Enhancing Local Democracy

Today Learning Pool are exhibiting at the Enchancing Local Democracy conference, organised by South East Employers. There are some interesting speakers on the agenda, and the workshops look good too – especially the one in the morning run by Catherine Howe and in the afternoon with the guys from the Centre for Public Scrutiny.

I’ll live blog interesting bits as they occur, and will keep updating this post during the day, rather than do a new post for each session. Hope it’s useful!

Hit refresh to get the latest.

First session is ‘Driving the Next Public Service Revolution’ presented by Tony Bovaird, Professor of Public Management and Policy, INLOGOV, University of Birmingham. Should be good!

  • So much change going on at the moment – some welcome, some ‘surprising’. Who have predicted the proposed health reforms?
  • Tony will cover: decentralisation, Big Society, VfM in local gov, driving public sector improvement through innovation, co-production, self-organising
  • People have been served well by the ‘big state’ – but perhaps not as well as we would have liked
  • Half a million people involved in inspection, regulation etc in the UK
  • Big Society move to citizen involvement and rolling back the state. Won’t happen for 10 year or more but we can and should prepare
  • Self help and self organising are big and powerful, as are public agencies – but co-production is a thin interface
  • Usual process of input > activity > output > outcome is getting more complicated with more and more people involved in different roles. EG partnership working between multiple agencies, and also citizen input. More complex but can provide better value for money
  • Big Society ides not a new one, and society is not broken. Social action already happening but could be more effective. State can help by keeping out where it is working, shaping where it partly works
  • The state just doesn’t know what is already happening in society
  • 35% of people have help once a month to non relatives during the last year
  • 4% people involved in local services, 5% want more involvement, 24% want to have more say, 47% want to be more informed
  • Self organising sometimes doesn’t work, eg where arbitration is needed, regulation of people that do things which harm themselves and others, where people would naturally try to be free riders (nobody sweeps the street) or activity doesn’t pay for itself
  • Local gov needs to learn how self organising is currently working, eg from third sector – government really doesn’t understand what is going on. Local gov needs to learn how self organising could be made to work better too.
  • After 10 years of best value and transformation people are much less certain that things are being done the best way. Also little clarity about what better looks like – lots of attractive options, which is best?
  • Local gov knows that service users know stuff that professionals don’t. They also have time and energy to put into helping others and can make services more effective
  • Co-production includes: planning, design, commissioning, financing, managing, delivery, monitoring and evaluation (stick ‘co-‘ in from of all those)
  • Principles of co-production: users are active asset-holders not passive consumers. Collaboration rather than paternalism. Delivery of outcomes, not services.
  • Most doctors appreciate better informed patients, but 1/3 prefer to be the only ‘clever’ participant in the process (Czech survey)
  • How important is role of citizen in service delivery? Public official: not very. Citizen: Very!
  • Levels of co-production differ greatly between activities.
  • Great user involvement in UK than rest of Europe?
  • Many citizens in a survey said they are willing to do more, get more involved. But it has to be on an issue they are interested in!
  • South Somerset – local residents work with police to fight speeding motorists
  • Realtime customer service using Twitter etc – example of Camden parks closing – nice!
  • What local gov did 20 years ago was red hot and interesting but now is dull and unimaginative. That’s how we now will look in the future
  • Send citizens and the media out of the authority area – even abroad – to learn about what is being done elsewhere
  • All change involves risk – and fast change such as we are now facing is even bigger. But we are already taking huge risks – we just don’t acknowledge it.
  • Time to accept different risk to cost payoff.
  • If citizens play a great role in self help, self org and co-production of services in the future then should their decisions making role in public services be revised?
  • We must acknowledge that those who get involved in co-production are not and do not need to be “representative” – and that’s fine
  • Local gov must get comfortable about trusting people.
  • Society and community are not free!

Good stuff from Tony. Workshops now, will take a break from blogging – back later.

Well, that was fun. Now up is Bob Neill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Communities and Local Government. He is sufficiently important not to have a title for his talk.

  • Localism is a key priority for and the government and CLG.
  • Shifting the balance of the way society operates from centralised state to trusting communities
  • Over centralisation not healthy for local democracy. Need for discretion at a local level
  • Need for new and imaginative thinking and ways of doing things.
  • Accountability must stay local, but sharing services over a wider area (DB: is this feasible?)
  • Greater flexibility needed for local authorities, but also genuine voice and choice for local residents. Need to citizens to take responsibility.
  • CLG will also publish everything they spend over £500. Need for openness and transparency
  • Choice over local government structure – ie cabinets or committees, mayor etc. Local structures that meet the needs of the residents of the area.
  • Growth incentives – councils can keep revenue from local developments

Sorry everyone, I fell asleep a bit there. Lunch now!

