At the LGA conference this week in Bournemouth and its the usual gathering of the great and good from the local government world.
Arrive down on the Monday night and once we have dropped of our exhibition stand its straight into the networking opportunities that are so useful at this type of event. Go out for something to eat with a long standing friend who is a local authority chief executive and we catch up on what has been happening in recent months around reorganisation, commissioning and the upcoming white papers themes.
The Tuesday sees the full opening of the conference and its busy around our stand most of the day. I go out with colleagues from Northamptonshire County Council and gather some useful information on what they are doing with scrutiny. On the Wednesday I end up being roped into speaking at a Housing fringe and the timing turns out to be useful as the LGA launches a major change in policy that morning. They along with a number of other organisations are now supporting vociferously the replacement of the current housing finance system and its replacement with one which provides a sustainable solution to funding, managing, maintaining and improving stock, whatever stock ownership option authorities choose. APSE has pushed this line for years.
MJ editor Michael Burton goads me into meeting him at 8am on the Thursday morning to go for a swim in the sea and when we arrive Nottingham City Council Leader Jon Collins is just emerging from the waves. We end up getting our photo taken with a copy of the MJ. Anything for a bit of cheap publicity!
Need to leave at 11.30am for meetings in London but before I go I visit the main hall to hear David Cameron's speech to conference. He is very engaging with the audience, speaks without a script and answers questions from all round the hall. This is not the usual stage managed stuff and he comes across as having a wide knowledge of local government. What he said was if/when he is Prime Minister he will bring forward a local government bill early aimed at pursuing devolution of power to local authorities but they then must also devolve to the private, voluntary and third sectors to deliver. Its classic Conservative policy of reduce state provision by involving the market (this time several sectors of it). I wasn't about to hear Hazel Blears in the afternoon, but I would expect the message would have been almost identical. I did notice that the bits about devolving power to the community and his call for elected mayors were not met by rapturous applause and I overheard a couple of Senior Conservative Councillors near me comment "What was the point of us working hard to get almost 50% of council seats in England, if we are now going to give everything away".
Reflecting on the week, we have met up with a number of senior people from APSE member authorities, raised our profile as an organisation, picked up a couple of strong leads on consultancy jobs and made some useful contacts.