Saturday 29 September 2007
We attend the Labour Party Conference at Bournemouth where we are exhibiting and also manage to get on a few fringe events over the course of a few days.
It starts on the Sunday where I am speaking at the Compass/UNISON/Tribune fringe on 'Can public services deliver the new progressive consensus'. No pressure, the other speakers are Ministers Douglas Alexander, Ed Milliband and Angela Eagle, along with Heather Wakefield and Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee. I am on second and go for it anyway and suggest that the answer to the question is affirmative so long as we forget the fixation with competition, markets and choice and concentrate on competitiveness and public value. Most of the other speakers concur with my line, although Ed has a cheeky dig at public servants by suggesting that they are unresponsive and inflexible, I put him right on this during the questions and the audience seem to like this. However, Douglas decides to stick up for his mate and has a go back. On reflection not bad for a nights work I have managed to offend not only the person responsible for general election strategy but also the one who is writing the current party of governments new manifesto.
The next evening I speak at a housing fringe with some of the main trade union delegates and its good to catch up with whats going on in an area where we have a long standing campaign running.
We have some brilliant coverage at the stand with Ruth Kelly, Hazel Blears, Parmjit Dhanda, John Healy and Ian Pearson visiting. Unfortunately I miss the main event when Gordon Brown himself visits the stand and I am still outside the venue, Mo and Amanda are present and spend some time chatting with him. I think they are overstating things a bit, however I get a surprise later on. I go to a private meeting on climate change with Environment Minister Hilary Benn organised by the Fabians and I am really pleased when he compliments a few points I have made in the meeting. When leaving the meeting I think to myself I have done pretty well but notice I have 16 missed calls on my phone. I check my messages and it turns out Mo and Amanda have been all over the BBC 6 'o' clock news and Channel 4, 7 'o' clock news with Gordon Brown standing talking to them at our stand. We all meet up for dinner and my Hilary Benn story is obviously lost in the excitement of the others being on the national news programmes.
All in all its been a really good week with some excellent exposure for APSE and we come away thinking job well done.
Friday 21 September 2007
The last few days have signalled the busiest period of the year for me with our annual seminar and service awards taking place at the Sage Gateshead and the International Athletics Stadium.
It starts on Monday night with our National Council meeting and we have a great turnout as this is where much of the business for the following evenings AGM is decided. We then move on to a reception for all those in town on the eve of the conference.
Tuesday morning opens with the Local Government Minister Parmjit Dhanda delivering the keynote address in a session accompanied by Mick Henry the Council Leader at Gateshead. Parmjit delivers some positive messages about local governments performance over the past years and is well received by the audience. Michael Hughes from the Audit Commission also has some strong messages about the future of best value, which get the delegates thinking.
The AGM takes place in the evening and once I have delivered the annual and financial reports we get to the key task of electing our advisory group chairs, we really want to achieve a good political balance this year and manage to get chairs from 6 different political parties elected. Following wine and a hot buffet, snooker pundit and T.V. personality John Parrott entertains us with some hilarious stories.
Day 2 commences with me doing a slot on Governance, Neighbourhoods and Service Delivery, but the Chief Executive of Vale Royal, Anne Bingham Holmes steals the show by mixing cocktails on stage as part of her presentation. The plenary sessions close with a motivational talk from former British Swimming captain and Olympic medalist Steve Parry, I didn't really know much about Steve before he spoke and I am a bit apprehensive, however no need to worry, he is an absolute revelation one of the best I have seen.
In the evening its our annual service awards and we have 720 people present, months of planning and hard work come together and it is a stunning event. Adrienne Lawler from Sky T.V. presents the awards and has the audience eating from the palm of her hand. The final award is for the council with the best overall service delivery based on the various submissions made - Gateshead win and its as if the whole place erupts - I thought the stage was going to collapse there was that many of them on it. We end up back at our hotel to wind down after the adrenalin rush of the last few days and I sneak off at 3.30am to lay down in a darkened room to replenish my supply of mental wellbeing.
Wednesday 12 September 2007
Went to a private dinner tonight to celebrate the opening of the new Eversheds offices in Leeds following an invite from a good friend, the Head of the Public Sector there, Steve Cirell.
The Chief Executives of 17 local authorities are there to discuss 'climate change' and we get a tour of the new building before returning to the boardroom for the dinner.
Councillor Robert Light of Kirklees Council and a Commissioner on the National Climate Change Commission is the guest speaker. I think I know a bit about this topic but his knowledge was first class and his views sprinkled with some damning statistics made for quite a good debate around the room over dinner.
One thing he said which I wasn't fully aware of is that whatever we do now on climate change will have no effect on improving the situation until after 2050. The next 40 years are set because of the way we live our lives today, we need to change now to ensure a sustainable future beyond this timescale.
On a more positive note everyone present appeared to be recognising that it is a key priority for their authorities at present and that those of us in the public sector need to take a lead role by setting an example.
Didn't want to ask Steve if this new 30 storey office block had been built using sustainable construction practices, it wouldn't have been polite after getting such a nice meal.
Sunday 02 September 2007
Attended the annual ASSIST conference at St. Andrews Bay and caught up with what the latest issues are with those involved in the facilities management sector within local government.
This is the fourth year in a row I have attended the event and its one I have always enjoyed as its always informative as well as entertaining with a great bunch of people who I have known for a long time. However I think my star must be on the wane now as my participation in the debate has taken on a marginal role. Three years ago I did a presentation to the audience, two years ago it was the opening address, last year I was involved in two separate question time sessions - this year wait for it - I drew the charity raffle.
I think I better get to work on developing some new material if I want an invite next year or I will be parking cars and pressing my face against the window to see whats going on.