Posted tagged ‘Innovation’

That was the local government week that was

January 6, 2012

New year and yet the same old picture

As we enter the New Year the people in WLLG towers are filled with optimism. The first week of the New Year has provided it’s usual mixed bunch of headlines and despite everything we are determined not to let it get us down and to follow the lead of the excellent Guardian Local Government Network and be more positive in 2012.

So, starting with the heavy stuff (that we shall not let get us down) the Daily Mail kicked off 2012 with a story about local government pay (quel surprise). This one was about local government pay increments, a topic we have discussed in the past. Here, the Mail ‘discovered’ that:

The survey of 188 councils shows that a shocking 72 per cent use annual increments to reward staff.

It means many Government employees are given more money on the basis of experience rather than performance.

These increments, known as ‘time served’ payments, are usually awarded either in April at the end of the tax year, or on the anniversary of the employee joining their council.

Local authority pay rates published by Unison, the public services union, show there are 49 distinct salary increments for staff earning between £12,145 and £41,616, no matter how well they are doing their job.

It’s hard to get as upset as the Daily Mail did about this but it does raise a pretty serious issue for local government. Are we serious about pay cuts and pay freezes including those for people with less than four years in a particular role with the understanding that this is fairer than just freezing the salary of those with long service?

And secondly do we believe that paying increments based on service time is better than putting in increments based on performance? I favour the latter but I think it is part of a fundamental decision that local government still needs to make.


Ten signs your organisation needs to innovate – Part 2

January 5, 2012

Deliver innovation to deliver anything

Yesterday we posted up the first five of our ten signs that your organisation might need to step back and take a look at itself, before realising that perhaps a little innovative thinking will go a long way.  With no further ado, here is the second half of our top ten signs you should be watching out for – and remember, if you have more than a handful of these then give NESTA a call!

6.  You have people who ‘do’ innovation

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.  There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.  Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.  Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.  Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

An old ditty perhaps, but one which makes my point.  If you have somebody or a team of somebodies who ‘do’ innovation then you risk innovation simply being left to them to do, after all they are the ones being paid for it.  If you’re not careful, innovative thinking will become associated with a small number of job descriptions and squeezed out of the lives of those with other priorities.

Innovation shouldn’t be an added-on extra or a bespoke project – it should be part and parcel of every member of staff and the work they do.  Even if not everyone is walking around coming up with ideas for how to do simple things differently or better, every officer needs to feel that if they were to come up with such an idea that they could and should do something about it.  It it’s palmed off on someone else the number of minds coming up with innovative solutions pales into insignificance, no matter how good those innovation people might be.

7.  Silos are seen as a good thing


Ten signs your organisation needs to innovate – Part 1

January 4, 2012

Is it time you innovated a little?

It’s at this time of year that so many good intentions are laid out in the form of New Year’s resolutions. We are all familiar with the standard personal ones (usually including lose some weight, save some money and enjoy life more), but it’s also a time to think professionally. Bad habits are hard to break, but now’s the time to do so.

And it’s not just individuals who should be looking to change their lives for the better. Organisations should be taking the opportunity to sweep out the old and bring in the new; to innovate and develop. That being said, many don’t believe they should have to change at all, as what they are doing is working well enough for the time being. If you think that fits your organisation, why not take a look at our ten signs that you might need to make some resolutions after all. Match more than a handful and you really should get moving…

1.  You live and die by heirarchy

Everyone loves a good structure chart, and none more than local government. No restructure or service can be planned or delivered without first taking a jolly good look at who reports to whom; only once this is clear can thought be given to what they will actually do.

But what if this didn’t need to be the case? What if the core focus of any service team was the service they were delivering, rather than the lines of authority and communication? Yammer founder David Sacks (@davidsacks) uses a brilliant slide to demonstrate the inate problems of communicating through heirarchy to source information, showing the tortuous route a request has to go on the way up before information or authority comes back down. What if this could be bypassed, with staff going directly to the officers at whatever level to discuss things with and progress projects? Radical, perhaps; seemingly undermining to those who don’t trust themselves or their staff, probably; faster and more efficient,certainly.

2.  No-one knows why you do things the way you do


That was the local government week that was

December 2, 2011

What we have been reading

And what a week it’s been.  Up and down the country, local government has been at the centre of the news over the past seven days, with column inches galore debating its merits and the work it does, all through the lens of the ongoing debate over the pension scheme negotiations.  Here are our pick of the blogs which look at things from some rather interesting angles, as well as a few blogs which mention less polarising issues.

We’ll start off with a post from Citizen R on her I Was A Public Sector Worker blog, posted on the day of the strike.  It neatly sets out why one person supported the strikes, even though they were no longer part of the public sector, showing how deeply many feel about the issues.

I’ve mentioned before that when I went into the public sector it wasn’t for the pensions or the perks or even the holidays. I wanted to be a teacher and make a difference in children’s lives. I felt I could best do this in the state sector.  As a new teacher of 22 I didn’t care about a pension because it felt like retirement was a million years away (it still is now that the age of retirement is getting higher and higher) and took a big chunk of my wage each month that might be better spent on having fun.

But now after a whole career spent in the public sector I’ve been left high and dry. I don’t pay into a government pension any more because that jo has gone and I have no job to strike from today. But the public sector is where my heart lies so I’m with everyone who strikes today. Good luck and maybe just maybe the government will listen for once.

It’s with mixed feelings of joy and disbelief that we unfortunately get to read a new post from the simply superb Redundant Public Servant (if you don’t know why we rate him so highly then you’ve never read his blog – so do it now!).  Joy because we loved reading his brilliantly crafted and bewilderingly regular posts detailing his own battles around his impending redundancy, disbelief because it looks like he may be going through it all again.  In this guest piece for Patrick Butler’s Cuts Blog he points out some of the incredible numbers being thrown around. (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, 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…)

A Saturday thought

September 11, 2010

Experimenting with public services?

In America local government, in the form of the 50 states, is often referred to as the ‘laboratory of democracy’ where new ideas are tried out, local issues are addressed and where progress in local government leads where the federal Government follows.

I may be simplifying things a little but the States rarely wait for the federal centre to make a decision and then catch up.

In Britain local authorities show none of this innovation and rarely (there are some exceptions) even get close to being a ‘laboratory’. In fact some times I wonder whether local authorities would know what to do if the Government weren’t telling them what to do.

I know it is different in the US (California is nearly as big as Britain) but surely now is the time for local authorities to take a leaf out of America’s book and truly innovate. After all, it isn’t as if there aren’t enough issues that need tackling.

My fear is that if they don’t local authorities might just be left behind…