Posts Tagged ‘#DoingOurBit’

Meetings, volunteers and MPs

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

As I’m sure that readers will agree, one gets weeks where it’s fairly inward-focussed, and then weeks when the focus is outwards – this last week has been one of the latter for me, but all of the events have striking relevance for what we are looking to achieve.  I spent Wednesday attending the Midlands Engine Executive Board, where our Council Leader, Philip Atkins is a member.  I was there because we are taking over from Nottingham City Council as the Accountable Body for the Midlands Engine.  It’s a fascinating time to be take on this role, with the Government signalling that this will be their route to “levelling up” for the Midlands.  We can therefore expect that the large projects which Midlands Engine undertakes will be being channelled through us.  It’s a big job, but we are ready for it.

The meeting took place at the National Rehabilitation Centre near Loughborough, a pioneering example of cooperation between the National Health Service and the Defence Medical Services.  The Defence Rehabilitation Centre has been running there for 2 years, since it moved from Headley Court in Surrey, undertaking the physical and mental rehabilitation of soldiers, sailors and airmen wounded and injured on operations, predominantly in Afghanistan, but also worldwide.  A huge amount has been learned from this complex and emotional mission, particularly in prosthetics and neurological care, and it was excellent to see that the learning will be applied to civilians who are injured and require similar rehabilitation.   

On a very different subject, I joined the Canals and Rivers Trust for their annual meeting in the Council Chamber on Thursday evening.  It became clear from listening to this passionate and energetic group of narrowboat enthusiasts that we both share many of their aims, but also that we can learn from them, particularly in terms of mobilising volunteers.  Clearly, the common love of canals and boats gives them an identity and ethos, but the scale of projects that they undertake in rebuilding and maintaining canals and footpaths is breath-taking.  I left feeling energised for our People Helping People programme and #DoingOurBit.

Lastly this week, we welcomed the newly-elected MPs to County Buildings on Friday afternoon; Theo Clarke MP from Stafford, Aaron Bell MP from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Kate Griffiths MP from Burton, Jonathan Gullis MP from Stoke North, and Jo Gideon MP from Stoke Central.  The discussions were wide-ranging and very positive; they share our ambitions for Staffordshire – see above for the “levelling up” agenda from Government – and we will work with them over the next 5 years to achieve them.  It is also impressive that our MPs identify as a group in this Parliament, which will help enormously in gaining the advantages that we seek for Staffordshire.  Their constituency workers accompanied them to meet Kate Bullivant and her team to ensure that we get off to the right start in ensuring that the MPs’ Enquiries are correctly addressed, and I have to say that I was impressed with the excellent level of conversation and engagement in both sessions.   

#DoingOurBit, awards and helping our care leavers

Friday, June 28th, 2019

The #DoingOurBit campaign has got going very strongly.  Perhaps not at all surprisingly, many colleagues have come forward with the things that they are already doing within their communities and neighbourhoods.  You’ll see some examples on the “splash” page as you log on every day, and they are inspirational.  If you want to know more, you can read about them here.

Our Highways Department has been highly commended at last night’s MJ Awards for their Infrastructure Plus (I-Plus) contract with Amey.  This innovative approach to working with a major construction company has resulted in better results at lower costs.  Of course, there is always more to do, and the truth is that, in a perfect world, we would spend more money on Staffordshire’s roads, but this commendation is more reinforcement that we are getting good value for taxpayers’ money. 

Castle House, the public sector hub in Newcastle-under-Lyme was also short-listed under the infrastructure category.   This new building brings together the borough council’s and all of the county services delivered in Newcastle, along with the housing association and police.  It really is a one-stop shop, and proves that structural reorganisation is not always the answer; one can achieve many of the same results with the right culture and working environment. 

Lastly, it was a great pleasure to hear that our major IT supplier, Specialist Computer Supplies, have offered to give a laptop to each one of our care-leavers who go onto university.  One of the most pleasing aspects about this job is the manner in which Staffordshire County Council really do take the corporate parenting responsibilities for the children in our care seriously.  It is therefore especially pleasing to see our long-term suppliers helping us out in this endeavour.

The importance of #DoingOurBit

Monday, June 17th, 2019

You will hopefully have picked up the launch of #DoingOurBit. This is an honest conversation with residents about Staffordshire County Council helping people to help themselves, with the honesty around what we will now be enabling as opposed to doing, as we might have in the past.  It’s about the county council and residents working together for a better Staffordshire, but in a different way.  Part of this has been collating the countless things that our officers are already doing in their communities, and the presentation by the Destination Innovation group to Informal Cabinet on Wednesday was a real eye-opener.  This group of colleagues are taking an innovative approach to what many companies and organisations call Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), with the unique selling point being that it is about using our professional and organisational skills in our voluntary activities.  The first results suggest that we are engaged very firmly in our communities and groups – many of our colleagues play indispensable roles.  Given that 80% of us are Staffordshire residents, it should be no great surprise, but it’s clear that we are already invested in the project, and #DoingOurBit is as much about turning up the volume as it is something completely new.  I urge everyone to go to http://doingourbit.info  to find out more, and to explore the ideas for small things that everyone can do to help themselves, their family and their community.  Small things really do make a difference.

On Thursday morning, I was invited to speak to the Staffordshire University Staff Research Conference, which was a fascinating event.  Staffordshire University is on a rising curve under a group of excellent people, led by Professor Liz Barnes, whose well-deserved award of a CBE I mentioned last week.  Research is, in many ways, the glue that holds a university together.  It provides the answers to many problems in society, but it also forms the reputation of a university, and gives pride to students and staff.  The big names and projects are often associated with the larger universities, but it was a real pleasure to listen to some of the excellent work being undertaken at Staffordshire University under the direction of Dr Tim Horne, the University’s Director of Research.   

Lastly this week, I attended the Association of County Chief Executives (ACCE) Spring Seminar in Nottingham.  It was a great pleasure to gather with about 30 colleagues from across the country and discuss the big issues in local government as they affect England’s counties.  Although money and finance is never far from the agenda, the big themes this year are the pressures on children’s services and SEND, and the potential of digital to disrupt and improve what we do and how we do it.  After some very good presentations and discussions, it was crystal clear that we are all facing the same issues and challenges and that we need to work more closely together.  The closer links with the County Councils Network (CCN) allows a more effective mechanism for sharing best practice and the costs of innovative solutions.  Staffordshire County Council are engaged in this work, and we will be driving it forward in the coming weeks and months.