Saturday 27 June 2009
Attend MJ awards dinner this evening at the Hilton Park Lane and it's a real pleasure to see some of the hardest working staff in local government get the recognition their achievements deserve.
The room is packed with around 1,000 people present. I am fortunate to be seated front centre at Deputy Editor of the MJ, Heather Jameson's table. To my right is Efficiency Guru and Chief Executive of Lewisham, Barry Quirk and to my left is Chief Executive of the LGIU, Andy Sawford.
New Communities Minister John Denham gives some opening comments, which are well received by the audience. Huw Edwards of the BBC presents the awards.
Needless to say a good time is had by all, but most importantly is the celebrations that hopefully take place at authorities all over the UK when news filters back of the success of all those recognised at the awards.
Friday 19 June 2009
Speak at a Housing conference organised by Unite in London today. The event is opened by new Housing Minister John Healey, who is followed by Unite Deputy General Secretary Jack Dromey. Gail Cartmel of Unite then Chairs a debate with Sir Jeremy Beecham representing the LGA, Unite Head of Research John Earls and myself representing APSE.
There is a real mood of change about with the recent funding announcements on new build for councils and the imminent report back of the findings of the review of the national housing revenue account.
Despite only being in the job a week or two there is a real expectation that a respected Minister such as John Healey will deliver in this area.
It's a generation since local authorities built council housing to any significant scale but given the current need for affordable housing it really is bubbling up as one of the great public policy debates of today.
Tuesday 16 June 2009
Up until recently climate change has often been described as the greatest challenge of our time although perhaps the world wide recession and the state of the UKs public finances has started to contest that notion.
Now with the commencement of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) looming large for local government these twin phenomena’s may converge to create a perfect financial storm. For authorities who are not at an advanced stage of planning in their response to CRC the monetary consequences maybe about as welcome as a sneezing pig wearing a poncho and sombrero.
The CRC is a mandatory carbon trading scheme and will cover both public and private sector organisations. It is designed to encourage large non-energy intensive organisations in the UK to reduce their CO2 emissions. The aim of the carbon reduction commitment is to reduce the level of carbon emissions by approximately 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2020. As a Climate Change Bill commitment, the scheme is aiming for an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.
Even though the scheme doesn’t officially start until April 2010, local authorities will need to make preparations before that date to ensure that they comply with the requirements. This is something that will require cooperation and coordination across all services within every Council.
By now authorities should have a plan for the coming five years. It is anticipated that low hanging fruit can be gathered in years one and two by turning down heating controls and dimming streetlights however by year three targets will start to dictate that larger energy reduction projects require to come on-stream. Therefore if you are not seriously considering energy from waste initiatives, major insulation programmes or district heating schemes now you really should be.
Once the trading scheme moves to the free market on tonnage costs and government allowances are reduced beyond 2013, the cost implications could be significant for those who have paid lip service to this issue. Emerging strategies and tactics for CRC should make for compulsive viewing.
The vast majority of authorities will commence from the same starting point on CRC and therefore a legacy of excellent performance under CPA will not necessarily act as a guarantee for success on this agenda. Lasting reputations can be made and lost very easily, just look at David Carradine, he was once best known for his role in Kung Fu, well not anymore he isn’t.