Independence for Herefordshire?

Before I begin.

This is an unashamedly parochial post. Where I say “we” I mean the people of Herefordshire.

I don’t present it as a fully formed plan but rather as an initial idea to start a debate. I’d love to hear from people in the county, in Wales and, well, pretty much anywhere else.

The problem

There are a number of problems, as I see it:

What’s the solution?

I suggest that we need to be able to take more of our own decisions in Herefordshire. We need to run our own health services not receive services designed and delivered in other, distant cities. We need to have the power to make decisions over housing, planning, transport and social care that make sense in Herefordshire. We need to be able to speak to government and other devolved institutions and be sure they will listen.

And that’s basically what devolution is about.

But I don’t think any of us want to create a “National Assembly of Herefordshire” or suddenly have lots more elected officials or highly paid civil servants having lots of meetings in the city centre.

So how can we get real power to make decisions locally without creating unnecessary tiers of government?

My idea is fairly simple: we borrow someone else’s government.

Free Association with Wales.

In international relations there is a concept of “Free Association”. It typically applies when one very small country borders another, much larger country. Both countries remain independent but they agree to co-operate and act in each other’s interests. At international level this is often a lot to do with security and defence which isn’t really relevant here, but I think it’s a nice model to play about with.

So I propose that Herefordshire receives a devolution settlement and enters into “free association” with Wales.

The key parts of this that I see would be:

  • The Barnett Formula (the calculation that works out how much money the National Assembly for Wales gets to spend) would be adjusted to include Herefordshire but Herefordshire’s share would be controlled in Herefordshire.
    Legislation passed by the assembly in Wales would apply in Herefordshire by default but Herefordshire would be able to exempt itself from Welsh laws. (So we might accept Welsh law over housing but would exempt ourselves from the Welsh Language Measure).
  • Herefordshire would agree to cooperate with the Welsh Assembly.
  • The Welsh Assembly would agree to consult Herefordshire during the development of legislation.
  • Herefordshire would have the power to make decisions over the spending of its budget that would be similar to the power the Welsh Assembly has over its spending decisions.

Why I think this makes sense

  • This would give us the ability to make decisions over how to spend money in the right way for the county.
  • We could also develop innovative policies that work for Herefordshire without worrying about whether they work anywhere else.
  • We wouldn’t have the power to pass laws that applied just to Herefordshire but we should be able to work with the Welsh Assembly to develop laws that work for Herefordshire as well as Wales. Ultimately if we thought that Welsh law wouldn’t work for us we could choose not to apply it but I think it would be in everyone’s interests to develop laws that Herefordshire could accept. It would be better for many people in Wales, particularly mid Wales and Monmouthshire, if Herefordshire and Wales law and policy were more harmonised.
  • With only 180,000 people to worry about decisions could be really tailored to the county and it should be much easier for every single one of us to have a real say in decisions.
  • We’d still be in England but we’d be recognising that we have a lot of close ties with Wales.

What would we need to make it happen?

  • We’d need to convince plenty of people in Herefordshire it was a good idea. Then we’d need to convince plenty of people in Wales it was a good idea, and in particular, demonstrate to the National Assembly that it would be helpful and we wouldn’t simply be freeloading off their Senedd.
  • Then we’d need an Act of Parliament.
  • We’d need to change the way the council works because it would have extra stuff to do and lots more money to spend. Personally I’d like to see councillors for the new Herefordshire elected on a more proportional system. We should also build in some requirements to ensure that local people are engaged in decision making all the time, not just at budget setting time.
  • We’d need to decide how to get hold of the extra skills we need (over things like legislation) without recruiting loads of civil servants. Maybe we could second civil servants from the Welsh Assembly?

Reasons I can see why this might not be such a good idea.

People might be perfectly happy with most of the important decisions being made in London and Birmingham (or Worcester or Shrewsbury).

People might not trust the council, even a new and improved council, with these big decisions.

People on the edges of the county might think that all this will do is push “border effects” from the Wales/Herefordshire border to the Herefordshire/Gloucestershire (and Worcestershire and Shropshire borders).

The people of Wales might not want to cooperate with us.

180,000 might just be too small a population to allow with really big decisions.

 

What’s next?

Just in case you were wondering I did work for Herefordshire Council for a bit but I don’t any more.

This has been floating around my head for a while but some discussions I had while at Not Westminster over the past couple of days made me think I should write it down.

