Archive for October, 2010

Not a black day for the public sector

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The Spending Review has made today a very interesting day. I have met many staff out and about who are obviously concerned about the implications of the review and what it means to them.

While the Spending Review is clearly being linked to job losses in the media this is not our approach in Staffordshire and indeed I believe the savings outlined haven’t been as bad as they were being trailed as. There was good news around extra funding for social care, real term increases in schools budgets and extra early years provision, as well as a removal of much of the ringfencing from government to make us more masters of our own destiny.  Elected Members and many of our staff have been working hard to prepare for the Spending Review and are in good financial health to be able to deal with the savings required.

Our new way of working is about being more focused on our customers’ needs, supporting elected members in their prioritisation and decision making and ensuring we have the right outcomes to deliver to those priorities. We will be a smaller organisation in three years time, but this will be about doing things better and delivering our services in different ways.

 We are looking to make many of the savings over the next three years from non staff budgets like, for example, better use of our buildings, more innovative working approaches with technology, better procurement and better collaboration with our partners. While we will be a smaller organisation in the future we will, wherever possible, manage this through natural turnover and voluntary redundancy.  I want an ongoing dialogue with you, and representative bodies, about how best we best manage the changes going forward.

Staff are our most valuable asset and without you, the experts doing the jobs, we won’t be able to achieve what we need to. I have met many of you in recent months and know that you’re doing jobs that make a huge difference and that you are up for the new opportunities ahead. For me, today is a day to be proud of working in the public sector and I wanted you all to know that you’re truly valued by the organisation you work for.

Best Wishes

Nick

England 0 – Staffordshire 5

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Hi

On Tuesday, I watched the messy England v Montenegro game and it was a bit disappointing to say the least with England failing to score at the new Wembley for the first time since it was built. Perhaps the road to qualification won’t be as easy as we think. I’ll watch the next match against Wales in March with bated breath.  Fortunately the County Council has been doing far better than this, having won five  prestigious awards recently for which huge congratulations are due.

Glenys Robinson, who works as a Social Care Assessor, won the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Social Care’ award at the Great West Midlands Care Awards.

Brighton House, a resource centre in Newcastle that offers rehabilitation, respite and assessment also won a Great West Midlands Care Award.  The centre won the Dignity in Care Award for the efforts that the staff go to ensure that people receive an individualised and personalised service.

In the same awards, the Care Fund Calculator Project won the Excellence in Commissioning Category.  Read more about their successes here: http://www.intra.staffordshire.gov.uk/directorates/sch/socialcarescooptopawards.htm

Congratulations also go  to the countywide cleaning services unit who scooped the title of best service team for building and facilities cleaning in the prestigious Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) awards . Read more here

Finally well done to the young people team from Wombourne Youth Action Team who won the young person’s award in the 2010 Southern Staffordshire Regeneration Awards. More information regarding the awards is available here:  http://www.southernstaffs.org.uk

And although they didn’t win, well done to the team from the county council who took part in the LGC Challenge which sees different teams from across the public sector battle it out, interestingly as a fictitious council. The event which took place in Birmingham did see them shortlisted in the public awareness category which is testimony to a job well done.

Also this week Local Democracy Week sessions have been taking place across the county. These are a great opportunity for young people to learn more about how local democracy works and why it’s important. There have been lots of excited voices in the corridors (not just from SLT colleagues!), which has taken me down memory lane.

Yesterday  at full council we discussed  the work we’re doing on our household waste recycling centres, as well as the electoral review of the Staffordshire boundary. The review, which is due to be completed by October 2011, will look at the number of members on the Council and whether there needs to be any changes to their electoral boundaries. The county council is working with the Boundary Commission and we will keep you fully informed of any developments. We are recommending that the membership of the county council remains at 62.

Next week, on 20 October we’ll hear about the Comprehensive Spending Review – this is where the government announces the results of its spending review. It will give details of which government departments will need to save money and by how much. Many of these spending reductions will then be passed on to local government. As you will  know we are already putting in place changes to achieve 30% of savings over the next three years so I don’t anticipate that this will change. What we will find out more on is government’s plans in specific areas. I will keep you updated on news and the implications for Staffordshire as we find out more.

