Meetings, and the common issues facing county councils

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.

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