Archive for October, 2017

Making the most of HS2, discussing the Better Care Fund, and the LEP’s annual conference

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

I can never complain about this being a boring job.  This week has been varied and very busy.  Wednesday saw me presenting at leading property event MIPIM UK on behalf of the Constellation Partnership on modern methods of construction.  Constellation is the collection of Staffordshire and Cheshire local authorities and local enterprise partnerships to maximise the benefits from the building of HS2.  It is clear that traditional construction techniques are not going to achieve the level of housebuilding that the government wants to see in the coming years, and we will have to persuade developers and customers to consider more modern technologies.  Having just finished our own custom build home, which arrived from a factory on the back of 5 trucks and was built in 6 weeks, I’m a convert.  As well as speed and quality of finish, the level of energy efficiency is excellent.

Thursday was a key day in our ongoing discussion with the NHS on our Better Care Fund – many readers will be aware that Staffordshire has a particular problem with health and part of that is that people stay in hospital longer than anybody – patients, families, staff or politicians – would want.  Our Deputy Leader Alan White, Director for Health and Care Richard Harling and I accompanied 2 NHS colleagues to our escalation panel in London.  It was a formal hearing during which our plan for getting people out of hospital – so-called Delayed Transfers of Care (DTOCs) – was examined from all angles.  The key question is whether there was a better plan than the one that we had submitted.  I think that our central government inquisitors, who are quite rightly fearful of a hard winter during which hospitals are unable to perform properly because of elderly people waiting to be discharged, had hoped that there would be an obvious answer.  Thankfully, our grasp of the issues and particularly of the statistics, resulted in a very constructive conversation during which we outlined why the work that have done in reducing DTOCs to zero in Royal Stoke Hospital through a scheme called Discharge to Assess (D2A) over the past year gives us a firm baseline and experience from which to work up the same programme across the rest of Staffordshire.  We look forward to welcoming some visitors this week in Stafford who will continue that conversation.  My hope is that we get on with implementing the plan very quickly to get Staffordshire residents home from hospital and back to good health.

Lastly on Friday, Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SSLEP) had their annual conference at Yarnfield.  It was fully booked and a great attendance from business, academia and local government.  Our own Philip Atkins spoke, as did a number of business leaders, and it was heartening to note the high morale and optimism among all attendees.  Sir John Peace, the Chairman of Midlands Engine, was the keynote speaker, and he reiterated the key themes of the day – skills and Brexit.  They are, of course, related, and there is no doubt that Staffordshire’s economy will change as we leave the EU, as well as equally unpredictable drivers such as the digital revolution.  That said, with a balanced economy and a group of leaders like we had at Yarnfield, we have as good an opportunity as any to come out ahead.

The Local Government Challenge, and a Connecting Us Survey reminder

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

We had two teams participating in Local Government Challenge this week, run by the West Midlands Employers (WME) of whom we are a member.  I say ‘participating, but it’s probably more accurate to say ‘competing’.  Both teams did really well, with two mentions in the prize giving by being in the top three in 2 categories.

The key to this event was to give 12 of our colleagues the opportunity to undertake some professional development.  I recognised the format as a Command Post Exercise, where artificial events in a prepared scenario are fed into the players by the exercise controllers, and their reaction is observed, with feedback offered at the end of the exercise.  It’s a great format for giving people and organisations a chance to operate at a higher level and intensity than one might normally expect, in a safe environment where one can make mistakes and learn lessons.  WME did an excellent job on the scenario, which included some events that raised a smile as well as the tension.  Our teams will get some more feedback in the coming weeks as part of the package.

Visiting the exercise, and speaking to our colleagues there, has reminded me of the importance of learning and development.  It was central to my experience in my previous military service, and I learned early on that an organisation that invests in education and training performs better and retains its talented people for longer.  It is one of the sadnesses of the last financial year, when we had to make some in-year savings, that we reduced L&D to a minimum.  I’m determined to re-instigate a programme, but one which works for us and the organisation that we are and strive to be.  The Connecting Us Survey has a small additional section on the subject of L&D which will help us to plan the programme.  If you can spare a minute at the end of the survey, it would help me enormously if you could fill it in.