It’s an idea. There are probably (almost certainly) much better ideas but I think we should start a debate locally. Devolution is already affecting us and it will continue to do so. Cuts, legislation, Brexit will all have impacts in Herefordshire and, at the moment, we haven’t really agreed how we think Herefordshire should handle these impacts.

If we decide as a county how we want devolution, cuts and all the rest to be handled locally parliament might still ignore us.

But if we don’t come up with a plan then we can guarantee that parliament will do what it likes. Which, at best, will be something that would work well in Surrey.

So let’s start talking about this stuff.

The unconference where we learn from unconferences

Holding an unconference on unconferences does sound like the most meta joke of the year. Or possibly a plotline on W1A  But what other way could academics who have investigated unconferences choose to discuss their findings?

If you’re reading this blog you probably know what an unconference is. For our purposes the key points are it’s a self organised conference with an emphasis on discussion and sharing rather than presenting and listening. In the UK (and other places) unconferences are often called ____camp so UKGovCamp is about government in the UK (and UK government), LibraryCamp is about libraries and MuseumCamp is about museums (in my time I’ve helped organise BlueLightCamp (about emergency services), GovCampCymru (about government in Wales) and ShropCamp (about, er, Shropshire).

Daniel King and Emma Bell undertook the research and along with Dan Slee and Lloyd Davis organised the event on Friday 21 Jan 2017 at The Bond Company in Birmingham. In a very traditional conference style Daniel kicked off with a summary of his research. If you care about unconferences check out the slides, they’re really clear and interesting.

I’m writing this the next day based on my personal reflections having heard about the research and having had a day to discuss with others. I do think that having this time to really consider what we are doing when we do unconferences was a real privilege and I don’t pretend that I have unique or groundbreaking insights. But this is what is in my head and now it’s on the Internet.

Kill the pitch line

Unconferences inevitably start with a blank grid marked up with timeslots for the day and break out rooms. The grid must be filled and the way we chose to do this is to ask people to queue up and take turns “pitching” ideas to the assembled multitude. This is a fun, high energy, enjoyable way to kick off an unconference.

It’s also rubbish.

We all know it’s rubbish but we still, often, do it. We know it’s rubbish because it favours extroverts, experienced camp attendees and socially confident people. We know, because we can see it, that women are typically underrepresented in pitch lines and many facilitators and organisers take steps to encourage women to pitch. But what about people of any gender who are introverts, to whom the idea of standing up in front of a group of people fills them with horror before we add on some social pressure to be entertaining and the threat of public embarrassment if they take too long?

An analogy that makes sense to me is

“We’ve been running this new online service for a while. People need to press the big green button marked “Go”. It turns out that loads of people just don’t press the button. What should we do?”

Should we add a big orange arrow saying “please press this button”?
Should we redesign the service so it works better for all users?

I think we know what to do.

Safe spaces

There is an assumption that unconferences are positive and inclusive spaces. They are. Up to a point Lord Copper. Even in our flatter, more inclusive unconference world we still have power dynamics and hidden hierarchies. Again, many organisers and facilitators and, indeed, attendees are conscious of this and try to make sure that open, helpful, supportive behaviours are encouraged.

And this is another area where it is often hard to see who we are excluding. Indeed we actively encourage people to leave discussions where they aren’t getting or adding value. Though that simple act can be hard for many people.

My key takeaway is that the unconference process takes us only so far. We are asking a bunch of people who have often never met and have certainly never worked together in this configuration to create a space that will work to enable all of them to collaborate and contribute. I actually think it’s impressive how much this actually does work.

Within these temporary spaces the degree of confidence and safety that the participants feel is a function of the people who turn up, the process they follow and the way they behave (all of which interact with each other of course. We can really help within the community to ensure that we practise behaviours that demonstrate that we are listening, that encourage people to contribute and that recognise the contribution of all those in the room. (Anyone who knows what I’m like in an unconference knows that these are areas within which I have considerable scope for personal growth).

I think we could also introduce and encourage the use of patterns of behaviour that would promote inclusion and safety. For example if it became common to open sessions with a question and 3 minutes of silence while people wrote their initial thoughts on post-its this would help people who thrive when they have time for quiet reflection (and shut people like me up for 3 minutes). I suggest this only because it is a technique from my own practice many, any other techniques and patterns exist. We should encourage experimentation and learning with these different approaches.

