Today, the WLLG team are acting as the 'official media partner' for the Local Government Strategic Leaders Forum. As we make our way to the venue here are a few notes about the types of things we might expect today. You'll have to check back to see if we were right and to hear all about what else went on at what promises to be an interesting event.
1) There'll be lots of talk of the (local) economy
The narrow vision of local government as merely an (elected) service provider has always seemed a little un-ambitious but the more maximalist visions (place shaping?!) are a little unacceptable. Thus, what has quickly become the acceptable, and consensus, role of a more ambitious local government has revolved around economic development.
Thus it is no surprise that economic development will be a key feature of two of the keynote addresses. Indeed, I would be very surprised if it didn't also crop up in Brandon Lewis MP's address; especially after George Osbourne's pitch for HS3 and more City Mayors (again with an economic rationale).
The challenge for local government will be how they manage to combine their role as economic incubators with their wider role shaping their local area and providing services. The balance between the ambitions is always difficult and I'm hoping we hear from the speakers about some of the tensions and how they look to manage them.
2) The cuts are still there
The titles of the sessions show that the cuts (spending constraints?!) are still looming large over local councils. Demand management, income generation, delivering effective and efficient services through pooled budgets and managing the least and social care budgets are just some examples of sessions with the cuts firmly in mind.
However, my sense is that the discussions are becoming more mature and nuanced and are certainly looking beyond the immediate horizon for more long term solutions. My expectation is that the debate at the Forum will reflect this and my hope is that councils up and down the country will continue to develop an increasingly sophisticated approach to the cuts.
Again, the debate will be fascinating.
3) It is thus heartening to see a talk entitled Strategic Commissioning to Deliver Outcomes for Communities
Because not everything is about cuts and it will be good to hear what Nick Bell, Chief Executive at Staffordshire, has to say.
4) We'll be listening out for a possible regional element to these discussions
When we blogged about this Forum and our role at it one of our readers got in touch to suggest we looked into the regional dimension. Does local government look different in the North East than it does in the South West? Do councils have more in common with their geographical neighbours over their fellow counties or districts? And is this different significant enough to matter?
We'll probably write about this more in a week or two but we'll be on the look out for any interesting insight.
5) We'll do our best not to make fools of ourselves
We know we're not journalists so we're going to try and cover the forum in a slightly different way; hopefully one that you, our readers, will find both interesting and insightful.
And if you'd like to get in touch during the day please tweet us @welovelocalgov or you can follow the conference at #LGstrategicforum