Archive for December, 2016

Preparing for Christmas

Monday, December 19th, 2016

I made my now familiar way to Christ Church Academy in Stone to award the prize for the county council Christmas Card Competition; it’s the second year in a row that a student from this excellent school has won the competition. This year, the winner is Harriet Cameron, who is 9 years old and designed the card at home, rather than as part of a class project. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a festive take on the Stafford knot with snowmen, trees and a winter scene around the knot. Philip Atkins and I have sent a larger number this year, as we’ve gone for an e-card, as well as a smaller number of printed cards. 

Having spent a number of Christmases away from home on operational tours in the past, I’m very conscious of those who will be working, or on duty, while most of us will be relaxing with our families and friends. We are a 24 hour a day, 7 day per week organisation, with our colleagues, particularly in the people area covering children’s and adult services. The reality is that the better that they do their job, the less likely it is that any of the rest of us will notice their efforts. That does not mean that we appreciate them any less. It’s a great privilege to be associated with them.

Finally for this blog entry, we are running a Christmas fostering campaign, in the hope and expectation that potential foster carers will be stimulated to volunteer to look after the county’s most needy children at a time when we are all thinking about our own families. It is self-evident, but nonetheless worth repeating, that the more stable and high quality the placement for looked-after children, the better the outcomes in later life.

Have a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas, and I wish you health and happiness in the New Year.


The technological possibilities in post-Brexit Staffordshire

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

On Monday, Cabinet members and I met with other public sector leaders from across the county, to discuss what next for post-Brexit Staffordshire, taking the work that we have been doing over the summer and autumn one step further. We took stock on what has been achieved, and what might be done in the short, medium and long terms.  Inevitably, we focussed on people and place, looking at the physical infrastructure like roads and broadband, the health of the population or the skills that we will require in the years ahead.

We talked about the possibilities of digital in the coming decade. In reality, we don’t know what the next Uber phenomenon will be, or if we did, we wouldn’t be working for the county council. We tried to think about what a digital Uber app for adult social care would look like, but we can guarantee that it will not be the one that we envisaged. We have agreed that we will ask a small group of students from Staffordshire and Keele Universities to undertake some scenario planning, asking a question like, “In 2030, there will be only 2 working age adults for every resident over-65 in Staffordshire. Discuss”  It would be interesting to compare the results say, of a group of computing students from Staffordshire with some medical students from Keele.

Meanwhile, I note that our discussions on digital revolved around technology itself rather than how we make the best use of it. I am reminded that the intelligence community (the polite collective name for MI6, the CIA et al) have fundamentally changed their attitude towards sharing information since 9/11. The old rules of “need to know” and guarding information as a means of power did not work in a fast-moving operational environment – the situation had simply moved on by the time that a decision was made. They have been replaced by “dare to share”, with the assumption that one will share information with colleagues and partners who need it. This has required some very responsible leadership from those in authority, as people need to feel that they will be supported and rewarded when they share information. Reflecting on where we are in this area, particularly in our people services, I would contend that there is a similar culture change needed.

For those who feel that this is a leap too far, I would ask two questions. Firstly, how many people have been imprisoned or sanctioned for sharing information in good faith? Answer – none. Secondly, how many people have been sanctioned for not sharing information with colleagues and partners?  Answer – too many to list. So on the one hand, this is a really simple idea, but one which could fundamentally change the way we operate. On the other, it’s much harder than any devolution deal, as it requires really effective leadership to bring people with us.