Archive for February, 2018

Putting the MTFS into action

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

We had the first meeting of the combined Wider Leadership Team last week. You will have read and heard that we are going to take a different approach to the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), starting earlier in the year (now for 2019/20 in fact), and looking for initiatives that straddle directorates and functions. It links strongly to the new strategy for the next 4 years that will come into effect in April and the Delivery Plan for 2018/19 which sits below it. I’m delighted that we have now linked all of the key plans together in a cohesive form.

If that sounds a little technical and clunky, then I’ll try to explain it in plain English. We need to save between £20m and £40m next year from a budget of just under £500m – that’s about 4% – 8%; the range of figures is because we won’t know how successful our lobbying has been until late in the year, which means that we have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It also comes on top of the other savings that we have made in the past decade, so we can expect it to be challenging.

There are a number of ideas being considered, and the role of the WLT group is to land them, and come up with others. My old favourite of digital is especially challenging, but in perhaps unforeseen ways. The new digital service is often hard to get to work technically, but the really hard piece is switching off the old analogue service, because if you don’t do that, you don’t make savings.

So we’ve got a lot to do, but I’m encouraged by the determination and spirit that I encounter across the organisation. Last Monday’s WLT Meeting was a good start, and I think that it will develop into a real thinking powerhouse. We will be following up in the coming weeks with a couple of sessions during which we will work up the options. I’ll certainly be doing all that I can to ensure that we succeed.

Visit to our gritting vehicle fleet and future STP projects

Monday, February 12th, 2018

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours this week back on the shop floor of our Fleetcare operation, getting to understand the challenges of maintaining and repairing our vehicle fleet. At this time of year, it’s all about gritters.

We have a fleet of over 40 trucks with ploughs and salt spreaders to keep the 6,500km of Highways clear of snow and ice. The combination of water and salt is especially corrosive to steel and the trucks deteriorate very quickly. I was very happy to be able to discuss some options on how we might make these trucks last a little longer with the mechanics who see the damage up close.

Proving that this job is nothing if not varied, I’ve also been getting to grips with the Estates portfolio of the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) which I’ve agreed to lead. Top of the list is an improved offer for Leek and the Moorlands, learning from the excellent facility at Northfield Village in Stafford. In essence, the current hospital is developed out of a Victorian workhouse in Leek and is not optimised for the needs of the community. If we get this right, and there is every reason to be optimistic, we will produce a facility that caters for an ageing population in the digital age, as well as hosting the medical and care services that the Moorlands needs in the future.

Meeting with Staffordshire MPs, and continuing the success of Building Resilient Families and Communities

Monday, February 5th, 2018

We had our quarterly meeting with Staffordshire’s MPs this week in Portcullis House in Westminster. This is our opportunity to tell them what we’re doing, and for them to tell us what is happening in the heart of Government. It is always an interesting session, with Philip Atkins, Alan White and me making up the Staffordshire County Council Team.  On this occasion, five of our 9 MPs attended in person, with the rest represented by their staff.

Not perhaps surprisingly, the conversation  turned to our Financial Strategy and the decision to raise council tax by 5.95%. Although nobody likes to raise taxes, as it’s never popular, there was universal agreement that it was the right thing to do in order to provide the services that we deliver for the most vulnerable in our society.  There remains some debate in Parliament on whether the Autumn Statement will be amended, and we will be watching it with interest to see if there is any more money for children’s services or adult social care.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, we’ve reached the logical end of our current method of meeting our MTFS, and will need a different approach to salami slicing if we are to achieve the full potential of digital initiatives and programmes such as the Children’s System, which will pull together several workstreams into one.

On that subject, we are working towards something called Earned Autonomy with our Building Resilient Families and Communities programme, and have a key set of interviews coming up. In essence, the Government’s Troubled Families programme, which has been widely criticised in the media, has been a roaring success in Staffordshire, simply because we’ve put in enormous effort and thought. The Children’s System will essentially take the learning from BRFC and apply it across the county, intervening intensively with those families who have multiple issues early enough to prevent them from spiralling into difficulty.

We think that we’ve got a good story to tell, and I hope that our London friends agree.