Archive for December, 2013

Making Staffordshire County Council more accessible

Friday, December 20th, 2013

‘We’re a pretty social bunch’ is a campaign launching in the new year aimed at residents across the county, highlighting the new ways that people can get in touch with the county council and find out information about the services we provide.

We’re a pretty social bunch too – as well as being talented, driven and committed.

It’s been a tremendous year full of achievements and challenge – and an election – and as we draw closer to the Christmas break, it’s an opportunity for many of us to put our feet up, have a mince pie or two, and relax.  However, our work doesn’t stop, whether its physical, such as gritting roads, or digital, providing online services so people can renew their library books; we’re expected to operate 24 hours a day,7 days a week. How we live is changing, and we need to change with it, whether it’s refocusing our direction (and our draft corporate strategy has now been endorsed by Cabinet), or a campaign to promote the many ways, whether through Facebook or Twitter for example, that people can contact us.

By providing choice to our residents and using social media in the same way that we would the telephone, we’re making the county council more accessible to people. We’re also adapting to what we know people want and using the opportunity to develop more cost effective ways of operating (it costs less for a resident to go on-line than it does them phoning us).

So over the break, many of you – and our partners in the health, police and fire service – will be working hard, and our residents using our services, perhaps checking when the school term starts, or when the February holiday begins, dreaming of sun! And being the pretty social bunch that we are, we should take a well-deserved rest with friends and family, ready for an ambitious and successful 2014.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Autumn Statement

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

The Autumn Statement is positioned as an annual assessment of where the government is with its finances, which is what it should be, but in reality it’s a stage and opportunity for politicians to push their own agendas. This year has been no different, however for the first time, the Chancellor was able to highlight growth figures in the economy.

However, despite this good news from the chancellor, there are still difficult decisions we have to take. It’s also clear that the government is committed to not turning the taps on spending now that the economy appears to be growing – in fact, another £1bn is being taken from Whitehall (a cut which thankfully we’ve been left out of).

For Staffordshire, the Autumn Statement impacted directly upon our local economy with the announcement of £50m for improvements to the A50, a project which we will lead along with the Highways Agency. In addition, the Chancellor announced a series of measures that will support our local businesses to grow and create jobs.

What hasn’t changed is the situation we face as a council. Like our colleagues across the public sector we are expected to show the leadership and drive that we use every day to influence government and why, in our case, they should support our agenda in Staffordshire to help affect the changes we want to ensure that local communities have access to the services they need, in a way that supports their independence and supports them to move forward with their lives.

This is why we have our vision, outcomes and principles to ensure that beyond the decisions we take in the MTFS, every penny we spend has the maximum impact in tandem with our colleagues throughout the public sector.

CCN Conference – Ben Page Presentation

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Attending the County Council Network meeting last week, Ben Page from IPSOS Mori gave a fascinating and thought provoking presentation on what local government looks like in 2013. From the evidence he presented,  –we have been doing our job well. Nationally, sizable reductions in spend have been made by local councils with little impact on residents’ views of the services that they receive. The vast majority, 56%, believe that services have stayed the same, 14% that they have got better and 28% worse. Our latest reputation tracker results show that satisfaction with the county council is at its highest for three years and 71% trust us. These are great results and a testament to all your hard work, but in a sense it makes our job harder in the months and years ahead. Tough challenges remain, and national data shows that people are growing concerned about what is yet to come for their local areas. Given greater reductions in funding to come, we want to evolve a new deal with residents. One of our challenges will be to communicate and create conversations with our residents so that together, and with partners, we can find solutions to how we can create a better Staffordshire.

One area we might look to for inspiration is behavioural science. Already in government, so-called ’nudge’ techniques  where people are offered incentives or information is presented in different ways to encourage them to change their behaviour. HMRC found that late tax payers were more likely to pay up after three months if they thought that others in their town were also doing so.  The take up of loft insulation increased once it was realised that the barrier for many people was just the fact that they had too much junk in their loft – offer to take it away (at cost) and the applications rose.

It is this kind of thinking that we need to employ as we move forward and embrace new ways of doing things. How do we encourage small changes in behaviour by giving people the right incentives, or ‘nudging’ them to do things that will reduce their need for council support, meaning we can target our resources as those who need it most? It might sometimes feel like we have a mountain to climb, but we are not doing this alone or unequipped.  The successes we have achieved in recent years show that we have the talent in this organisation, and the determination to continue making a difference, creating more opportunities for people in Staffordshire.