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.