Missed out on the 2016 performance networks seminar? Here's all you need to know from our excellent speakers.
The view from Down Under
The opening speaker of this year’s performance network conference probably wins the award for ‘furthest travelled’ for this seminar! All the way from Melbourne, Australia, Annalisa Haskell is the Chief Executive Officer of Local Government Professionals Australia, an organisation that supports local government in a similar way to APSE in the UK. Annalisa discussed the use of performance benchmarking in Australia and New Zealand and how this is helping local councils in future service planning. Of particular significance is a development that has allowed workforce profiling to plan for future recruitment and manage an ageing workforce. Annalisa also explained how the data is a powerful tool in lobbying government of issues of local councils funding and service planning.
Keeping on the right track
APSE’s own Debbie Johns, Head of Performance Networks, responded to Annalisa in providing an overview of the trend emerging in UK terms through the performance networks service in 2016. This included an emerging trend showing that whilst the public remain highly satisfied with local council frontline services a correlation between service cuts and a drop in public satisfaction is now clearly emerging. Debbie cautioned against complacency in service delivery insisting that frontline services need fair funding if we are to maintain the public’s trust.
Covering topics that are high on many local authorities’ agendas, Debbie also discussed ways to contain costs but still deliver on quality, the value of an entrepreneurial spirit in local government, and highlighted some of the excellent work that is happening with a number of income generation case studies.
Debbie also spoke to delegates about performance networks’ ongoing work with CAMMS to develop the way that users can interact with the service. The work with CAMMS is designed to future proof performance networks and will eventually enable performance networks members to move towards more ‘self-serve’ options in manipulating different performance indicators to create bespoke reporting. CAMMs are a world leading software developer having worked with prestigious organisations such as the international Mines Advisory Group.
Seeing it from the public’s perspective
Next, delegates heard from Paul Smith, Director for Government & Public Sector, Survation. APSE has recently worked with Survation on a neighbourhood services survey, and the results showed that over three quarters of the public want more money to be spent on local services.
Paul’s presentation was largely positive, and highlighted the ways in which local councils are viewed as vital to their local area. The survey showed that the public typically trust local authorities more than Government or private companies. The findings, perhaps not unsurprisingly found that the public want to see more of their tax pound spent in their local area. This is consistent with other public perception surveys and supports what many have called for which is the prioritisation of funding for frontline local government neighbourhood services.
You can find out more about the Neighbourhood Services survey results on pages 4-5.
The journey to success
The second day of the seminar kicked off with a talk by Corporate Director of Nottingham City Council Andy Vaughan. He was delighted to share the story of Nottingham’s journey to achieving excellence, which was recently recognised when they won APSE’s prestigious Council of the Year 2016 service award.
Andy shared the ambitions for Nottingham highlighting that at the heart of the commercialisation strategy the elected members are nevertheless committed to a public service ethos. Andy emphasised that any income they make on selling services is ‘profit for a purpose’ and they are not in the market to simply make money but to make money to support services and local communicates.
Brexit and the impact on frontline services
The final discussion of the seminar took the form of a panel, made up of a number of experts and forward-thinking professionals. The panel looked at the potential impact of Brexit on local councils and their frontline services, whilst also offering possible solutions to some of the problems that may arise in the next few years.
The panel included: Paul Wright, Open Space Services – Divisional Manager for Halton Borough Council, Caroline McKenzie, Waste Services Manager for Gedling Borough Council, David Kilduff, Partner for Walker Morris, Anita Brown, Service Manager for Stockton-On-Tees Council, Kenny Gillespie, Property and Asset Manager for Falkirk Council, and Paul O’Brien, APSE Chief Executive.
A key finding of the Brexit panel discussion was the implications for Britain to return to the tag of the ‘dirty man of Europe’ and delegates and panel members Caroline McKenzie and Paul Wright questioned whether, given the success of environmental protection regulations, there was any appetite to dampen environmental regulations. Anita Brown of Stockton stressed the importance of food price inflation – not just on the school meals providers but on families; she stressed that food price inflation will also hit the pockets of the poorest families and in that sense protecting school meals would become ever more important to child nutrition and health.
Kenny Gillespie and Paul O’Brien focused on housing and construction issue suggesting that not only would we need to address the UK skills market in a post Brexit Britain but equally be prepared for the potential impact on materials and supplies. David Kilduff of Walker Morris provided an excellent overview of the constitutional issues wrapped within Brexit and what could possibly be the way forward for to extrapolate the UK from EU law whilst retaining some semblance of balance between delivering on the referendum results but protecting many of the worthwhile elements of EU regulation. David also warned that parliamentary democracy should not be undermined and criticised inflammatory press reporting of due legal process, which has constitutional significance for the UK.