Saturday 23 February 2008
Chaired the political debate at APSE's annual Scottish Housing conference at Peebles Hydro and its one of the most enjoyable events that I have been involved in for ages.
Alex Neil MSP spoke for the Government and Derek Brownlee MSP responded for the Conservatives, Andy Kerr MSP for Labour and Jim Tolson MSP for the Lib dems. The theme was a general 'how can local government deliver best value in the future' and this allowed us to cover many areas but with an emphasis on housing. We also touched on equal pay, ringfencing, community benefits and skills shortages. I got to play David Dimblbey as we moved on to question time and all of the MSPs did admirably, the delegates were certainly happy and the session was packed out with brilliant feedback.
Although I had a few nervous moments when Alex suggested that we should look at the performance management system that is used in Virginia in America, I could almost sense the phrase study tour being telepathically transmitted to me from members of our Scottish Regional and National Councils.
I also managed to sit in on the housing green paper debate in the afternoon where Alan Ferguson from Chartered Institute of Housing, Jim Hayton, Executive Director of Housing South Lanarkshire and Matt Smith from UNISON made their contributions. Again the quality of debate and information was first class. I was very impressed with Jim's analysis and his assessment of the key role local authorities must play in conjunction with other partners if the public's needs are to be met.
Our apprentice awards dinner took place on the Thursday night and our Policy, Performance and Scrutiny Committee met on the Friday morning. The event was a busy few days but the conference itself was our best Scottish Housing conference in years.