Wednesday 29 August 2007
Received a phone call from a civil servant at the cabinet office today regarding our research publication 'Towards a future for public employment'. One of the Ministers had asked him to review the document and he was contacting me to emphasize how impressed he was with some of the key findings.
In particular he liked the notion of the public sector acting as a co-ordinator and catalyst for the joining up of skills development, training and employment within local communities. He also praised the best practice identified in terms of regeneration of cities such as Manchester and Newcastle, commenting on how the public sector had played the key role in leading and driving this change.
He said that our work would be used as part of the research basis which helps determine and drive cabinet office ideas and policy development.
High praise indeed!
Friday 24 August 2007
Following on from the launch of our email publication on developing a competitiveness continuum the Audit Commission have contacted us and asked APSE to get involved in their study on competition and contestability.
The study is looking at how these issues are being used at present to generate service improvement or not as the case may be. It should be interesting and hopefully along with the other key stakeholder groups we get the chance to bring influence to the research based on our knowledge and lengthy experience in this field over many years. We will be pushing a policy position that it is competitiveness that is important and this is best demonstrated by a range of tests rather than one off competition processes at a given moment in time, there is nothing continuous about this. We will also make it clear that the best way of ensuring transparency of approach is by building elected member challenge into the system.
As always with an important piece of research such as this you hope that there are no prejudged findings prior to the evidence being examined.
Tuesday 14 August 2007
Saddened today to hear of the death, at only 57 years old, of broadcaster Tony Wilson at the weekend. Tony was the music mogul who created the Factory Records label associated with the Happy Mondays etc. and put the mad into Manchester.
Tony was amazingly well known in the North West and did a number of radio slots plus presented the Politics Show on a Sunday on BBC TV.
Despite his success he really was a man of the people and this is why when we launched our local services local solutions campaign last year we got Tony to act as a rapporteur
. The launch was in Manchester City Hall and we had Tony interviewing the leaders of Manchester and Glasgow City Councils on what they had done for the public.
He really was a genuine character and will leave a huge gap in North West society.
Thursday 09 August 2007
Fly into Belfast from Glasgow today for a number of meetings before returning to Manchester. Have lunch with our new Northern Ireland Chair, Cllr Arnold Hatch from Craigavon Council and then its onto meetings with civil servants from the DOE and the Assembly Minister, Arlene Foster MLA.
The early meetings with the civil servants give us some really good intelligence as to the current thinking with regard to the reorganisation process and the service improvement programme that is likely to predate this and roll on beyond. Our Principal Advisor Phil Brennan and myself do a lot of listening but also manage to raise awareness of what APSE has to offer and it becomes obvious that there is a significant amount of synergy between our work programme and where local government in Northern Ireland is headed.
When we enter the meeting with the Minister we are buzzing, however this is short lived when we discover that she has been called away on urgent business. On the plus side however we get a sympathetic hearing for an hour from her special advisor and two lead civil servants. Again its apparent that they are moving towards the development of a positive improvement programme for local government which will overlap with the reorganisation announcements later this year.
Talking to Arnold after the meeting generates a load of ideas and we agree to strike up a dialogue with the main local government bodies to seek a consensus on how strong local government can be delivered through the improvement programme.
Tuesday 07 August 2007
In Scotland today to meet up with an old friend and colleague, Andy Kerr, who until the Scottish Parliament elections in May was the Health Minister and looked set to take over the baton from former First Minister Jack McConnell at some point during the current parliament if Labour had been successful.
The press is currently rife with speculation about Jack standing down as Leader of the Labour Party in Scotland and Shadow First Minister with Andy tipped to fight out the succession with Wendy Alexander. Over lunch Andy's phone rings regularly with the press all wanting him to confirm he is standing, he holds the well tested line that politicians do in this situation, until the incumbent announces he is standing down then he doesn't want to speculate.
We have a good chat about how public opinion has changed and what the future may hold for Andy and he is full of energy and ideas having emerged from a period of reflection after May.
We part on good terms and pledge to keep in touch whatever happens in the next few weeks.
Saturday 04 August 2007
Returned from holiday in Cyprus today to the usual deluge of emails, I was only away for a week but 256 messages had descended on my inbox.
Its at times like this you take stock of how email is used and I would say that only about 10% of these required action, with the rest mainly for information. The fact that printer 4 will be busy for the next 2o minutes and that it is now not busy anymore is something I don't need to know when I am thousands of miles away. Whilst there is information that I want copied into, the amount of collective brain power used by dealing with general circulation emails is worrying.
You can't help but wonder if the art of conversation is under threat and that a new generation of non vocal Stepford cyberpersons is on the rise.
Of course this is me being hypocritical as my afternoon walks on holiday were really an excuse for me to get away from my partner to catch up with things on my blackberry.