Configuration

One of the points that really struck me from Daniel and Emma’s research was the question of the function conferences (remember them?) perform. I’m paraphrasing badly here but I think what the research says is that conferences are for configuring and managing professional or technical fields. You go to a conference to be reminded how to be a person in your field or profession. Conferences reinforce power structures, uniforms and behaviours.

And so do unconferences.

We’re not terribly explicit about this (but then neither are conferences) but I think many people would recognise this configuration role. Indeed many of us have experienced govcamps (for example) as an insight into an alternative (and superior) way of being a public servant. That was certainly the case for me.

I think that this is a useful way to frame how we think about unconferences. It may not be the only thing that they do but it is part of what they do. It also suggests why it might be hard to get “suits” to attend. Conferences reinforce the status of suits in their profession and technical sphere. Why would they engage with a process designed to reduce their relative status? (Because public services would work better that way – obv).

Act, don’t act but decide.

This is not intended to be a call for a radical overhaul of unconferences. I wouldn’t call for that even if I thought it was necessary. Unconferences are run by the people who run them and they work the way they work. The way the people in the space decide they should work.

I do think that we always, as organisers, as facilitators, as attendees, as members of the community run the risk of doing the things we did before, or the things we think everyone else wants us to do.

Overall what this research says to me is that unconferences are imperfect. They are unfinished. They are not yet done. Of course. The awesome thing about this community is that we embrace change, we embrace innovation and development and we are comfortable trying things, failing and learning.

So maybe the next unconference you organise runs exactly the same way. Maybe you behave in exactly the same way when you attend one. But do so explicitly, because you’ve considered the options and decided this is the right, best, least imperfect way to do it. Or change. But be explicit.

(I recognise that I attend every govcamp with an internal pledge to speak less and listen more. I usually break within a few minutes. So this recommendation is made in a spirit of considerable humility.)

 

Grrr – lazy DEXEU writing

The government recently published a set of FAQs on the process to leave the EU. I offered some alternative answers.

FAQs are an annoying conceit much of the time which is why the Government strongly discourages their use.

The introduction to this page grated on me in particular

we have compiled answers to the questions we get asked most about the UK’s departure from the European Union

“The questions we get asked most”

Really?

Because in my experience FAQs are based on the questions we wished you would ask us.

So I asked the Department to tell me how many times they had been asked each of these questions. And the said the information was exempt because it would cost more than £600 in staff time to calculate.

Which means of course they didn’t already know the answer.

They didn’t need to say this of course. They could have said “questions we often get asked”, or “commonly asked questions”.

In the scheme of things does it matter?

Probably not. But is it too much to ask for attention to detail in this, of all, Government departments?

Now we are all currency trading experts

"Facsimile de un billete de banco de cinco libras esterlinas" by Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla https://flic.kr/p/7fhv5k
“Facsimile de un billete de banco de cinco libras esterlinas” by Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla https://flic.kr/p/7fhv5k

I was minding my own business on Facebook the other day when one of my friends made a crack about her trip to Spain being more expensive because of Brexit. One of her friends, with the anger of the frustrated Brexiter, explained that the currency was only returning to its long term average.

That doesn’t seem right.

I thought. But maybe it is. So I resolved to see whether it really was.

The exchange rate

I kind of know what the exchange rate is. It’s the amount of another currency I can buy for a pound (for I am British). People tell me the pound has fallen which means, effectively, I can buy less of another currency for my pound.

There is a market in currency (the Foreign Exchange or FOREX market) and when people on the news (or on Facebook) talk about the pound weakening they are talking about the what a pound can buy in the FOREX market.

The value of the pound

There are, somewhat inconveniently, many currencies and the amount of each currency that the pound will buy varies. So often we talk about “the pound falling against the Euro” (£1 will buy fewer Euros) or “strengthening against the Dollar” (£1 will buy more dollars.

Thankfully for those of us who do not wish to become foreign exchange traders, the Bank of England provides a handy summary of the value of the pound against all currencies. (Currencies from countries we do more trading with count more in this index).

This is available in a handy file going back to January 1980. In this dataset the exchange rate in January 2005 was set as 100 so if the exchange rate is higher it will be bigger than 100, if lower it will be lower.

It looks like this

Which certainly does make it look like the pound is at a very low level. In fact it seems to be at a similar level to 1993 which was when I graduated and I rather remember being a pretty tough time economically (not for me the impact of the demographic time bomb). More recently the pound was at a similar level in 2008. That was definitely a bad year.

