Saturday 29 March 2008
Have a busy couple of days in London where I meet with DEMOS to discuss a research project we are involved in around value for money in partnerships, the new Chief Executive of the LGIU, Andy Sawford and most importantly our National Council at Parliament.
Gets off to a bad start when the train abruptly stops at Watford - theres been a major problem on the line and no services are running into London. As we exit the station along with hundreds of other commuters I spot a taxi parked in a side street and we strike a deal to take us the rest of the way.
The meeting goes well with DEMOS and we agree a strategy as to how we take the research forward. We then go to the LGIU and meet Andy and agree some common objectives and fix up a few events to look at taking these shared goals forward.
National Council goes well and we agree the programme for our annual away day and review progress with a range of our services. Its Cllr Malcolm Jones last meeting as he is standing down from Neath Port Talbot Council in May and its emotional as colleagues pay tribute to his time in local government and his contribution to APSE having been a past National Chair and a long standing Chair of Wales.
Friday 21 March 2008
Went to Durham County Council today to the official opening of their new super depot. When driving in I thought I was at the wrong building as it looked like a software company from the outside.
DCLG Minister John Healey was on hand to unveil the plaque and we all then got a tour of the facilities. The Council Leader, Albert Nugent was as pleased as punch to have John at the opening and the portfolio holder Trevor Carroll was also on hand to welcome the Minister. Vivian Wiley the Service Director spoke at the opening about the work that the Services Directorate undertake and how this contributes to the corporate objectives of the council. Everything from community safety to the environment and the local economy. John responded and spoke about the reorganisation that was ahead and also about trading and charging.
As we toured the facilities and the transport and highways workshops it was to good an opportunity to miss, so I had a decent discussion with John about Trading and Charging and expressed my views about where the guidance published in 2003 was flawed. Based on Johns reaction I am hopefully that we will have a lengthy dialogue about this that may lead to benefits for all.
Saturday 15 March 2008
APSE held a strategic forum on the Environment and Sustainability in Southampton today, chaired by Cllr Richard Williams.
Dr Alan Whitehead M.P. the Chair of the House of Commons all party group PRASEG - The Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group spoke at the forum on initiatives around decentralised renewable energy schemes focusing in particular on the UTILICOM Geo-thermal district heating, power and cooling initiative in Southampton. Which delegates got a tour around.
He concentrated very much on the fact that the economics of energy was tilting towards local solutions and a much bigger role for local authorities. Utilicom is a great example of municipal enterprise which is expanding the delivery of local heating and power across Southampton. There are other schemes underway in Eastleigh and in Birmingham but the Southampton public private partnership has been in existence since the 1980's. Could this be a new age of municipal enterprise addressing the needs of our communities. Alan was interested in our research programme and gave him copies of towards a future for public employment and the work on governance and neighbourhoods. Alan will have a role in drafting labour's manifesto for local government, so this proved a good opportunity to showcase the work that APSE is currently doing.
Wednesday 12 March 2008
APSEs Assistant Chief Executive, Mark Bramah held a lobbying meeting with Dr. Brian Gibbons, Minister for Social Justice, at the Welsh Assembly
Brian was particularly interested in the research we are carrying out into the economic footprint of local government in Swindon with CLES. He has an agenda about promoting local economies and employment opportunities for some of the valley communities in Wales.
Brian agreed to speak at APSEs next Wales seminar and to write a piece for Direct News around the changes proposed to the Wales Programme for Improvement in a forthcoming consultation due probably after the local government elections in Wales. Brian is also keen on the shared services agenda in Wales and cross sectoral working particularly between local government and health and wanted to learn from the progress being made in England. This probably has a lot to do with his health background. He discussed progress with the collaborative approach to improvement in Wales and contrasted this with the more carrot and stick approach as per England - CPA.
He was also very keen on the performance improvement agenda and the work APSE is doing through Performance Networks. His Civil Servant told us about "Ffynnon" which is the Pan-Wales Performance Management System.
Tuesday 11 March 2008
Participated in the first meeting of the DCLG National Housing Revenue Account (HRA) review group at Parliament today. It was really interesting and something that is long overdue, its time policymakers got over themselves and realised that Council Housing is a quality affordable option that is staring them in the face to deal with the affordable Housing crisis.
Although it was a Chatam House rules event I think I can tell you that the Housing Minister Caroline Flint opened up by outlining her views of the role of the review and we then split into two groups of ten to fifteen people to discuss the terms of reference we had. I was in the group with the other DCLG Minister present, Ian Wright and he quickly threw things open to views. I steamed in straight away and said I thought the scope was to narrow and we needed to consider issues such as local authorities being involved in new build and the wider role that local authorities had other than Housing. I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of people supported this view. We will see what happens as to incorporation of this in the review.
The review will not be finalised until next year with findings not implemented until October 2009. Hopefully we will have regular involvement in this group and I will continue to pursue APSEs lobbying position in this area.
Sunday 02 March 2008
APSE participated in a number of events on the Labour Party fringe at their spring conference this weekend.
During Saturday lunch time we held a fringe on Governance, Neighbourhoods and Service Delivery where APSEs Mark Bramah and Steve Griggs of INLOGOV were joined by Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON and DCLG Minister John Healey MP to debate Governance, Neighbourghoods and Service Delivery at a fringe event chaired by Michael White of the Guardian.
Mo Baines stood in for me at the UNISON fringe on 'Public Sector Reform - what about the workers?', this debate included contributions from Local Government Minister Hazel Blears and UNISONs Head of Local Government, Heather Wakefield.
In the evening a fringe took place on 'affordable housing for all', Mark Bramah spoke for APSE along with Heather Wakefield and Jack Dromey of UNITE.
Saturday 01 March 2008
APSE launched its Governance, Neighbourhoods and Service Delivery research today at the Conservative Councillors Association conference in Warwickshire.
Cllr Margaret Eaton the CCA chair joined our Assistant Chief Executive Mark Bramah and Steve Griggs of INLOGOV at a packed reception. Good to see people of the quality of Cllr Paul Bettison taking the time to show up and support our event.
Mark also attended the annual dinner in the evening.