Archive for November, 2016

Reaction to the Autumn Statement

Monday, November 28th, 2016

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement was the external highlight of the week. Along with all other upper tier local authorities with adult social care responsibilities, we were hoping for some relief from the pressures of funding the increasing costs of our ageing population, perhaps in the shape of an advance in the improved Better Care Fund or a delay in the arrangements to retain business rates. Sadly, there was no mention, and we will have to wait for the detail in the coming weeks to see whether it was an intentional omission, or merely that the Chancellor wanted to concentrate on infrastructure and economic growth measures.  In the meantime, we will work on the basis that nothing changes, which means some hard choices before we settle our budget for the next financial year.

On a brighter note, we had the first of our candidate information evenings on Wednesday, an opportunity for those who are standing in next May’s election to find out a bit more about us. It was excellent to meet a good number of candidates and to answer their questions on what we do for the residents of Staffordshire. Along with Philip Atkins and Sue Woodward, Helen Riley, John Tradewell and I had a very enjoyable evening with the candidates, briefing them and answering their questions.

Looking at some of the great things we do

Monday, November 21st, 2016

I spent part of last Thursday in Cannock, visiting Staffordshire University Academy, the West Chadsmoor Community Centre and CESS, a community group in Rugeley. It was an ongoing part of my efforts to get out on the ground and find out what our programmes and services are doing and how we should be steering them for the years ahead. I find it invaluable to meet our people and those with whom we are working as a means of staying rooted in the reality of the job.

Meeting the staff and the student council at the Academy was a great pleasure. They were, without exception, clear and unambiguous on the subject of what they want for their school, and how they are going to achieve it. The students whom I met had all been elected by their classmates, and each were ambitious and confident.

Moving to the West Chadsmoor Community Centre gave me a real feel for what we are doing for one of the most challenged communities in the county. I met a group of mothers and their children for whom the centre is a haven.

Lastly in Rugeley, CESS gave me encouragement for our People helping People concept – a small community group who, with a bit of assistance can probably take on some of the support that we currently buy from agencies. It’s a slightly different model for the voluntary sector, but they are keen to work with us as a pilot.

Overall, a great day out, and a reminder, if I ever needed it, of the great things that we do as an organisation. There’s still much to be done, and it’s not going to get any easier, but it’s a job worth doing.

The case for doing things differently with healthcare in Staffordshire

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

You might have seen national news coverage yesterday about NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) and concerns over ‘secrecy’ about what’s in them. NHS organisations and councils in all 44 local health and social care economies in England – for us that is Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent – have been asked to produce one of these STPs. They set out our collective strategies for ensuring that we can provide providing safe and affordable services in the years ahead.

I can understand where some of the media coverage is coming from as these plans must be shared and discussed with Staffordshire people before any decisions are made. I understand the NHS is planning to publish them before Christmas. A series of conversation events are already taking place around the county, including one in Stafford this evening, to help explain the need for these plans.

The latest submission of the STP for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent went in three weeks ago, and I attended the conference of council chief executives from counties and cities on Friday, during part of which we compared noted on STPs, and how councils and NHS are working together in different parts of the country. I hope that you will reassured to read that we appear to be ahead of the pack in terms of integration with health.

It’s another of those immense challenges, and one that cannot be underestimated. The British public are inherently suspicious of any changes to the NHS, but the reality is we have a growing, ageing population with people living longer, and often in ill health. Too many people are ending up in hospital when they should be kept healthy or treated at home.  We need to do things differently, and have joined up, effective, health and social care services.

We have a leading role to play here, but this is truly one of those strategic challenges – keeping the service running while designing and implementing something fit for the 21st Century. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but as an old colleague used to joke, “if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.”

Thinking about the long term in an ever changing world

Monday, November 7th, 2016

I remember a friend in the early 1980’s joking that in his job, he didn’t look out of the window in the morning, or he wouldn’t have anything to look forward to in the afternoon. He wasn’t being serious, but it struck me that we certainly couldn’t say that of life at the moment. The burning question for us is how we plan our long-term strategy while at the same time dealing with the detail of the here and now. This, in my opinion, is the true test of a strategic leader.  Devolution apparently remains on the government’s agenda, but it appears to be city focussed. It does not focus on planning for Brexit, making a reality of the NHS’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP), or for designing and delivering the public services of the future. I’m increasingly of the opinion that we have to press on with what’s good for Staffordshire, keep going until we’re told to stop, as Philip Atkins puts it.

The Brexit event of the Staffordshire Strategic Partnership last month surpassed our expectations. Over 100 opinion formers from the public and private sectors spent the morning looking at what we will have to do to make a success of leaving the EU. It was a fascinating session, and it is clear that, if the Government want the views of places as well as sectors, it will fall to organisations like the county council to provide that coordination and leadership. There really isn’t anybody else to do it.

It’s clear that, particularly if there is to be a “hard Brexit” with no access to the Single Market and a reduction in the flow of migrant labour, that the economy will change shape, and we will have to re-learn skills long forgotten, as well as learning new skills. Companies and organisations like us will have to adapt to the new realities. If we get it right, it will be the making of us, but I sense that it’s not going to be simple.