So if the pound is returning to a historic norm, it is a norm that coincided with struggling economies.

Does a weak pound matter?

Broadly speaking a weak pound is good for people (or businesses) selling things from the UK to people (or businesses abroad). So it makes the UK a cheaper tourist destination, helps exports and encourages foreigners to invest in the country. It increases the cost of importing things, makes a UK holiday abroad more expensive and discourages UK companies investing abroad. There’s a nice guide on economicshelp.org.

Overall (that guide suggests) prices will increase with a lower pound.

That’s one consequence of the Brexit vote: we are all experts on currency trading now.

 

 

Alternative answers to the Government’s FAQs

The government has published FAQs on the UK’s departure from the European Union. Despite the fact that the Government’s guidance for its own website is not to publish FAQs.

I felt that the copy could be punched up a bit so I’ve suggested some pithier answers. Which the government is welcome to use….

The Referendum

Will there be a second referendum or an alternative to leaving the EU?

You want to go through all that again?

Really?

How will you take into account the views of those who did not vote to leave the EU?

We won’t.

You lost suckers. Get over it. Stop “re-moaning” and get with the programme.

Exiting the European Union

What is Article 50 and why do we need to trigger it?

Is there really anyone in the UK who doesn’t know the answer to this question?

When will Article 50 be triggered?

Literally no-one knows.

But since it depends on the result of litigation on a wide range of fronts don’t hold your breath.

What is the Government doing ahead of triggering article 50?

Sshhh. It’s a secret.

 

Does Parliament need to vote on triggering Article 50?

That depends on who you ask.

If you ask representatives of the government they say “No. We should be allowed to do whatever we want without asking parliament”.

If you ask High Court judges they say that “Yes. Parliament does need to vote”.

If you ask representatives of the Daily Mail they start to froth at the mouth and become incoherent with rage.

What model will be pursued in the negotiation?

Sshhh. It’s a secret.

What will happen after we leave the EU?

The sun will shine perpetually on the bucolic idyll that is the United Kingdom (which will remain united). Peace will reign. The less fortunate citizens of the world will gaze upon us in envy and admiration. Freed of the sclerotic pull of Brussels our industries transform themselves and once again we will one again supply the world.

Putin who?

Migration

What will you be doing about immigration / freedom of movement?

Sssh. It’s a secret.

I am a EU national living in the UK – what does exiting the EU mean for me?

Sorry chum. Its great that you’ve chosen to live here, raise your family and be part of our community but we really need you to be a bargaining chip in our (top secret) negotiation with the rest of the EU.

I am a UK national living in the EU, what does exiting the EU mean for my rights (e.g. status, healthcare, pension)?

Sorry chum. Again.

What will our future immigration system look like?

Shhh. It’s a secret.

Trade and the Single Market

Now we have a Department for International Trade and for Exiting the EU, who is responsible for what?

It’s really very simple.

One department is responsible for using our desire for Prosecco and nicely built cars as a bargaining chip in a game of poker where all of the other players can see each others cards and none of them cares about winning as long as we lose.

And the other is responsible for securing an alternative supply of sparkling wine.

Just in case.

How will exiting the EU affect trade?

It will make it brilliant.

Simply brilliant.

Especially our trade with the EU which will be much much better.

Will we remain a member of the Single Market or Customs Union?

Shhh. It’s a secret

EU Funding Projects

What will happen to the future of EU funding for UK projects?

Didn’t I see something about this on the side of a bus?

Legislation

What is the Great Repeal Bill?

It is a Bill that proposes not to repeal anything.

Hope that clears things up.

How will we assess what EU laws we need?

We will keep them all (that’s what the Great Repeal Bill is for, weren’t you paying attention?).

Devolution

How will the Government ensure the views of the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive are heard?

 

They’ll probably send some emails. But really, have you seen how many emails we get every day?

Will the Government respect calls for a second Scottish independence referendum?

You want to go through all that again?

Really?

Handle with care

handle with care by Hash Milhan https://flic.kr/p/DdPcU
handle with care by Hash Milhan https://flic.kr/p/DdPcU

It seems like everybody is trying to work out who voted Trump. In the same way that loads of people where trying to work out who voted in favour of Brexit. There is a sense in which maybe if we can work out who voted that way we can work out why they voted that way.

