Saturday 16 December 2006
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.
Thursday 07 December 2006
Attended another Chatham House rules event in London tonight and it felt a bit like being in the biblical tale mentioned above. The event was organised by PWC on behalf of DCLG and was a launch for the report on 'developing the local government services market'.
When I arrived I was encouraged to see colleagues from the wider local government family of LGA, IDeA and Audit Commission present. However it was the big beasts from the CBI and their public services group, ACCORD, Keirs, Amey that I eyed nervously as they licked their lips in anticipation of the feast that sat before them in the shape of the local government services market.
To be fair when the event started and the contributions passed I began to realise that they are not really interested in returning to the old adversarial slog of fighting over the bones of individual contracts. They see the market as authorities in their entirety and want to consume them whole.
Actually the oligopoly of organisations that sit at the top end of the local government services market are more interested in developing long term relationships with authorities through helping them with business process re-engineering. They recognise that a number of hurdles exist to this, in terms of finance, fragmentation and flexibility. They also recognized that the private sector need to improve their supply offerings dramatically as they have not evolved since CCT.
It will be interesting to see how this develops in the coming months. As for me I indulged in a bit of lion bating by asking them to share with the group what innovative models they had too tempt local government with and then sneaked out the door as the pride turned on itself.
Sunday 03 December 2006
Went to a session on the impact of the White Paper on the workforce at UNISON towers in London today. The meeting is with the local government team and along with APSE, the local government information unit and the new local government network are represented.
We start off by doing a round the table and each organisation presents its opening statement with everyone finding something positive to say, although I express a healthy dose of cynicism about some of the hidden messages and how they could be interpreted or implemented. This appears to be well received by most.
Dick Sorabji of NLGN has an intellect that I respect greatly although I can't help but feel the organisations his employers represent have vastly different commercial interests in the future shape of local government to UNISONs membership. I often wonder why an organisation such as NLGN, with obviously huge commercial investment behind it, doesn't produce some tangible research that proves that the private sector actually improve service performance when services are outsourced, rather than relying on anecdotal conversation pieces.
I guess that's just the cynic in me emerging again, I must be a dinosaur by wanting to see hard tangible evidence before making my mind up about something.