Archive for July, 2018

Dignity in Care Awards

Monday, July 30th, 2018

I didn’t manage to get to this year’s Dignity in Care Awards which took place in Newcastle College last week, but I wanted to mention it, because it is such an important event.  I very much regret missing it, because it is one of the most uplifting experiences.  The idea is simple – to recognise the many thousands of professional and volunteer carers across Staffordshire – and it works brilliantly.

Without wishing to be negative, the mainstream media tend to concentrate on care when things go wrong, either in a system as a result of poor organisation, or individually when somebody commits a crime, usually against the person for whom they are caring.  That is inevitable, and it is right that such events are highlighted, but we must not allow them to drown out the many thousands of people in Staffordshire alone who give of their time so generously.  The very clever thing, in my opinion, with the Dignity in Care Awards, is that they have categories for those who are professional, paid carers and their companies, as well as the volunteers.  With an ageing population, and the expectation that people deserve an enjoyable and comfortable life, we have to make caring a more attractive profession.  I will not attempt to cover all of the awards, but if you want to know more about them, you can find out here.

Thank you to everybody involved both in the awards, and more broadly in caring for others.

Learnings from LGA Conference

Monday, July 16th, 2018

The Local Government Association Conference (LGA) in Birmingham last week was, as always, an opportunity to learn and to understand what is going on across the country in our sector.  There was no stated theme this year, but finances and lobbying dominated every presentation and conversation.  It was clear that central government understand the situation in which we find ourselves, and more importantly, they understand what has to be done to square the books.  I had the chance to sit next to Melanie Dawes, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and had a fascinating insight into what is occupying their time in London.  What struck me more than anything else was the lack of freedom of action that our central government has at the moment, and that although they completely understand that we are under severe pressure, they simply haven’t got any easy or ready solutions.  We’re going to have to solve this pretty much for ourselves.

I attended a closed door session on the problems in Northamptonshire.  Out of respect for the honesty and openness of the speakers, I won’t divulge any of the details that they mentioned, but the central theme was that Northamptonshire County Council did not have an open and honest culture in which officers and politicians challenged themselves on the deliverability of their plans.  In essence, they had a very optimistic view of the world in which any challenge or criticism was put down as being not sufficiently visionary.  The line that stuck out from the report for me was, “In local government, nothing beats doing boring really well”.  I have to say that is so true on many areas, including from my experience, in military operations.

Back in Staffordshire, we are making good progress on the MTFS and there will be reports at Cabinet on Wednesday on how we are closing the financial gap next year.  There remains much to do, and our Members of Parliament are very much in support of our lobbying efforts.  That is hugely important, as we attempt to get a business rates retention pilot, and support for children’s and adults’ social care.  We have a number of planning sessions over the coming weeks, in which many of you will participate, and I would ask you to continue to give this the outstanding and selfless efforts that have characterised the process so far.

Congratulations to Matt Biggs, and an update on Network Staffordshire

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

I couldn’t begin this week’s entry with any other subject than to congratulate Matt Biggs on being recognised at a national level as local government’s Rising Star of the Year.  This was the first year of this prize, which was presented at the MJ Achievement Awards on Wednesday in London; in the words of the Right Honourable Alan Johnson, this is the prize to which people will aspire in coming years.  Regular readers will remember my mentioning Matt’s excellent leadership of the 30 hour childcare pilot, in which he multiplied the positive effect of this initiative with the simple, yet highly effective, coordination of employers as well as parents and providers – a simple idea to explain, harder in practice, and beautifully executed by Matt and his team.

We had a very useful meeting this week of Network Staffordshire to take stock and work out where next.  Again, regular readers will remember that the Network was an effort to re-energise the Staffordshire Strategic Partnership and brings together leaders from councils, the wider public sector, business, the voluntary sector and our universities.  It’s worked very well, and has spawned the Smart Staffordshire initiative, which crosses public and private sector boundaries, and is ready to float off under its own steam (if that’s not too old-fashioned a metaphor for a digital initiative!). In a nutshell, this project is about putting all the elements in place to help residents and business thrive in the digital age. Having agreed this, we considered several options, and decided to work towards the county’s Industrial Strategy.  This will be a focussed version of the national strategy, and will be hugely relevant after Brexit, when, for example, funding for development, infrastructure and research will be controlled from Westminster rather than Brussels.  The local Industrial Strategy will, we understand, be the key document in terms of making the decisions on where the funding will go.  That means that Staffordshire’s has to jump out compared with the others – the active participation of all members of Network Staffordshire will help to make that happen.