APSE's Performance Networks seminar is always a highlight in the local government calendar as it takes place in December in Blackpool and has had in excess of 400 performance management anoraks attending for the last seven years. This year was no exception and the place was buzzing with delegates by the time I arrived. The seminar is unusual in that it's a working event with all delegates split into workshop groups which means they have to contribute over the course of the 24 hours, rather than slipping out for a ride on the donkeys.
The sessions start off with a fairly bullish message from my sidekick Mark about Performance Networks being the biggest and best benchmarking system in local government. He goes on to point out that now in it's 8th year its still growing, expanding and developing. It's usefulness in terms of driving improvement within authorities never ceases to amaze me and the fact that it is quoted in approaching 200 inspection reports on the Audit Commission website speaks volumes.
Professor Tony Bovaird of INLOGOV gives a really well measured and thought out speech that goes down well with the audience and Neil McEnroy of CLES does likewise, everyone then heads off to their workshops. The best performer and most improved awards take place in the evening and the presenter Julie Peasgood strikes up a good rapport and interaction with the audience. Most people appear to enjoy their evening especially the winners!
I chair the morning session on day 2 and a few people in the audience look a bit pale, however they stick with it and Fiona Lees, East Ayrshire's Chief Executive and Andy Martin from Dorset County, make excellent contributions. The event closes with a talk from the ex-Managing Director of BMIbaby, who talks about his experiences in the airline industry, ironic really when we are at the home of the tram. He injects a bit of humour into proceedings and whilst a lot of his business models and messages would have limited applicability in local government there are some gems.