The Economist has done a nice piece of analysis looking at how (poor) health is a good predictor of a swing to Trump in areas that were already republican. Interestingly (to me) this is based on not a single measure but a whole basket of public health measures and is a (slightly). This is actually a slightly better predictor of the swing to Trump in republican areas than looking at the numbers of non-college educated white people (though those two factors are often related).

This still doesn’t really answer the question of why they voted this way. A Trump administration is not likely to improve public health one iota. The Economist suggests that unhappy, unhealthy people were voting for change. Maybe that is true, I have no reason to suppose it isn’t.

But democracy, certainly the US presidential election and democracy in the UK is a practice of choosing from a short list. We do not know, on the basis of the vote, why people made those selections. We have to infer and theorise. And most of those theories are politically loaded. Did people really vote to leave the EU because they wanted to end immigration or was it to free themselves from the EU legal system. Did they, in fact, not vote to be poorer?

No-one knows.

And those who say they do have an angle.

Facts are hard, to get and to confront. So much easier to guess, or speculate or state with confidence.

Open source intelligence and ethics

Spy by Leonardo Veras
Spy by Leonardo Veras used under CC-BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/oEcacy

Evanna Hu has written a guest post on the Responsible Data Forum about Responsible Data Concerns with Open Source Intelligence. I basically agree with everything in that post, which you might think makes this post a bit superfluous but I’ve got to write something every day in November. Cos Dan Slee challenged me to.

Open Source Intelligence is intelligence based on publicly available information. Unless you work with open source intelligence (as I do for humanitarian purposes) I think it is hard to get your head around the detail and sophistication of data that it is often possible to derive from public sources.

I’ve written before of the privacy concerns that I think need to be more properly addressed by public bodies. What Evanna Hu’s post highlights is how much further this debate should go in organisations.

There is the legal framework (which is really what I was talking about in that post). I was really struck by Evanna’s statement

As with many responsible data concerns, legal compliance is just one part of a much bigger picture, and it often forms the lowest bar rather than the best practice we should strive for.

And the legal concerns I raised are really fairly specific and limited. An ethical framework would go much further. I’d be really interested to hear from any public bodies that have done work on this.

As a society, we need to go much further. We don’t really have cultural norms for the use of publicly available data by anyone. In many circumstances it may not be state actors that we should be most concerned about. We need to encourage, as well as legal frameworks, a global set of standards that we can hold all organisations to.

But maybe we can start in the UK. Is there any organisation interested in leading?

Peace

Swinging about by Ben Salter https://flic.kr/p/62qmko
Swinging about by Ben Salter https://flic.kr/p/62qmko

In my teenage years one Christmas day I answered the door to find my Great Uncle Ken standing there. He was wearing a blue beret. I ridiculed his headgear and he purported to be shocked.

“Monty gave me this beret”

he said.

When I reported this to my dad as an example of the crazy things that Grandad’s brother said, my father gently reminded me:

“He fought in the second world war. Monty probably did give him that beret.”

Their oldest brother was Great Uncle Sim. I remember him too, though he was quite old and had Parkinson’s which was disconcerting as a young boy. He received Maundy Money from the Queen. He was in the Sherwood Foresters in the First World War. He lied about his age. One gets the impression they weren’t checking too closely in that conflict.

My grandmother (married to the grandfather mentioned above) was a bookkeeper in Hereford in 1940 when a senior officer for the home guard marched into her department store and drafted her for war work. She was locked in a tiny office in Hereford Station trying to keep track of the soldiers being evacuated from Dunkirk. They were being put on trains and moved north as quickly as possible. Across the UK people like my grandmother were trying desperately to keep track of them.

My paternal grandfather made munitions. My maternal grandfather worked in the huge ICI plant in Teeside and was in a reserved occupation (during my childhood I understood he was a painter, I now understand he did something more technical). He was also a Special Constable. My maternal grandmother was a nurse. In later life she married her childhood sweetheart. He had served on the HMS Cornwall which was sunk in 1942 in the Pacific. He and his crew mates waited over 30 hours in shark infested waters to be rescued. Over 400 men died. Not long before his death he was welcomed on the newly commissioned Cornwall where the Captain addressed him as “Sir” which he clearly found extremely moving.

