That was the local government week that was


A few things to read

It’s the second week back at work after Christmas that is a killer; the workload has slowly ramped up and now it’s full pedal to the metal.

Similarly, it has been a busy week in the world of local government links so without further ado:

Whilst the good people at WLLG towers all make use of our twitter account we’re not all fully paid up social media devotees. For this reason this post by Sarah Lay asking the question: “what would your organisation do if one of the free social media platforms they’ve invested in suddenly required you to pay to use?”

Discussing this in more detail she puts the question as such:

But, my mind idly wondered, would councils be so keen to pursue the channel if they had to pay? Indeed, would they be able to pursue it, regardless of desire, in these cash-strapped times? Although we’re all thinking of digital by default (aren’t we?), would a fairly new online channel such as this win out against a traditional channel if there’s only so much money to go around.

It’s a good debate and one that is definitely worth considering, if only so we will properly consider the costs and considerable benefits of these social media platforms.

We’ve become large fans of the excellent Comms2point0 blog in recent weeks and although I think I’ve read it before somewhere this piece from Adrian Short is rather excellent.

Entitled how to fix council news he argues:

People rarely visit their council’s website to read the news. They’ve got something much more specific in mind, whether it’s applying for a school place or renewing their library books. News probably doesn’t make it into the top 100 tasks on a council website let alone the top 20. Why not drop it?

While there are a few exceptions like Brent, it’s hard to deny that the average council news page is a complete snorefest.

What’s this? 400 words on a benefit fraud case that didn’t even result in a prison sentence, complete with lengthy quotations from the magistrate and the lead councillor.

Now here’s 700 words on an upgrade to the council’s IT system that won’t be noticed by a single resident.

Good to his word he then goes on to explain how he would fix it.

Meanwhile Michael Crick is looking into if anyone is actually going to stand to become a police commissioner when the elections come up later in the year. These roles will be crucial in local democracy and it is striking how few top tier candidates there are wanting to stand:

Both the Conservatives and Labour are hoping to contest all 41 posts, though with little enthusiasm. Very few people in either party have expressed much interest, and local parties are worried about how they are going to pay for campaigns which will cover huge new electoral areas, and for jobs about which the general public know very little. Most MPs, frankly, including a lot of Tories, think the policy of elected PCCs is plain bonkers. But they recognise that the elections are there to be contested.

It’ll be really interesting to see how this develops.

We like a good bit of behavioural economics and this piece from the Guardian Public Leaders Network via the Guardian Local Government Network sees a lot of opportunities and a lot of challenges. The author, Jon Ainger, has done a lot of research with local government executives and whilst we all see the opportunities he pinpoints some of the major risks:

The most critical barrier is the dysfunctional relationship between local government and the citizen. A mere fifth (22%) of senior executives describe community trust in their authority as high. That’s a big drop compared with 40% a year ago and 45% three years ago. This mirrors a June 2011 Ipsos MORI survey which revealed that in a list of 21 roles, managers in local government came fourth from bottom in terms of trust – below bankers, and just above journalists, government ministers and politicians generally. (Local councillors fare slightly better, being seventh from bottom).

This position is a weak one from which to manage down the costs of local services with the support of the public. Moreover, our experience is that this distrust locks in waste and inefficiency at a service level. We believe that councils with dysfunctional relationships are carrying excess demand costs, no matter how notionally efficient their services are.

Very real challenges that we all face but as Mr Ainger points out the opportunities are there for the taking.

We do like the odd localist story and the following two tickled our fancy. Firstly in Staffordshire, the council seems to be spending a lot of money on scaffolding as this story points out:

TAXPAYERS will be footing a bill for almost £1 million for putting up scaffolding for repairs to Stoke-on-Trent council houses and public buildings.

This will bring the total spent on scaffolding to more than £3,200,000 since staff at Keir Stoke were forced to stop using ladders for minor repair work on city council properties.

The ban was introduced by health and safety officials at the company after a worker was seriously injured after falling off a ladder.

Scaffolding is now used by workers for repairs such as putting up security lights.

To be honest that just seems a bit strange to me. Scaffolding for putting up security lights? Really? Is this national practice? Surely not?

Meanwhile in Wimbledon the local paper is concerned about so-called boomerang bosses who leave the council (through redundancy) and then return, either as consultants or in lucrative new jobs. This isn’t particularly unusual but the jobs the local paper identified as examples of ‘boomeranging’ really did make me laugh:

Two redundant accountants were re-employed as a business support officer and an Olympics project and support officer, while a former Safer Merton operations manager was reappointed as a special projects consultant.

A former business solutions quality manager is now working as a passenger operations manager.

I’ll give them the special projects consultant but a business support officer, Olympics support officer and a passenger operations manager. Boomerang bosses? Really? Even Eric Pickles wouldn’t be that harsh would he?

And on that note…

Have a good weekend!

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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