Monday 14 March 2011
Spoke today at APSE's seminar in Belfast on 'Avoiding the Road to Nowhere'. Mapped out our narrative around 'The Ensuring Council' and our triangle of excellence response to the cuts of efficiency, income generation and innovation.
Bumper Graham from NIPSA outlined the politics of cuts in Northern Ireland and the impact this will have on public services.
Wednesday 06 October 2010
Give the opening address at the Local Government Staff Commission in Northern Ireland’s conference in County Down today. The session is about the challenges facing local government in the UK and there isn’t a shortage of things to talk about, which could have been the reason I slightly overran!
Whilst setting a context around the difficult financial climate I try to get a challenging message across about being masters of our own destiny. I push the idea of the triangle of excellence, of getting the balance correct between efficiency savings, income generation and innovation. There are lots of brilliant things happening out there in local government it just needs to be gathered up and applied in the appropriate circumstances.
Then I am off to Glasgow for the Chartered Institute of Waste Management Dinner in the evening.
Thursday 18 February 2010
Attended the awards dinner for the Northern Ireland Local Government Awards at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, Down. This is the second year in a row that APSE has been involved in the awards and it’s really taken off as an event with the dinner packed out.
The awards dinner is built on to the Northern Ireland Local Government Association conference and that was dominated by the themes of change, transformation and whether the impending reorganisation process will go ahead in the planned timescale. The Local Government Minister Edwin Poots MLA had spoken earlier in the day and had stoked up some controversy that led to some light hearted banter when he returned to help broadcaster Lynda Bryans present the awards in the evening.
The awards have been developed in collaboration with all of the local government family in Northern Ireland and along with APSE, the Local Government Staff Commission, Training Group, NILGA, SOLACE, William Johnston Memorial Trust, National Association of Councillors and the Women’s Development Steering Group.
APSE sponsored the Best Local Authority Service Team category and Edwin Poots and I presented it to Belfast City Council's Community Safety Team.
Friday 05 February 2010
At the time of writing the reorganisation of local government in Northern Ireland has almost ground to a standstill as it has been swallowed up in the stalemate created by the wider political dealings taking place amongst the main parties in the Assembly.
I have been chairing the Local Government Reform Joint Forum in Northern Ireland in recent months, which is the body tasked with negotiating employment matters between the employers and staff side associated with the on-going reorganisation process.
D-day for reorganisation is supposed to be May 2011. Unfortunately for all concerned, the finalisation of the legislation through the Northern Ireland Assembly has become wrapped up in the current high profile debate about the devolution of policing powers. The resulting impasse has brought the complex timetable on issues such as statutory consultation on boundaries to the very brink of impossibility. The latest rumours are of a delay until 2015.
The reorganisation has been mooted since 2002. Subsequent Review of Public Administration recommendations that have been negotiated back and forth concluded that the current 26 District Councils will be replaced by 11 new authorities, which will incorporate some additional functions transferred from other agencies.
With this in mind, local government has set off with some fervour to put plans in place to ensure not only a seamless transition come vesting day, but also that modern systems and processes are in place from the outset of the new authority’s existence. Transition committees have been formed and change managers are in post to help build the necessary infrastructure.
The Local Government Reform Joint Forum I have been involved in has discussed vacancy control procedures, local negotiation forum arrangements, staff transfer schemes, systems for filling of posts and severance schemes. It has made exceptional progress due to the understanding and respect shown to each others’ positions at both sides of the table.
Unfortunately, at a time when the new councils should be starting the appointment process for chief executives who can then develop governance and organisational structures, systems and processes, a desired corporate culture, organisational identity and council branding, the full process is wading in treacle due to circumstances beyond local government’s control.
Who knows what effect this will have on staff morale. But a further delay to a process that has been ongoing for almost a decade is surely unthinkable. However, with every passing day the timescale to effect that seamless transition becomes ever shorter and the one thing that anyone who has been involved in reorganisations in England, Scotland and Wales knows is that time is of the essence.
The grains of sand are slipping through this particular hourglass at an alarming rate.