away day. If you’ve got an article or topic you’d like us to share with our readers send it in to welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com, but not until you’ve enjoyed this.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance (the soi disant independent, grassroots campaign for lower taxes) have fixed their sights on another example of public sector profligacy – council awaydays.

This is based on research carried out by Sky News. Sky News are playing their part in exposing the scandalous extent to which councils fritter away the taxes of hard-working families by launching a blog to investigate these issues, called Waste Watch.

Councils up and down the land are spending huge sums of money financing jollies for staff – some of the more interesting items include £80 for laser tag (Rutland DC), Leicestershire County Council, who apparently “splashed out” on £231 for a barge, and Basingstoke and Deane BC who spent the princely sum of £111.55 on a portable toilet. Presumably this was for quite a small awayday – you can only fit three or four people inside one of them, at a push (believe me).

It’s good to see that the press and campaigning groups are zeroing in on this expenditure, which adds up to £2 million across every council in the land, rather than concentrating on less pressing concerns such as defence procurement and the cost of policing reform.

The TPA finish their article by saying:

Councils need to make better use of their own resources and learn from councils that have managed to arrange away days but at no or very little cost to the taxpayer. Councils keep telling us they’ve made all savings possible, these findings tell us this is not the case.

Leaving aside the last sentence (the figures almost certainly are 08/09 or 09/10 ones – I doubt whether a single authority is spending anything like the sums quoted during this financial year) this sounds pretty sensible. It is also interesting because it tacitly admits the utility of awaydays – the attack is not on them going ahead in the first place but how much they cost.

So how useful are they? (more…)

Promises promises, and of course some mindless retribution

June 6, 2011

In the past?

We tend, on this blog, not to write posts about social work despite it making up a sizable chunk of the budgets of the councils we work for. This is for a simple reason; none of us are social workers and the work they do is incredibly skilled and complicated.

This post is a rare exception but nothing in it should be taken as claiming any sort of social work expertise. (Incidentally, if you are looking for a blog with that sort of knowledge check out fighting monsters).

As many of you will be aware last week was a pretty big one for adult social care and the mainstream news with both the Southern Cross affair and the Panorama expose of Winterbourne View in the news.

Naturally, as this unpleasantness unfolded everyone looked to the Government; would they look to ‘bail out’ Southern Cross and what would they do about Winterbourne View?

I missed the Sunday morning TV shows but found a summary of the Government’s official response, courtesy of Paul Burstow MP, to Winterbourne View on the BBC website. The bits of the story that are direct quotes are as follows:

“It comes as a surprise to people that the statutory basis for the safeguarding of vulnerable adults in this country is much weaker than that which exists for children.

“I’m committed to follow through on some recommendations we have received recently from the Law Commission to implement statutory safeguarding rules that will require the police the NHS, social services to work together.”

and

Mr Burstow told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that he did believe the chief executive of the CQC, Cynthia Bower, should resign over the failures.

This made me a little grumpy and here’s why: (more…)

If FIFA ran local government

June 3, 2011

What's the worst that could happen?Thanks to our extensive network of contacts we occasionally get sent some very interesting information, some of which is even true.  Today we are reprinting something which could potentially change the way local government runs forever more, a letter* sent out by FIFA at its recent election/coronation/farce.

If you have any additional diktats that you think FIFA would declare do tell us below, or tweet them using #FIFAgov.

*This letter is 100% made up.  No FIFA delegates were harmed in its fabrication.  Unfortunately.

 

FIFA delegates,

As has been reported widely in the media, the alleged corruption in the senior ranks of FIFA is forcing some of our number to come under investigation and could potentially lead to them leaving their roles here.  That is going to mean we have a lot of FIFA people out in the world who can move into similar roles in other major organisations.

We’ve decided that local government looks like an area in which we can make a FIFA difference, so below are our proposals for how we plan to revolutionise the way they do their business FIFA style.

  • The president (elected mayor) would be chosen on the basis of how many languages they speak, rather than their competence.
  • The standards committee will be staffed only by members of the council who had been in the organisation during any ‘alleged’ corruption.
  • The leader of the council will always be presented with flowers after each decision (s)he’s made.

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