Saturday 24 February 2007
Arrive back from holiday in Tenerife and go straight into one of APSEs main committees on my first day back. As well as the business side of the meeting, there is also two policy papers which are up for debate and the Committee are in the mood for a discussion.
The first paper is very much about the future of social housing and how it should be viewed in a wider regeneration role. We are also calling for a new Decent Neighbourhoods Standard to replace the Decent Homes Standard and a levelling of the funding options available to local authorities. However we all agree that the paper needs strengthening around new built affordable social housing and that this housing should be seen as a quality choice rather than some kind of safety net.
Next up is our Environmental paper which gets an even rougher ride, this means a rewrite of where we are at. We were pushing a line around punishing all polluters, including an annual household waste allowance in order to change the publics behaviour. However the policy committee want to pursue the producers first and hold back on the consumers at present. That's democracy, its the membership who own APSE and there representatives who have the final say!
Thursday 15 February 2007
The Scottish APSE Housing and Building seminar takes place at Dalmahoy and due to other commitments its a 5.30am start for me as I am speaking in the first session on Trading and Charging.
Despite the early start I still only make it with about 10 minutes to spare. However what I hear is good stuff as the Chief Executive from Inverclyde, John Mundell talks about the turnaround strategy that is on-going in the authority following a damming inspection report a year or two back. I have known John for years and its good to see that someone from an operational services background has got to Chief Executive level - could this be a new trend!
I do my slot and then in the late afternoon there is a presentation to a number of long standing Councillors who have been involved in APSE and are standing down in May. Its a sad occasion for me as many of them are friends or colleagues I have worked closely with, so I take the opportunity during my speech to ridicule them with my best stories about them over the years and we all have a laugh. Bill Martin and John Moran from North Lanarkshire, David McGrouther from West Lothian, Margaret Paterson from Clackmannanshire and Ron Scrimgour from Angus amongst others. On a serious note these people have given a massive amount of time and effort to public service with very little reward and in my view deserve greater credit and recognition than they are being given.
Although the event is really about Councillors one officer is also honoured, Bob Jackson from Dundee who is retiring in May and who has been the Scottish APSE Financial Advisor for years. He was always one of the key players in Scotland during my time there and I viewed him as a mentor. I certainly never went into a meeting of Scottish Regional Council not knowing if he was on my side when it came to a key vote. His tightness with the finances is legendary and that is probably what allowed us to invest in resources in Scotland and make our operations there such a success..
Saturday 10 February 2007
The Scottish Regional Council of APSE meets in Glasgow today and I go along to lend support to our Principal Advisor in Scotland, Pat and also to kick off discussions about elected members involvement in the Association post the May elections.
Some basic analysis identifies that from the current 1,200 Councillors in Scotland, over 400 are taking the package available to stand aside and with the impact of proportional representation at least another 400 are likely to change at the election, therefore after the May elections two thirds of Scotlands elected members are likely to be new. This obviously has implications for APSE and we put together a working group which is aimed at developing a response to ensure we still have strong Councillor involvement post May.
Thursday 08 February 2007
Meet up with Dave Prentis the General Secretary of UNISON at his offices in London. We discuss research APSE are undertaking as part of our research partnership with INLOGOV and CLES.
Dave is interested in the project on the value of public sector employment, but we also exchange views on our other projects on the economic footprint of local government and governance, neighbourhoods and service delivery. Dave is very keen on the idea of greening local authorities and councils setting an example on the environment through the services they provide. We close the meeting as Dave has to rush over to Westminster to meet with Patricia Hewitt.
Mark Bramah and myself then go to meet with Dave Wetzel the Deputy Chair of Transport for London, ironically not to talk about Transport but Housing. Dave is a supporter of the concept of Land Value Tax and Mark and me are interested to find out more about it and if it could be a potential solution to the many problems in social housing at present.
Tuesday 06 February 2007
In Gateshead today to view the Sage Centre as a venue for the Association's Annual Seminar in September. Like what we see, a purpose built conference venue, it will do for us. Representatives from Gateshead Council have encouraged us to bring the event here and their support and enthusiasm makes us feel wanted. The fact we also find a venue with a capacity of 750 for the annual dinner clinches the deal.
Go across to see the Chief Executive of the North East Centre of Excellence, David Wright and like what he has to say about sustainable procurement and community benefit clauses. He invites me onto the local government sustainable procurement working group chaired by Roger Latham and I am happy to participate as this is an area APSE has been at the forefront of research in for a number of years. The key to success in this area is the public sector in general, local government in particular, leading by example in ensuring that the huge spend it makes and the services it delivers are compliant with sustainability principles.
Saturday 03 February 2007
The circle of people sit hushed as I start to stand up, my voice cracks as I begin to speak, the pressure of owning up to the reality of the situation bites deep into my very soul, but some how the words come out " Hello, my names Paul and I am having a midlife crisis". Someone mutters a response about one day at a time or something but I don't really hear it, my own words drowning out the other voice as it registers that today I am 40.
Okay a bit dramatic I know but what else explains the fact that today of all days (my 40th birthday) I am doing an Olympic distance triathlon, (1m swim, 40km cycling and 10km run) for cancer research UK. I manage to beat my target time of 3 hours by a couple of minutes, if only I could do the front crawl in the swim it would be 20 minutes less.
A big thanks to all those who sponsored me and I will pass on the total raised at some point soon.
Friday 02 February 2007
It's the APSE annual Healthy Living seminar in York for two days and I rush over for the opening session where Parmjit Dhanda MP, Under Secretary of State for Children, Families and Young People is speaking along with Michael Nelson from the School Food Trust.
Some of the facts they real off are quite startling and Parmjit's key quote about "a generation of children who risk being outlived by their parents" really sums up the mess that we are in today.
Had a useful chat with Parmjit who really knows his brief and whilst advocating what the Government response is in 'Every Child Matters', was also challenging the local government audience about what more they can do to make a difference. Parmjit is also the first Government Minister I have came across who is taller than me and I stand almost 6ft 4in.
The rest of the conference goes really well with loads of good debate and the Abba Girls who are providing the evenings entertainment even get me up on stage for an early 40th birthday celebration. Stitched up by friends and colleagues once again!