Best Wishes

Nick

Sun is shining

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Hi all

I thought the weather was set in for the autumn and winter last week with the rain, but we seem to be blessed with a bit of late sunshine this week – lets hope it continues!  Unfortunately I got my timing wrong at the end of last week when I joined the High Sheriff of Staffordshire (Ian Dudson) and a dozen or so others to walk along the canal from Fazeley-Huddlestone. It bucketed down the whole way, but despite ending up looking like a bedraggled duck I really enjoyed it.  It was a great way to see parts of the county I hadn’t before, as well as promoting the work of the role of High Sheriff who is raising lots of money for charity through the walks and other things he is doing.

Luckily the sun was shining brightly on Monday when I visited one of our outdoor education centres Laches Wood in Coven. Laches Wood is the County’s leading centre for Family Learning residential weekends and offers a range of outdoor activities. I was very impressed by the centre – the children really enjoy themselves there and their smiles lit up the area nearly as brightly as the sunshine. It’s a great opportunity to raise the confidence of the children and to bring disadvantaged families together to have a break, as well as giving the kids a taste of a range of sporting activities that can benefit them for life.  It plays really strongly to one of our key aims of raising aspirations in our young people and tackling inequalities.

Talking about raising aspirations I met principals from all Staffordshire colleges last week to talk about opportunities for more joined up working and it was a really positive meeting where we identified lots of opportunities to work more closely. As well as the aspirations, developing skills amongst young people in the county will be a key priority for us moving forwards to help build the economy and prosperity of Staffordshire. In line with this, we’re doing well with our bid to recruit a significant number of apprentices to join the county council. 160 apprenticeships have been taken up, which is one of the highest in the region, and shows our continuing commitment to this agenda.

Ultimately though it is the people that work for the Council who can make a real difference to the lives of our customers, residents and communities. 

Marty in the early 60s (left)Last week I was privileged to meet some fantastic people at the county council’s long service awards. The people in the room had over 625 years of service at the county council between them. What fantastic public service! It was great to meet them and talk about changes they have seen over the years. There is still a huge sense of public sector ethos from them all.

Marty todayI also met Marty Whitehouse today who has clocked up a fantastic 50 years of service and tells me that she still thoroughly enjoys getting up every morning to come in to work – despite the traffic in  Stafford being a lot worse than 50 years ago!

Read more about her story in the latest issue of Inspire, which is out next week.

Talking about great members of staff, just a reminder for anyone who hasn’t yet voted for our very own Charlotte Bailey in the Guardian’s Public Servant of the Year award, please do so now at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/publicservicesawards/vote The person with the most votes wins so it would be great to help her do this as she has done some fantastic work with children and parents across Staffordshire.

Putting Staffordshire on the map

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Today, I want to say congratulations to two teams who have been doing their bit to put ‘Staffordshire’ on the map.

The Law and Governance team has been shortlisted for the prestigious Law Society Excellence Awards, nominated in the “Excellence in Learning and Development” category. Their entry highlights the team’s unique and innovative partnership with Staffordshire University, the creation of a ‘Knowledge Bank’, and their focus on values and behaviours as well as legal skills.

The team is up against extremely tough competition, including Eversheds, The College of Law/International Bar Association and Northumbria University. They are one of only three Local Authority legal teams shortlisted and will find out whether they have won on the 21 October.

The communications team has been shortlisted for four out of five regional awards in the CIPR pride awards 2010 and for one national award in the overall CIPR awards. Categories include: PR on a shoestring, Outstanding Young Communicator, Outstanding PR team, Public Affairs campaign, Best Internal Communications.

The team is also up against fierce competition as these awards recognise the best of the best for public relations in both the private and public sector. The team will find out if they’ve been successful in November.

It goes without saying that successes like these help to significantly raise ours and Staffordshire’s profile. They show we’re leading the way in many areas. Well done to everyone involved and if your team has had an awards success, do let us know, email emma.rodgers@staffordshire.gov.uk