The local authority caterer’s association conference (laca) was a chance to reflect on how much change has taken place in school meals over the past few years.
A video link to Jamie Oliver allowed the audience to hear his views on how much progress has been made on embedding nutritional standards into everyday school life and some of the threats that may exist to what has been achieved to date.
The latest funding crisis report has brought into even sharper focus the debate on what future role and shape local government should have.
Should it play a meaningful role in acting as a catalyst for local society and the local economy or should it play a passive role emasculated of any real capacity to influence and shape with regard to the dominant public policy and social issues of the day?
There was a real feel of local government being at a crossroads around the LGA conference in Birmingham this week, particularly as the LGA launched its report into future financing to coincide with the start of the event. What it showed was that based on current projections there will be a £16.5b shortfall on council budgets by 2020.
APSE has welcomed the debate about school meals that has been opened up as a result of schoolgirl Martha Payne's blog.
The 'Never Seconds' blog by the nine-year-old from Lochgilphead, Argyll has put school food under the media spotlight. We have campaigned for the highest standards in school food and believes that opening up debate will give school meals the importance they deserve politically.
Martha's blog takes a balanced view and her experience of food at school is positive overall. Though some meals appear less appetising than others, her latest ‘food-o-meter’ score rated her school lunch 10/10.
Speaking at a recent European conference on remunicipalisation of public services set me thinking about the lifecycles of markets and how they can go full circle.
I was asked to give a presentation based on APSE’s research publications into why so many UK local authorities, of all political persuasions, are insourcing services on a significant scale. This has accelerated significantly over the past five years and the main factors cited are usually value for money, poor customer satisfaction levels and a failure to deliver on promises that contractors had made.
My recent article from Public Finance
The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) is calling on central government to unlock local authorities’ potential to develop the green economy.
APSE’s rallying cry came as it launched a new report The transition to the green economy: the vital role of the ensuring council, which shows what local authorities are achieving and highlights ways in which national policy could be changed to enable them to do more.
I gave evidence in London today to Lord Whitty's inquiry on the affordable housing crisis.
My starting point was that to resolve this crisis local authorities need to play a key role again in providing a quality affordable housing option for all not just a safety net for some.
It's important to place where we have got too in a context, therefore I referred to the fact that the challenge for the new government of the day in 1997 was clearly about tackling the £22b backlog of repairs in council houses and bringing them up to the decent homes standard. However, the process which brought this about resulted in stock transfers, continuation of right to buy and demolitions.
Having met with three very different local government chief executives recently I was struck by the commonality of understanding of the challenges that council’s face in the coming years. Fiona Lees from East Ayrshire, Manjeet Gill from West Lindsey and Carolyn Downs of the LGA all shared a vision that the answers to the tough times ahead would be found in working closely with and within local communities.
With demographic change towards people living longer we know that a smaller percentage will be working in the future and that there will be greater demands for care services amongst an increasing elderly population. With increasing social problems created by alcohol and drugs, the number of children being looked after is also rising.
With a huge amount of market volatility at present, is now really the right time for local government to be looking to the private sector for solutions?
The names Southern Cross, Connaught, ROK and Fountain have probably done more damage to the outsourcing agenda in local government than the collective writings of opponents of this approach since the dawning of Compulsory Competitive Tendering 30 years ago. Throw in recent headlines around A4e and you can see that for an industry that works so hard on its image, the last couple of years have not been a great time.