Occasionally you read a piece of writing so staggering in its mis-titling that it is almost laughable; it is usually in a tabloid and rarely relates to local government. I was therefore intrigued by a piece in the Spectator Coffee House blog entitled:
I should have known better than to expect something incisive but I like the Spectator and so read on nonetheless; I could not have been more disappointed. The author, a councillor in Westminster, came up with six ‘top tips’ that can be summed up as follows:
Fixed term contracts for senior staff, reduce salaries for all new appointments, a blanket ban on council employees staying in hotels in city centres, outsource services, publish regional tables of council tax increases and enforce a compulsory council shut down for two weeks every summer.
I was tempted to write a line by line rebuttal to his piece but it really wasn't worth it. His recipe for outfoxing Chief Executives seems to involve the subtlety of Balderick, allied to some not particularly clever or imaginative policies, some of which are definitely based on the past or central Government (apparently, mandarins like to have hotels in central London rather than go home at night?) or just restatements of policies already put in place by the Government. All fine from a Tory perspective but not exactly particularly out-foxing.
I am surprised the Spectator published something so poor (have always respected the writing there) but we've published some shocking stuff in the past (much of it written by me) so probably best not to linger.
However, as the piece really didn’t tell me how to out-fox a Chief Executive I thought I’d give it a go. So without further ado please find the We Love Local Government guide to outfoxing a local authority Chief Executive:
"I'm just popping down the shops". A familiar refrain from the past, and one councils up and down the country are hoping to encourage once again. Despite the rise of out-of-town shopping centres and mega-stores stacked floor to ceiling with in your face bargain buckets, councils are doing what they can to support local businesses and small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
We are having a little help through things like the Portas pilots and Town Team Partners which is very welcome indeed (if not really enough to fundamentally change the game). These fund high streets to improve themselves, encourage people to return to shopping locally and supporting the markets at the heart of any town older than their local MP.
All of this is laudable, but I was wondering recently; in a digital age, how can councils support e-high streets?
We all know the expression ‘you can’t make policy based on anecdote’; usually deployed when a politician somewhere inputs into a complex policy debate by referencing their cousin’s next door neighbour.
In general the expression is broadly right; making policy based on the odd anecdote is often the easiest way to look silly. However, that does not mean that all anecdotes are necessarily worthless as a means of getting a better understanding of something. After all, understanding user experience, especially in their own words, can be incredibly important.
Whilst the re-launch of this site has primarily been about providing up with a space to write and a means to see if there is a demand for local government podcasting we also wanted to take the opportunity of having our own site to try a few things to see if they might work.
Anecdote corner is one of those things we are going to try.
The idea of anecdote corner is simple. Every so often we will post a topic on our site which we think is interesting and ask our readers to give us examples of their experience of it. Anecdotes themselves don’t prove anything but we hope collecting together the wider experience of multiple officers will provide some colour to the world of local government and help shed some light on it.
To take part is simple; either note your anecdote as a comment to this blog post or visit the forum and post your comment there. If this works and we get enough comments we’ll try and feature them in a blog post and see if we can learn something from the humble anecdote.
This week we thought we’d start with an easy one:
Working with members
If you have a story; positive, negative, humorous, insightful or just something you want to share please do comment. If you need to post it anonymously then a bland user name would achieve that or you can simply drop us an e-mail and we’ll do the rest.
We look forward to hearing from you.