Saturday 22 December 2007
Its the last day the office is open prior to the Christmas break and I am looking forward to the holidays, as for once I am going to stay at home and do nothing.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who interacts with APSE for their co-operation in the past year, wish you all seasons greetings and my very best wishes for a prosperous 2008.
Saturday 15 December 2007
Spent a couple of days in Northern Ireland, day one is a joint APSE and DoE conference on customer service and I present our views on the matter, along with the Minister Arlene Foster. Arlene spends a bit of time praising APSE in her contribution and this is very welcome, the civil servants are also very friendly and hopefully we can do more joint working in the future. The 80 delegates appear satisfied with the event and hopefully we have all shared some learning.
Day two is our National Council meeting at Stormont and I present our Business Plan for 2008 to 2011 and following a grilling it gets approved, subject to some amendments. There is a healthy debate on most of the reports and I always enjoy this venue because we get a tour of the Assembly when our meeting is finished.
Its a mad dash back to the airport to catch our flight to Manchester to arrive at the staff Christmas night out that awaits us.
Tuesday 11 December 2007
Have a joint away day at the Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV) at Birmingham University with the UNISON local government headquarters staff.
We receive some presentations from the academics at INLOGOV and this provides a good setting to spend the day debating some of the key issues facing local government at present. The last few weeks have seen a deluge of legislation and guidance landing from government and its good to have the chance to catch up with it all and develop some thinking with knowledgeable colleagues.
Saturday 08 December 2007
Our annual performance networks seminar takes place in Blackpool with 450 delegates in attendance. It always annoys me the way local government officers and members are portrayed in the media when I see the enthusiasm and hunger to learn that exists at this type of event.
We always work the delegates hard with a mixture of plenary sessions, strategic and service specific workshops. We have tagged the event as the x factor and some of the speakers theme their presentations around the television show, which keeps every ones attention.
Colin Ranson from Sunderland delivers a 30 minute slot about how they are engaging with the local community and it shows Sunderland Council are at the cutting edge of thinking in this area, by linking up with the local football club and using their celebrities such as Niall Quinn and Roy Keane to encourage kids to take healthy options in school meals. Colin has built in video clips of him singing on the x factor and despite a few technical hitches the audience love it. What a great character.
The annual awards dinner is hosted by Diane Louise Jordan and it goes really well due in the main to our excellent staff who have events organised with precision. Our 22 award winners are ecstatic.
Sunday 02 December 2007
On my way back from Southampton yesterday I stopped in London to visit DCLG to discuss with them the up and coming reorganisation of English local government and what the practical implications would be.
The civil servants are currently developing guidance on staffing matters and whilst they have been inundated with legal advice they were looking for the experience of someone who had lived through a local government reorganisation and survived, that's were I came in.
My adventures relate to the reorganisation of Scottish local government in the mid nineties and I spent over two hours discussing my recollections of what it was like and answering questions about the appeals, disputes, structures, harmonisation, culture and lessons I had painfully learned.
I think it was useful for them to get away from the theoretical and engage with the reality and if this helps in anyway to shape the guidance on staffing matters that will be issued in January then it was worth diverting to London for a few hours.
Saturday 01 December 2007
Chaired two of the key sessions at the low carbon South East conference in Southampton today. The event at Southampton University brought together local government, the wider public sector, academia and the private sector to discuss how we can collectively tackle the issue of climate change and make an economic advantage from innovation and entrepreneurship in this area. The South East is the strongest performing area of the U.K.s economy but that also brings with it the problem of being the highest carbon creator.
Key speakers included Minister for Innovation, John Denham MP and Alan Whitehead MP, along with Councillor Paul Bettison, Chair of the LGA Environment Board. The audience of 200 delegates were also up for a debate and I had some fun in the Chair's role.
One of the key quotes for me was from Anthony Kleanthous of WWF when he said "it's getting the balance correct between saving the world and savouring it". Councillor Keith House the Leader of Eastleigh Council also spoke about how they intend to be carbon neutral as a Council by 2012, an ambitious target to say the least.