Friday 06 January 2012
APSE’s first strategic forum of the New Year took place last night on the theme of energy efficiency in asset management. Guest speaker was David Kilduff, Head of the Commercial Group at Walker Morris Solicitors, who gave an overview of the issues facing local government in this area.
These events are used as an opportunity to develop policy and share knowledge.
David spoke about the opportunity to examine the corporate assets of the council to identify environmental and actual financial savings through better utilisation of property, procurement and behavioural change. Energy price inflation and energy security are also significant headaches for local authorities.
Prior to Christmas Local Government Minister Eric Pickles touched on the potential savings from better management of local government’s £250B property portfolio, suggesting that £7B savings could be achieved from reduced property use and £8B from enhanced productivity through better space utilisation.
David identified that you need political leadership with a vision for the area, you need sound advice in developing your strategy, a business plan of what you aim to achieve and the implementation skills to deliver. You also need to audit what natural resources and assets you have in your locality. In a time of austerity it’s an opportunity to make an economic case for growth not just an environmental case for change.
A wide ranging discussion took place around using pensions funds to invest in the green agenda, whether recent announcements on feed in tariffs represented a shift in government policy from renewables to energy efficiency, whether it was practical to take a cross public sector approach in this area, lack of public awareness of green deal and how you go about rebalancing property portfolios when your estate is heavily occupied at present.
The meeting closed with agreement that as legislation bites and belts tighten this will become an area of ever increasing importance for local government.
Thursday 14 October 2010
It's APSE's annual environment conference in Stoke and I am first up to speak this morning on the economic climate facing local government. The audience today is mainly Directors and Heads of Service from local authorities with a sprinkling of elected members. With less than a week to go until George Osborne delivers the Comprehensive Spending Review it’s hard to be upbeat about the fiscal challenge local government faces. I make the quip that my staff will be handing out anti-depressants at the end of my presentation and that we will also have a free phone number to offer counselling.
I push the message of triumphing in adversity and point to difficult times we have collectively faced in the past. My thesis is that we need to sweat out efficiency, be municipal entrepreneurs to generate income in a bid to offset reduced budgets and be innovative around renewable energy to create employment or redeployment opportunities.
Last night at our dinner we held APSE's annual apprentice awards for horticulture and transport. Julia Ford from West Lothian Council won the horticultural award with Leon Flattely from Luton Council winning in the transport category. The added bonus for the five shortlisted apprentices in the transport category is that the sponsor, Faun Zoeller, are taking them all on a tour of their factory in Bremen.
Thursday 15 April 2010
I could probably have written pages about what APSE wants from an incoming Government, however today someone asked me to do so in 100 words and I gave the following comment:
Whilst it is inevitable that public sector spending will be reduced over the next three to four years, APSE is calling for this to be made possible through managed transformation - not a financial Armageddon.
We would like to see a recognition of the excellent value that local government services provide to local communities and economies and, from this starting point, an acceptance that improvement and efficiencies can be achieved but will take time to deliver.
Priority areas that require urgent investment are up-skilling public sector workers to realise the huge economic opportunities that exist in meeting environmental challenges the country faces and building a new generation of council housing to meet a huge social need.
Tuesday 23 February 2010
In Cornwall today to meet up with the Programme Director for Green Cornwall at Cornwall Council, Steve Cirell. Steve and me go back 15 years and shared many platforms and projects over the years in his time as Head of the Public Sector Unit at Eversheds. Steve has always been passionate about his work and I remember him as a leading voice in local government during the battles over CCT, his expertise on Trading and Charging, PFI and more lately on Best Value.
To say he is embracing this new venture with enthusiasm would be an understatement. He has developed plans for an energy saving company to generate solar, wind, biomass, heat, electric cars, hydro and wave / tidal power. The plan is for the Council to own all of this and my head was spinning with the possibilities this creates for not only Cornwall but for Councils across the country.
This is definitely the future and it takes pioneers like Steve to change thinking and get things moving on an agenda that's time has come.
The trip also gave me a chance to catch up with Arthur Hooper, Cornwall’s Head of Highways who told me about a quarry they have just bought in order to ensure they have a sustainable supply of materials.