Posted tagged ‘politicians’

An education

March 13, 2012

Because movie stars are cooler than councillors

We love a guest post and today’s is a really interesting one. The post discusses what, in many areas, seems to be a growing disconnect between councillors and officers. It then looks at what might have been one of the causes; the collapse of the committee system. We hope you enjoy today’s post and if you have something you’d like to submit please drop us a line at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com… but not before you’ve read this:

When local government moved to the Cabinet system, it lost the best political training ground for council officers of the future. The old committee system had many faults; slow decision making and too many late nights being just two of them. However, what the committee system did provide was an opportunity for local government officers to learn the intricacies, rules and unspoken regulations of working with elected members. And in my experience local government is poorer without it.

I don’t work in Democratic Services now, but that was where I started. It gave me the best possible education for a future in the public sector and it’s only now that I’m beginning to realise it.

From the outside I was an administrator.

But when you are on the inside of the committee machine you realised that you were part of something much bigger than that. You are a relationship builder, secret-keeper, networker, diplomat, confidant, counsellor (to councillors) and on occasion, even a muse.

Most importantly you learn how to deal with personalities and politics; and more specifically the personalities IN politics.

You are taught about delegated powers, governance and constitutions. You see how decisions are made, why some take hours of discussion whilst some go through on the nod. You see how some members really do represent the people who put them there, but how others are just in it for themselves.

And back in the old days, every senior officer knew how to work this system and knew their place in it. They understood the most basic rule: it’s all about the council tax payers and the people who represent them. The tax payer is not only your customer; he is also your boss.

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Why Chelsea should never run a local authority

May 23, 2011

When comparative success is not enoughFootball is a behemoth. It influences the moods and lives of millions, and has more money sloshing around it than a NHS IT project. Over the past twenty or so years it has developed from a passionate sport to a global business, where politics have as much impact as at any town hall.

Recent events at one major club are catching the headlines right now, with the story breaking as this one is typed. Chelsea have sacked their manager Carlo Ancelotti after a trophy-less season, citing their high levels of ambition and the lower than expected performances over their campaign.

So how does this in any way relate to local government?

Carlo Ancelotti was the manager of that football club. He was responsible for developing the strategy for success and working closely with those responsible for implementing that strategy to ensure that his vision was transferred into action. He was scrutinised regularly from all angles, and worked with those who controlled the resources available to him. In effect, he was the Chief Executive of a local authority; in charge of an organisation worth several million pounds and trying to achieve the goals set out before him by those who pay the bills. (more…)

Local Government by contract?

April 11, 2011

Beyond the known knowns?

“Stuff Happens” (Donald Rumsfeld)

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” (John Maynard Keynes)

Forgive the diversion into quotes from yester-year but I hope they will help me ask a simple question about the outsourcing of council services.

This past week I have been knee deep in a contract with an external service provider of my local authority. This contract is for a substantial period of time and yet already we are in the position of needing to change something.

Obviously, needing to change something is going to cost us money. Even the most friendly contractor does, in my experience, require a certain amount of money to change anything they’d originally agreed to do.

The assumption of a lot of outsourcing is therefore that:

a)      Any changes can be predicted in advance and therefore written into a contract or:

b)      The service is so straightforward that we won’t need to change anything significant no matter how long the period of the contract

My experience is that this is not always the case.

I heard of a council that felt they had managed to negotiate an amazing deal. In 2007 (ish) they let a ten year contract that promised 2.5% efficiencies per year over the term of the deal. In 2011, they now realise that the deal is not delivering anything like what they need it to in terms of cuts/efficiencies and are not having much luck in renegotiating. What they thought was a great deal is now anything but. (more…)

Rough Sleeping and the Big Society

March 4, 2011

Caught in the cross fire of local politicians and the Big Society

Westminster Council announced earlier this week that they were going to be:

consulting on plans to ask CLG to approve a bye-law that would outlaw rough sleeping and soup runs in a wide area that includes Westminster Cathedral piazza and the department’s Eland House headquarters.

Now there is a very easy response to this announcement and it goes something like this:

WTF!!!!

I’m well aware that this is not a simple issue. Apparently, the charities Thames Reach and St Mungo’s support the move, but other groups such as Housing Justice voiced their opposition. If I’m totally honest I really don’t know who’s right and a flippant response of WTF seems a bit cheap.

Anyway, I’m being distracted.

The interesting sub-point of this story is what it says about the Big Society.

In my mind the charities that hand out the soup and other food in Westminster Borough could definitely be described as part of the Big Society. These are charities that often have volunteers working for them. They have identified a need in society and have set out to solve it in their own way.

However, the local politicians who represent the voice of the wider population (or at least I assume they do) are in the process of passing a law that says that the charities, acting in their role as part of the Big Society, are not acting in the best interests of the whole community.

In effect the problem here is one of who is right? The citizens of the ‘Big Society’ soup runs or the elected politicians of Westminster council?

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On the seventh day of Christmas our bloggers gave to me

December 29, 2010

A cartoon depicting Local Government from Australia; seems familiar though right!

Is it this complicated the world over?

Fearing the (Danish) Butcher’s Knife

December 10, 2010

A rather strange metaphor for local government?

Today a guest post from a correspondent who wanted us to write about the ‘phrase de jour’ in Local Government right now: the ‘salami slice’. We went one better and got them to write the piece for us. Enjoy:

In these austere times, I, like most people, wander merrily into work each day wondering whether today will be the day that the brown envelope will land on my desk, and I can at long last bid adieu to the 1960’s concrete monstrosity, we affectionately refer to as ‘the Civic Building’. Sadly that day is still yet to come, and in many ways I fear that I may actually survive to become one of those lucky few who have to achieve the same output with 25% less staff.

If yours is anything like my authority, you will have undergone previous savings programmes, which involved bringing in the dreaded consultants from one of the big firms. These have sought to skim that 5 or 10% off the top of every budget, only for the programme to finish and everyone realise that the savings aren’t actually achievable because the work these teams do still has to get done.

This can’t be the way to solve the current budget cuts and we simply don’t have the margins of error this time. While I am partial to a little bit of Salami now and again, slicing of this variety has no place in creating a ‘Council of the Future’.

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