Archive for May, 2018

The relationship between the private and public sectors

Monday, May 21st, 2018

I was invited to speak this week at a dinner of the New Local Government Network, one of the leading think tanks in our sector.  The subject was the relationship between private and public sectors.  The narrative in the country at the moment on this subject is quite polarised and sceptical, bordering on cynical.  In essence, we have “public good, private bad” on one side and “public bad, private good” on the other. None of these versions represents the reality, and they do us no good.  We have to change the national narrative.

The fact is that nobody would design a county council like it is if we were starting from scratch.  In a recent exercise to understand the breadth of actions we as a county council undertake, Helen Riley found 153 separate activities and services.  No commercial business would contemplate that spread of activity, but there is no other organisation capable of taking them all on.  The political discourse in the country at the moment in local government is around geographical reorganisation rather than functional responsibilities, so it doesn’t look like there is any appetite to change what we do.  What we can do is identify organisations who have a more focussed skillset, and can take on discrete activities.  The private sector will be better in some areas, and the public sector in others. We have some very effective partnerships with both public and private sector organisations, and we adjust them regularly as the situation and demand dictates.  As we move into the next phase of transformation around digital and People Helping People, we will need the very best from both sectors if we are to meet the needs of our residents in the future, and continue to change the local narrative.

On a different, but in reality related area, thanks also to all who took part in Learning at Week work, both teaching and learning.  I was delighted to meet a highly enthusiastic group of colleagues on the stairs of County Buildings on the way to one of the SUMO sessions. My small part was in hosting a webinar with the assistance of Verity Plumb and Jesica Sotelo, which was fun, and a learning experience.  Looking into the webcam without any feedback from the audience reminded me of doing a live TV interview to camera from Northern Afghanistan on the eve of the country’s first presidential election.  It’s quite disconcerting, but it seems to have worked.  If those of you who have seen it think that it has merit as a means of communicating our policy as we move further into Smart Working, let me know, and we’ll do them again.

Meetings, and the common issues facing county councils

Monday, May 14th, 2018

I spent a day and a half with the other County Council Chief Executives last week at their Spring Seminar. It’s always a good event with excellent speakers and discussions. Part of it is quite therapeutic, in terms of understanding that every other large local authority is facing similar challenges to ourselves, but mostly, it’s an opportunity to compare notes and listen carefully to what others are doing.

Not surprisingly, much of the conversation is about keeping up with rising demand and what we are doing about it. Our thinking on digital and on People Helping People is probably about as good as any that I heard. The challenge that everybody is struggling with is using digital initiatives to enable people to do more for themselves and allow us to switch off the existing analogue service. As I write this WLT is wrestling with this very issue.

The other interesting aspect of the seminar is how the rise in demand for children’s services has replaced the concern about adult services across the country.  There is a lot of work being done to understand why this should be so, and we have done some ourselves, but there is no single easy answer. Newton, the consultants, are working with the LGA to analyse the relative costs of different services when compared with deprivation and other drivers. This will be published in early July, and we look forward to reading it.

Meanwhile, I’m off to have one of our periodic meetings with Staffordshire’s Members of Parliament today – more about this next week.

The Gender Pay Gap, Equality and Diversity, and Learning at Work Week

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018


I was thinking about our Gender Pay Analysis and what we should do about addressing it, and would appreciate some feedback from readers.  We have come out with a pay gap of 12%, which means that the average man in SCC gets paid 12% more per hour than the average woman – this is under the national average for public sector organisations, but it’s no reason to be complacent.  Looking into this in some detail, it comes down to our having more men in senior positions than women, and thankfully not that women and men are not paid the same amount for doing the same jobs.  As an essentially practical person, I’m keen to implement measures that ensure that we reflect our diversity at all levels.  As I think I’ve written here before, diverse organisations aren’t just the right thing to do; they also work more effectively.

Talking to colleagues, I’ve come to the conclusion that we could benefit from more of us taking some Equality and Diversity (E&D) training, more to improve our level of understanding and knowledge than to address any specific issue in the workforce.  For example, UK employment law allows an employer to offer a job to a person from a protected category – gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability, marriage, transsexual, pregnancy and religion – if there are 2 candidates of equal merit, and the organisation is under-represented in that category.  If you have any questions about this, contact HR advice and guidance who will be able to tell you more.

I learned that on the Armed Forces excellent E&D training package that all senior officers have to complete every 3 years, and it’s a useful practical method of tackling imbalance in a workforce.  That fact is also contained in the GO platform’s equally good Equality in the Workplace package.  I was a little disappointed to hear that only 10% of us have taken the package, and I would ask that you make a few minutes available to have a look and learn some useful knowledge.  You won’t regret it, and the very fact that you are thinking about it will help to tackle any unconscious bias.

As a footnote, Learning at Work Week next week is getting a lot of attention, for which I’m very grateful.  Many of the sessions are booked-out, but there are still some vacancies in others.  Have a look at what’s available and I would ask that you do at least one session.  If your preferred session in booked up, such as SUMO and mindfulness, get in touch with the OD staff and ask when they will be doing follow-up sessions.