Archive for July, 2010

A strong engagement

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Strong engagement with everybody – staff, members, residents, communities, businesses and partners – will be key for us over the next few years as we go through a period of significant change.

I was pleased that Cabinet agreed to a new engagement strategy with our communities last week to ensure that we consult and engage them in the best ways possible. 

Cabinet also approved a new way of working with the voluntary sector which will help to underpin our drive to recruit more volunteers to help many organisations across Staffordshire.

Bye for now


Thanks to those who pile on the miles

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

As I have said before, I have seen many great examples of people and teams across the County going the extra mile for their customers and coming up with innovative ways to meet their customers’ needs. 

I had great pleasure in attending one of the quarterly ‘All about you’ awards ceremonies in Shire Hall Gallery last week to award the certificates and prizes and meet the recipients.  There had been over 60 entries and I know the judging panel had struggled to decide who should win, given the quality of all the entries. 

 It was great to be able to chat to the winners afterwards, all of whom had shown tremendous dedication in their roles, and I hope to get out and see many of them in their working environment over the next few months. 

So huge congratulations to the winners:  Walton Hall Youth Club, Julie Collingham from the New Kitchener Day Centre, Hazel Berrisford from the Autism Outreach Team, Nikki Veszpremi from the Vision Impairment Service, Steve Cox, Caretaker at Wilnecote Junior School, the County Council Portage Workers and the Pensions Administration Team.



Refreshed? and focused

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Hi – sorry it’s been a few days since my last blog but thanks to Eric Robinson for guest blogging so admirably in my absence.

I took a break to spend a bit of time with the family on day trips around the area to get to know it better. We had a great week visiting a number of attractions, including Drayton Manor, Alton Towers and Shugborough, although I must admit that at the end of the week while Matthew was wanting to do more (ah, for the energy of a 6 year old!) I felt a bit shattered from a surfeit of rides!

Since being back I have been busy focusing on key issues that have come out of the coalition government, including the future arrangements following abolition of the Regional Development Assemblies and how we deliver key education outcomes now that the Building Schools for the Future programme has ceased. Also on how we will operate in the future to enable us to provide the outcomes needed by our communities and residents with significantly less funding.

I sent out an e-mail to everyone last week highlighting the start of this process. Over the coming weeks we will be appointing a new, refocused senior leadership team to help guide us through the changes. Increased customer expectations and reduced funding mean that there is no option but to change the way we do things quite radically if we are to meet our aspirations for our communities and citizens and continue to make Staffordshire a great place to be.

I will be keeping you in touch with changes through my blog and other communications, and from September will be introducing regular opportunities for groups of you to meet senior colleagues to hear your views around the issues and how we best address them.

That’s it for now – will be blogging again later in the week. Just hope the rain stops and the sun finds its way back through!

Cheers Nick

Inspection success and health news

Friday, July 16th, 2010

On my previous blog I talked about the unannounced Ofsted Inspection of Children’s Services which took place earlier this week.

I’m pleased to say that it went very well. I’m sure that Sally Rees and her colleagues are both relieved it’s over, and pleased with the outcome. Well done to one and all.

I also promised some feedback on the White Paper for Health. While lots of the national headlines reflected the power shift to GPs, giving them a £90 billion budget to commission services, and the consequent scrapping of PCTs, there was some very good news for local government. These are exciting developments and I would urge you all to follow them closely.

The Public Health role will move from the PCTs to Staffordshire County Council. We would lead on engagement with the public and patients and set up ‘Healthwatch’ which will empower patients and those who use care services, of all ages, to have a say in how health and care is delivered in Staffordshire. Also, the County Council will co-ordinate the integration of health and care and public health commissioning thru the setting up of a ‘Health and Wellbeing Board’.

All this gives the Council a leadership role in health improvement, health and social care commissioning for the population of Staffordshire. These changes across health and care fit very well with the new way the Council wishes to operate. Something I’m sure Nick will talk more about when he returns to blogging duties next week.

Reading your stories

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Your responses to Nick’s first ‘What’s your story’ question have been fantastic.

He asked you ‘What makes you proud of your job?’, and you responded in droves. I’ve seen some of the replies you’ve sent in so far and the pride and enthusiasm that comes across in your answers.

Here are just a few responses that I can share with you now. And make sure you look out for the ‘What’s your story’ area of the intranet over the next few days, where you’ll be able to read more. I warn you now, you’ll get a real fuzzy glow from some of the replies!

“I frequently feel proud working for Staffordshire as one of their County Educational Psychologists. I felt proud recently when , at the end of a counselling session with a young man who has Asperger’s syndrome he said to me ‘I like seeing you because you understand me’. I feel proud when I make a difference for the people of Staffordshire.” Vicky Nelson, County Educational Psychologist,

“I know that if we didn’t do what we do then the difference would be immediately noticeable. Schools would not be cleaned and the environment of learning would be degraded because of this. Colleagues at offices across the county would lose pride in their workplace, as bins went un-emptied and floors went un-mopped. I help these things to happen in my area and that is what makes me proud!”
Gary Townsend, Operational Manager, Cleaning Services

Now it’s time for Nick’s second question ‘What have you personally done which has made a real difference to your service users?

Get thinking about your replies and email them to  I look forward to reading some of your replies.

I’ll update you tomorrow on the spot-inspection by Ofsted that I mentioned in my last entry.


