Archive for June, 2017

The importance of diversity

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

As a large organisation employing some 5,000 staff, one of our real strengths is the diversity of our workforce, and the contribution this makes to the way we deliver better outcomes for Staffordshire and our people.

Diversity in the workforce is about valuing everyone as an individual, and it is my firm belief that diverse teams, where everybody’s input is valued, make better decisions and produce better outcomes.  A good diversity strategy for an organisation goes beyond what we are legally required to do, and actually makes a direct contribution to employee wellbeing and engagement.

I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the general principles  as well as our own diversity policy.  It is also important that we uphold these principles and, where possible, challenge those who don’t in an appropriate way.

I have already seen many good examples of how diversity is helping the county council to foster a more creative and innovative workforce.  Long may this continue.

A reminder of our diversity policy can be found here.

The Grenfell Fire

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

The fire in the Grenfell tower block in Kensington was a truly horrific event, one that defies description in any normal way.  Our sympathies are naturally with the families of those lost or missing, and with those who have been injured.  There will, of course, be repercussions in how such buildings are built, maintained and managed, and how local authorities and government reacted to the disaster, but that will not bring anybody back.

Having led investigations into fatal accidents and incidents in the past, thankfully none on the scale of Grenfell, the common theme is that there is a chain of events and decisions which lead to the disaster, any one of which having been different would have avoided the event.  I was always left with the slightly frustrated feeling of, “if only this or that had been done, or not done…”.

In order to ensure that public confidence and trust is restored, and most importantly to make doubly sure that people’s homes are safe, we have to ensure that steps are taken to so that this event can never be repeated.  While the County Council is not directly responsible for housing people in Staffordshire or managing blocks of homes, we will do everything that we can as part of the national effort, and more locally to confirm that high rise homes in the county are safe and do not have any of the combination of factors that led to this awful fire.


End of year budget

Monday, June 12th, 2017

I’ll probably refrain from making any observations on this week’s General Election, as the dust has not settled and there remains much that is undecided.  Life in Staffordshire, however, goes on, and there is much to do.

We have some good news on the financial front, which is something that I have not been able to write for some time.  The financial outturn for 2016/17 – our end of year budget position – will be published here tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday 12 June). We have closed the gap, which at one point stood at a £22million overspend, down to just over £4.5million, which we can cover from reserves.  Regular readers will remember this from last year’s running theme of in-year savings caused by the failure of the NHS to pay us the £15m contribution in the Better Care Fund (BCF) and an overspend in the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust (SSOTP) for adult social care.

I am delighted that we have managed to reduce our costs by an additional 4% in year, as well as the 6% that we had planned, without causing our services and those who rely upon them significant harm.   Many of you will have heard me say that I have not seen this done well – in-year savings usually cause fratricidal damage inside organisations, and more often than not fail to meet their targets.  Well, I have seen them done well now, and while it has been a tough 12 months, it is down to the efforts of the politicians and officers of the council who have tackled this in an admirably professional manner.  Every part of the business has contributed to the effort, and I am hugely grateful for everybody’s efforts.

The trick now is to take what we have learned in terms of financial awareness, attention to detail and cohesive decision-making, and shift at least part of our attention to the longer term and the big ideas that will make the difference for the citizens of Staffordshire.



John Henderson