Fly into Belfast from Glasgow today for a number of meetings before returning to Manchester. Have lunch with our new Northern Ireland Chair, Cllr Arnold Hatch from Craigavon Council and then its onto meetings with civil servants from the DOE and the Assembly Minister, Arlene Foster MLA.
The early meetings with the civil servants give us some really good intelligence as to the current thinking with regard to the reorganisation process and the service improvement programme that is likely to predate this and roll on beyond. Our Principal Advisor Phil Brennan and myself do a lot of listening but also manage to raise awareness of what APSE has to offer and it becomes obvious that there is a significant amount of synergy between our work programme and where local government in Northern Ireland is headed.
When we enter the meeting with the Minister we are buzzing, however this is short lived when we discover that she has been called away on urgent business. On the plus side however we get a sympathetic hearing for an hour from her special advisor and two lead civil servants. Again its apparent that they are moving towards the development of a positive improvement programme for local government which will overlap with the reorganisation announcements later this year.
Talking to Arnold after the meeting generates a load of ideas and we agree to strike up a dialogue with the main local government bodies to seek a consensus on how strong local government can be delivered through the improvement programme.