Archive for March, 2016

Ideas and feedback

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

I’d value your advice and feedback.  This past couple of weeks, we’ve had our Connect conferences for staff and covered the four ‘themes’ of this year’s Business Plan – developing community capacity, managing demand, commercial awareness and digital – and we’ve also delivered our monthly Business Brief session for managers.  These events are very useful for me to get some feedback from those who are on the ground doing our business, and working with our clients and residents.  They allow me to adjust my approach and get a feel for which direction the business should take, and how fast we can travel.  But I’d like to hear from you on what you would like in terms of communications with me and the other members of the Senior Leadership Team.

One type of feedback that is always welcome and by helpful is that provided by our Members; this week I met with our Newcastle members.  We have an excellent relationship with the borough council in Newcastle, with some ground-breaking District Deals which have shown what two-tier councils can do when they work so effectively together.

I cannot let this entry pass without extending my sympathy to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Lahore.  They are both cities which I happen to know well, and it saddens me to think that such destruction has been visited upon their residents.

Sharing our successes and learning from others

Monday, March 21st, 2016

It was an interesting week with representatives from our Russian partner city, Ivanovo, visiting us.  After a recent change in personnel and procedure Alexei Khokhlov, the City Director, visited us. He is an appointee of the Oblast (regional governor), who is in turn appointed by Vladimir Putin.  It is always useful to get a view from an informed source, and so it was with our Russian colleagues.

In a packed programme, Mr Khokhlov and his colleagues visited such locations as the Northfield Village dementia centre, the Hanford Waste to Energy plant and the Burton Addiction Centre.  We had some fascinating conversations about how we can help citizens to do more for themselves, encouraging communities and families to take responsibility. Despite Russia’s highly centralised state, or perhaps because of it, our guests are ahead of us in certain areas, and we learned a lot from them.  I find that informed visitors always latch onto something unexpected.  This week, it was our citizens’ willingness to use the Household Waste Recycling Centres, and do their own sorting.  When you think about it, it really is only in the past 10-15 years that the British people have embraced recycling, and it now feels perfectly normal.

This week saw a welcome return for Staffordshire into the LGC Awards, with three short-listings – Northfield Village, the W2R at Four Ashes, and economic development. We didn’t win any categories, but Northfield got a Highly Commended.  It is testament to an initiative which involved taking a concept through to delivery, and is achieving something remarkable.  Northfield very much passes the “Mum Test” – you would work hard to get a parent or loved one in, if dementia started to take hold.

The awards were a good run out for us after a number of years where we didn’t participate, and we learned some lessons on how to present our excellent work to best effect.  In essence, don’t be modest!

Lastly, I met with two of my chief executive colleagues this week – Mike Suarez from Cheshire East and Clive Wright from Shropshire.  As we move towards devolution and implementing public sector reform, such relationships will become ever more important. We are fortunate in having such delightful and cooperative neighbours.


Learning and Independence

Monday, March 7th, 2016

This week’s Senior Managers’ Conference at the Yarnfield Centre was really useful. The theme was around our Business Plan for the coming year.  We had four workshops, of which participants could choose two. All four will be run as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) sessions in the coming weeks for anybody who wishes to attend.  The themes – Managing Demand, Building Community Capacity, Digital and Commercial Awareness – were all chosen as they are the ‘key enablers’ which will support us in delivering our priorities. Getting better in these four areas will undoubtedly help us to continue to improve what we do for the residents of Staffordshire, and I would actively encourage all interested to attend.

I had two visits to Yarnfield in a week, when I spoke at the VAST Conference on Thursday morning. I shared the platform with Lord Mawson, a truly inspirational man. He is a clergyman who took on a run-down parish in East London in the 1980s, and has worked tirelessly to improve the situation of the residents. He’s an unusual member of the House of Lords – a straight-talking Yorkshireman who started life as a General Post Office technician. His approach to voluntary work is very much focussed on encouraging individuals and communities to help themselves.  It is refreshingly low on rhetoric and high on practical ambition. It is about giving people independence –  giving them the opportunity to solve their own problems rather than assuming that they have to have it done for them.  It certainly made me sit up and think.

Health, Care and Inspiration

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

The week has been dominated again by health, which is understandable and necessary. The six Chief Executives of the “arms length” organisations, such as NHS England, Monitor, Public Health England and the Care and Quality Commission, wrote to all local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups and providing organisations to inform us of the implementation of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). The idea is a simple one – to have a single named individual take responsibility for the delivery of the five Year Forward Plan for health. We will of course play our part in this, given our role in social care, the boundaries of which are inextricably intertwined with healthcare. It’s a new departure, but a welcome one.

Integration of health and care is much more about how it looks to the client and patient than about structures, and we will look at best practice across the world and work out what works best for Staffordshire and our residents. Thankfully, Richard Harling, our new Director Health and Care, arrives today, straight into this hive of activity. His arrival signals the final stage in the reorganisation of the Senior Leadership Team  that I put in place at the end of last year.

I could not finish this entry without mentioning the excellent visit to Stafford Manor High School this week.  Meeting Jude Slack, her teachers and the students really lifted my spirits. It’s not the best school building that we have in terms of infrastructure, but the teaching and the positive attitude of teachers and students is inspirational.