These people are not history to me. They are ordinary. They are my family. I knew them well. My grandmothers only died within the past few years. The second world war was a long time ago but the fact that my grandmother could talk to me about it makes it seem more recent and immediate.

My parent’s generation, my generation and the generation that followed mine have lived under an unprecedented period of peace in Europe. That is clearly an amazing, wonderful thing.

But we should never, ever, take that peace for granted. To the generation that lived through it, war was real and immediate. To those of us that knew them well it seemed like a real possibility. As our collective memory fades the risk is that we start to believe that peace is normal and natural. But peace requires effort, and vigilance and we should be profoundly grateful for the peace we continue to enjoy.

Six links for a blogpost

It’s Saturday. I’ve been doing nice things, seeing friends and walking dogs. I don’t really want to write much today but I must because I have an agreement with Dan Slee that we will blog every day in November.

 

What do we know about Brexit?

Not much according to the House of Commons Library.

Confused by the High Court decision on Article 50? Here’s an explanation in plain English.

 

Compare and contrast

Army on standby in case of flooding in the winter.

CFOA responses to announcement: Army on standby for winter flooding.

 

The Government and digital

Ann Kempster is ace. But she’s not happy.

 

So long and thanks for all the…cheese

She is not alone

The Government IT Self-Harm Playbook

 

Normal service will resume tomorrow

 

You cannot have public services unless you pay for them

End of the road by Javi used under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/s1qpdC
End of the road by Javi used under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/s1qpdC
I remember the moment when I decided local government would be a career not just a job.
It was a phone call I made while working as “Media Relations Co-ordinator” in a rural District Council (it’s long gone now). I’d received an email (yes we had EMAIL) asking me to write a press release (we still sent those by fax) about the young single homeless persons starter pack. I’d phoned our housing team to find out what was in the pack. I imagined it would be a load of advice leaflets.
I was wrong.
It contained saucepans. And plates. And mugs. And crockery.
Because when you are a young single homeless person you didn’t have those things. And when you managed to get a room in a bedsit or even, because this was a long time ago, a flat you were going to need a mug. Maybe two because you might have a friend.*
And I looked at a PR career stretching ahead of me organising product launches for big brands or promoting boxes of sucepans and thought “I know where I want to work”.
And for the past 20 years I have worked in or around local government. I’ve worked in comms and digital and other roles. I’ve worked on the front line and in an ivory tower.  It has frequently been frustrating. It can be hard to drive change in councils. The politics and the Politics can grind you down. And I have certainly had periods where I felt like Kafka was pulling the strings. But more often than that I have seen real changes happen, I have seen services redeveloped, scrapped and replaced because that’s what local people needed. I have seen people work through the night to collect, secure and count ballots and to look after people in floods and snow and other disasters. I’ve seen vulnerable people protected, looked after, respected.
Mostly what happens in local government is dull and unremarked. Often (in social work for example) you simply cannot know the detail, and sometimes you just wouldn’t be interested. But, in the main, the councils I worked for did important, real, human things without which we would be a poorer and more horrid society.
But not for much longer.
The mayor of Liverpool is proposing a council tax increase of 10%. This is just the most public signal of a sector in profound crisis. You probably haven’t noticed. This is partly because local authorities have been good at focusing on keeping the plates spinning in the areas that people really notice but it is mostly because the cuts have fallen mostly upon the poor and the vulnerable in society.
You might imagine that at some point it has to stop, that there is a limit below which we, as the people of the United Kingdom, will not sink. I would argue we passed that point some time ago and the long decline shows no sign of ending.
It seems hyperbolic because those town halls have stood for decades, centuries even and everybody knows that councils are inefficient and stuffed with over-paid lazy managers and the Council Tax just goes up and up and look at the potholes and they don’t even collect the bins every week.
It’s not hyperbole though. It’s happening right now.
This is a profound change to our society. The implications will be felt for generations and yet there has been no real public debate about it. There seems to be no real understanding of what is being done, in the name of austerity, to people and communities across the land.
I’ll carry on working with councils to become more efficient, to use data more effectively, to innovate and try new, radical approaches. And there is, undeniably, money to be saved, new ways of working to be found and innovations to be revealed..
But ultimately you cannot have public services unless you pay for them.
It really is that simple.
*housing nerds will be aware that there were restrictions on the money local government could spend on such things. The pack was actually funded by local churches. The council was using its convening power to get something vitally important sorted. Even back then we could do a bit of innovation now and again.