Archive for October, 2018

Leading the Peer Challenge

Monday, October 29th, 2018

They say that a change is as good as a rest. I’m not sure, but last week certainly was a change for me, leading the Peer Challenge for Hertfordshire County Council.  There are considerable similarities to ourselves, a large 2-tier authority with a stable political and officer leadership, but there were also differences, not least that they have some of the highest house prices in the country, whereas we have some of the most affordable housing nationally.  That brings advantages for them in terms of council tax income, but challenges for their care market in terms of finding workers.

Having had our own Peer Challenge last month, which you will be aware went well with some very useful advice and suggestions.  It was fascinating to be on the other side of the exercise.  John Wood, their CE is retiring, and has been a very steady hand on the tiller for his 6 years in the role.  He is the originator of the expression, “our job in local government is to do boring well”, and it was clear that his attention to detail and his calm leadership have put Hertfordshire in a good place, and one which the new Leader and CE will be able to develop strongly.  We had some fascinating conversations about getting the balance between “down and in” – running the business – and “up and out” – shaping the place.  Hertfordshire has many similarities with Staffordshire in that respect; we both have some noisy neighbours as one director put it to me, but we are quietly competent.  It is a question of striking that balance, and we should just check that we are getting it right from time to time. 


Mindkind and mental health support in the workplace

Monday, October 15th, 2018

One of the biggest changes in the last decade in society has been the welcome de-stigmatisation of mental health issues; it is now completely acceptable to talk openly about not feeling all right.  We still have some way to go in terms of parity of esteem in formal health care, but I know that will come as the relevant professionals are trained and come on line.   

Meanwhile, in Staffordshire County Council, we have built on the Thinkwell programme which provides counselling to colleagues and last week launched the MindKind programme, which aims to take the treatment of mental health into the everyday workplace.  I hope that many of you spoke to Becky Lee and the team in the foyer of Staffordshire Place 1 on Wednesday and had a chance to access the link.  We have had an excellent response for volunteers to be Mental Health First-Aiders, but, inevitably given that this week’s display was Stafford-based, they are concentrated in SP1 and 2.  We do, however, need first-aiders from across the County Council, so if you’re interested, do please access the link, and volunteer.  You will be doing your colleagues an enormous service, and I guarantee that you will learn a lot about yourself as well.


The Local Government Challenge, and Destination Innovation

Monday, October 8th, 2018

We had two teams in the West Midlands Employers (WME) Local Government Challenge last week, and they both did very well indeed.  This is an exercise in which teams are given a series of tasks simulated to represent the normal working of a local authority, albeit with a year’s worth of activities crammed into one day!  It’s a significant effort to put on such an exercise, as there is the writing to ensure that participants are given realistic and challenging tasks, but also from the number of people who are required to act as the external contacts for the teams to work with.  WME do it very well, and everybody always gets a great deal from the day.  As we did last year, the teams were made up of volunteers rather than selected individuals, and I think that they were the more effective for it.  Staffordshire Team 2 were in the top 3 as a team and for their presentation, but the honours of the evening belong to Kerrie Morris, who won the Best Chief Executive award.  Mark Lucas, our other team leader, was in the top 3, so overall it was a great night for Staffordshire County Council.

There’s an exciting event happening in reception on Tuesday October 9–Destination Innovation.  As the world around us changes at pace, it is more important than ever that colleagues are empowered to collaborate, connect and contribute to driving forward new ideas and innovation. A group of our colleagues from across the organisation are launching an exciting opportunity to focus on your personal development and organisational networks while helping solve some of the key challenges faced by the public sector in Staffordshire.  Destination Innovation is an ambitious development programme that gives everyone the opportunity to work together to solve some of the biggest issues facing our organisation.

If you want to know more about this exciting opportunity there is a drop-in session taking place on the 9th October in the Foyer of SP1, as well as information on GO , and a workshop on the morning of 19th November.

If you want to develop, unlock your creativity, learn more about our organisation and be involved in shaping innovative solutions, then register your interest via GO today.