Whilst Dave attended Catherine Howe’s, Social Media session I (Breda, Dave’s Learning pal at Learning Pool) decided to go along to the Innovative Member Development workshop led by Mark Palmer, SEE and Cllr Bill Chapple, Deputy Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council and Cabinet Member for member development.

The workshop covered the importance of Local Government organizations to provide elected members with necessary knowledge to complete their role more effectively. The sense of empowerment this provides also ensures Councillors gain enjoyment from their role. Cllr Chapple shared his story about becoming an elected member in 1977 when his induction consisted of one short-line by his council chairman who advised him to ‘Settle down and you will gradually see what you have to do.’ Not the most encouraging induction for a young councillor starting out. Presumably this lack of guidance is the reason behind Cllr Chapple’s own emphasis on ensuring that elected members within Buckinghamshire County Council receive the development and support they need to engage with the public and become valuable community leaders.

The approach of Buckinghamshire Council to member development includes:

  • Training designed by members for members
  • One to one sessions to determine a Councillor’s individual needs
  • Training doesn’t end at induction but is available throughout a member’s full term in office
  • Elected members have access to the Council’s online learning zone

One important area the session didn’t really cover (partly due to time constraints) was looking at the innovative ways member development could be delivered. Not only is member development essential but it should be provided in a way which considers a Councillor’s other commitments such as work and family whilst also making any training given an engaging and interactive experience. The increased time and cost of classroom based training over online which gives member have control when they complete their training in an environment where they must interact with the learning material if they are to complete it, surely the more innovative option?

Learning Pool certainly thinks so, and their Modern Councillor service provides online learning for elected members in the form of e-learning modules and an online community where members can seek advice from other councillors, share their stories learning resources and collaborate on new learning.

Right, time to join Dave at lunch!

Dave here again. Gah, lunch still hasn’t started. Instead, here’s Ipsos-MORI’s ten top tips for priority setting with the public.

  1. Make the case for change (why involve public? What’s the context? When will impact be felt?)
  2. Use existing insight (what aspects of service do people rate poorly? What’s important? Have issues changed over time? How do they compare to benchmarks? Might issues change when talking about money?)
  3. Get the information balance right (How much detail is required? How might info be presented to participants? Do public understand why the service exists? Who will present the information?)
  4. Be clear about your question (what do you want to discuss? Have you already made a decision – if so, why consult? What will you do as a result of the consultation? Citizens or service users?
  5. How do you involve wider stakeholders? (Define roles. Expert witnesses or participant guides? Personal or organisational perspective?)
  6. Use skilled and independent facilitation (context for decision making not rubber stamping, need for neutrality, facilitators must be able to deal with tricky questions)
  7. Choose methods and techniques with care (what service are you discussing? who are you speaking to? the need to be cost effective, understanding the decisions that are made and why)
  8. Understand why people make the decisions that they do (do you understand the principles behind decisions? exercise has the potential to help shape future decision making and allows you to generalise beyond specifics)
  9. Tell people what you do (tackle scepticism head on, if you don’t agree say why, difference between outputs and outcomes)
  10. This is not the end – keep the dialogue going (what next? what are options for keeping things going?)

Right – surely it’s lunchtime now? I don’t think I have ever been so desperate for a sandwich.

Lunch was good – but no cake! WTF?

Let’s crack on. Now up is a session called “Total Place – a blueprint for Localism?” by Roger Gough and Tanya Oliver, Kent County Council.

  • Total place pilot ended March 2010
  • Brand will not continue, principles will
  • New focus on transparency
  • “Sponsored disruptive redesign” – ooooh!
  • Up to local gov to make this happen – no template forthcoming from gov’t
  • TP pilot has transformed relationship between the council and job centre plus
  • £8.25 billion spend public sector in kent
  • More than £5 billion in capital assets
  • Gateway – access to public and third sector services
  • Barriers: data ownership, storage, confidentiality and sharing, existing outsourced contracts, national performance frameworks, local cultural issues, brand identity, inconsistency of partner risk appetite, invest to save and budget alignment
  • Margate problems – disproportionate spending on small number of people in disadvantaged communities, high rates of transience and vulnerable families. History of public policy failure.
  • Margate solution – solution housing vehicle, stop placement of vulnerable people in the area. Map assets across Kent. Analysis of quality and purpose of the estate. Targeted delivery using Mosaic.
  • Map of assets shows alomst random clusters of properties
  • More barriers: politics, governance arrangements, poor data, control of assets, leasing arrangements.
  • Analysis shows that savings possible through redundancy is £2.2m. Predicted savings through the Gateway process are in the 10s of millions.
  • Relationships are vital – “partnership of the willing”. Democratic ownership is critical.
  • Window of opportunity ahead of CSR to make propositions to government.

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