Acting up for the week

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Hi folks, I am Eric Robinson, Corporate Director for Social Care and Health. I have the pleasure of picking up Nick’s blog while he is on leave and will do my best to uphold his blogging standards!

It’s an interesting time in the world of public service, with huge changes on the way with the new Government and some of the usual issues hitting us too.

On the latter point, Ofsted have arrived today to undertake an unannounced Inspection of Children, Young People Families Services. They will be with us for a couple of days and we will get feedback soon after. Any inspection is highly stressful and unannounced ones doubly so.

On the national arena I stood in for Nick and spent Friday with Chief Executives from the West Midlands looking at the change in culture at the Department of Communities and Local Government and the opportunities this brings for local government.

The presentation from the senior civil servants indicated that the ideaology of Eric Pickles and his team was one of decentralisation from central to local government. Indeed, both Eric, and his Deputy, Greg Clark, have written published works on this prior to taking up office. Eric’s was called “Control Shift” and Greg’s “Labours Command State” and both want a much smaller central government with much more power transferred locally. The style will be much more permissive, with small government, less central control, and far less guidance. I think we will all be happy with that! We may have much more power in the future, but with less money.

The next big issue was yesterday’s publication of the Health White Paper, which transfers Public Health from the NHS to local government and offers the council and much bigger role in strategic commissioning in areas that were the province of PCTs. Exciting times. I’ll talk more about this later in the week.

Bye for now

No time to coast

Friday, July 9th, 2010

This week I’ve been at the Local Government Association annual conference in Bournemouth. I must admit that I was amazed to be able to get a direct train from Stafford to Bournemouth – good for me to know in the future as Matthew loves the seaside!  Being with nearly 2,000 senior  players from councils, central government, partners and business, it’s been a great opportunity to find out how the land lies nationally.

Reassuringly, we’re all in the same boat: finding our way with the new Coalition Government, facing really tough financial challenges while, at the same time, looking to change the perception of the public sector with taxpayers and prove our worth.

I’ve been working closely with Philip at the conference. We can see that with the ever changing economic and financial environment it’s not going to be plain sailing. But meeting and talking with others from around the country did give us confidence that we are in a good position to respond to the challenges thanks to things we already have in the pipeline. We are now even clearer on what’s needed in Staffordshire.

So, after a busy, enjoyable and worthwhile week, roll on the weekend and the great weather we’ve been promised (though I wouldn’t mind a bit of overnight rain given the increasingly unhealthy colour of the garden!)

What’s your story?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Hi folks – I promised in my last chief executives update that I want to give everyone the chance to let me know what their job means to them. And here it is: ‘What’s your story?’

The idea is very simple and direct; I want to know more about what makes you tick as employees, in your own words.
You are the people who, day in day out, deliver a first rate suite of services across the county. I’ve already learned a great deal about how you feel as a group from last year’s MORI staff satisfaction survey.

Overall our staff satisfaction rating showed a considerable improvement since 2007. The results are now comparable with the high standard set in 2005 and 2003. This is very useful in painting the broader picture, but now I want to see the individual brushstrokes.

I will use your answers to inform my views and those of Corporate Management team. They will give us a great opportunity to both celebrate your individual successes and to highlight any important issues.

Here, then, is the first of my three questions:

‘What makes you proud of your job?’

Email your answer to, no more than 200 words please.

A special ‘All about you’ award will be made to the person whose answers across all three questions have the potential to really make a difference.

With about 30,000 officers working across the county reading all your replies could become a mammoth task. So I would ask you to keep your answer short, honest and to the point please. Thank you.

Next week I’ll be asking you the second of my three questions.

Bye for now

Nick Bell

In the national arena

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

I’m currently in London with county council Leader Philip Atkins. We are on our way to the House of Commons to talk to the MPs who represent the county.

Staffordshire needs a strong voice at Westminster, so these regular meetings are of real importance to us.

We have a full agenda. This will include yesterday’s announcement by Government that the Tamworth BSF project has been largely stopped. We were not surprised by this and we will now look for different ways to improve the outdated building stock in the county. Lobbying will be an important part of this.

You can read the reaction of Deputy Leader Ian Parry here

We will also be addressing other issues ranging from plans to close some court buildings to the condition of some local roads.

Following our meeting at the Commons we will be travelling on to conference in Bournemouth.

Talking up Staffordshire to the nation

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Sporting hope still springs eternal. Scotland 1 Spain 0 sounds like a great result to start the weekend.

We have to look forward to the future and be positive in all things, and most of the staff I meet maintain a very positive approach to their work.

We are working hard to transform the way we deliver services, and as you know I am very keen that Staffordshire becomes an authority that others hold up as an example and wish to follow.

That is why I am looking forward to the annual Local Government Association (LGA) Conference next week.

It will be my first since coming to Staffordshire, and I will be shamelessly talking-up the county  (and stealing the best ideas of others) to colleagues from authorities across the country.

I am particularly looking forward to sharing our great passion for transforming social care.

Everyone I meet accepts that our ageing population and other factors make this an enormous challenge for the future.

The key in this and all other things we do will be to focus on the needs of the “customer”, and this is the area where we really need to innovate and form strong and seamless partnerships, particularly with our PCTs.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate colleagues from Democratic Service in reaching the final of the MJ Awards in the category of Excellence in Democratic Services. They do excellent work in supporting the work of our 62 elected councillors.

My next update will be from conference. By then I am fully confident we will have the first British men’s Wimbledon Champion since records began… I really, really am. Go on Andy!