Archive for February, 2020

Climate Change and Storm Dennis

Monday, February 17th, 2020

As I write this on Sunday morning, we are in a lull in Storm Dennis, our second named storm in a week.  Last weekend saw our Highways Department deal with 292 incidents of fallen trees or local flooding, about 7 times what we normally expect in a weekend.  Thankfully, we appear to have solved the issues fairly quickly, which comes down to a bit of luck, but also the preparation that we have undertaken, for example with the more targeted approach to gulley cleaning.  So far, Dennis appears to have been more rain than wind, but of course that comes on top of significant rain in Ciara last week, and a very wet autumn and winter.  We remain ready to respond and help Staffordshire’s residents who have been affected.

Following on from a 5 month drought in 2018 and a dry winter last year, it seems clear that we are seeing changing weather patterns, with lengthy periods of alternately hot and dry, followed by warm and wet.   It was therefore timely that I attended Engie’s Senior Managers’ Conference in Birmingham this week, to speak about our journey to zero carbon.  Engie is a French-owned energy company who ran the coal-fired power station in Rugeley, which closed a number of years ago.  They intend to redevelop the site themselves as a zero carbon settlement, with energy-efficient housing, solar panel farms and a zero carbon school serving the residents.  It is an ambitious scheme, the first of its kind in the country, and we are delighted to be working closely with them on it.  My part was speaking about our own journey, and I majored on reducing our carbon footprint in everything that we do, and across the county as opposed to just the county council.  Staffordshire County Council employs about 1% of the county’s workforce directly, and probably pays the salaries of another 7% in our commissioned operations; we also make up about 2% of the county’s carbon footprint.  We should clearly aim to reduce our internal carbon footprint, but the key will be in facilitating the wider county to reduce.  The target is huge, with about a third of energy consumed at home by heating and power, another third in transport, and about 18% in employment sites.  Helping our residents to make better choices in terms of insulation and heating in their homes, and in their personal transport, will be key.   

It’s not all about transport and housing though.  There are significant secondary benefits from such programmes as Superfast Broadband, allowing more people to work from home, reducing the traffic on our roads.  Our own Smart Working programme has taken an estimated 1 million miles off Staffordshire’s roads, which works out at 100 cars on an average annual mileage.  It doesn’t seem much perhaps, but if every employer in Staffordshire did the same, it would be 10,000 cars, and nationally it would be 500,000 cars.  Now we’re talking. 

Dignity in Care Awards

Monday, February 10th, 2020

I was delighted with the response to the invitation to submit entries for the MJ Awards.  It was a change in tactics from previous years, where SLT selected entries, allowing you to shout directly about what you are doing.  I know of six entries, and the ones which were shared with me before submitting were all excellent, full of energy and justifiable pride.  Let’s see how we do in the judging, but I’m expecting a number to make it to the short list stage.  If and when that happens, we will give you every assistance in preparing for the face-to-face interviews, in order that you are lifting the trophies on the night. 

Staying on the awards theme, we are delighted to present the 2020 Staffordshire Dignity in Care Awards, to promote, recognise and reward those people who treat others with dignity and whose actions make a real difference and serve as an example to others,. The awards are now in their 6th year and are organised by the Care Market Development Team. We welcome nominations from anyone who receives support and care in Staffordshire, their families, friends, and / or those who provide care and support to Staffordshire citizens.  I think that these awards are unique in that they recognise voluntary carers and professionals in the same event.  This is entirely in line with our strategy of Doing our Bit; we couldn’t work without the voluntary carers, and we also need a vibrant, valued and capable professional sector to look after our most vulnerable residents.  Find out how you can nominate someone for an award.Dignity

Learning from Gareth Southgate, and celebrating our achievements

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

I spent Wednesday in London at the National Leadership Centre event for the UK’s public sector leaders.  Apparently, there are about 1000 people spread across Government, the Civil Service, the NHS, universities, local authorities and the Armed Forces who have been identified, and the aim is to develop our leadership such that we achieve better outcomes for the country.  Being naturally optimistic but healthily sceptical, I went along with relatively modest expectations, but was delighted that the event exceeded my hopes. 

The workshops were probably the bit that were flattest and worked the least well, but I have to share two talks which really struck a chord with me – Gareth Southgate and Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller.  Eliza ran MI5 and is a redoubtable lady, but what was interesting was that behind the slightly brusque Establishment façade lies a very caring person who goes out of her way to nurture people whom she leads.  Gareth Southgate was excellent.  He always comes across as a very decent, slightly modest man, but his talk revealed a little more than one sees in television interviews.  He is modest, but he is more generous than modest; he invariably and quickly shares any credit with others, and equally quickly owns any criticism without deflecting it.  He also demonstrates a calmness that is remarkable given his role, along with a quiet and understated confidence.  Between them, they reminded me of a number of qualities and behaviours on which I will be working in the coming weeks and months.

Many thanks to everybody who submitted entries for the MJ Awards this week.  We took a slightly different approach this year, allowing individual managers to submit their entries rather than having a centralised mechanism through the SLT and the Communications Team.  Let’s see how it goes, but I was very impressed with the energy and passion in the entries that I saw, which was the aim of freeing you up to shout about what you are doing.  We are guilty in Staffordshire of sometimes underplaying our achievements, and I have noticed at several local government events that other authorities make large of things that we do rather better than them.  Only last week, Helen Riley noted that the Department of Education were off to visit a city authority who were doing something apparently very novel with their youth service, something that we have been doing for about 7 years!   There is of course a balance – back to Gareth Southgate – but we should probably be a little more confident in what we are doing for the residents of Staffordshire.