Public Health England – a Vision Event no less!

Today I was asked to speak at the Public Health England Vision Event at the University Arms hotel to a packed ballroom of Public Health Professionals and Local Government Officers from across the Region. There was a fare few Councillors and fellow Cabinet members there as well which I thought was every encouraging given the scale of the agenda before us on Public Health.

I was billed on the opening session and platform with Dr. Anne McConville, Acting Regional Director of Public Health East of England who chaired the event and who introduced the opening session, next up was Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive Public Health England, who spoke of his and Public Health’s challenges over the coming year as he builds his team about him. For the professionalos in the room he was clearly the star attraction for the day as he is the key person in articulating the degree to which Local Directors of Public Health will or will not get flexibility in their approaches and priorities.

Next up was me and following Duncan is not an easy slot but I hope I engaged then as I spoke to a PowerPoint presentation about the progress of Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board, our Health and Wellbeing Strategy key priorities and a little about working with Councillors. I opened with a line about them all being frightened of councillors and how we might interfere and about our only qualification was getting elected! Albeit what they might find is those that achieve cabinet positions, maybe know how to work with professionals and could even be useful in how to get those difficult messages out there about smoking less, drinking less, eating 5 a day and taking more exercise or is that just what my doctor says to me!

Next up was Graham Farrant Chief Executive of Thurrock Council who spoke about the challenges of his area. Then all 3 of us took part in a 20 minute open Q&A session and what struck me was a question/statement from Professor Christine Hill from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health who made a plea for decisions to be made based on evidence and I spoke of that is soemthing to be thought about as Councillors can fall intot he trap of hearing something from three people in the street and then actign on it, a habit I and I suspect others must change!

After lunch John Wilderspin, National Director for the Health and Well Being Board Implementation spoke and fortunely his national picture seemed to accord with our Suffolk one more or less but what is very interesting is how they are beign allowed the space to develop organically something I have discuss a few times with John as we have met each other at a few different conferences and workshops on this subject; I have even suggested that the freedom is unusual for the Department of Health!  but someone once said with Freedom comes great responsibility, and we have to rise to the challenge and get this right.

The rest of the day was jam packed full of examples of projects being undertaken and discuss on the issues as Public Health integrates into Local Government and I think I and my team of senior officers that attended came away with a far better sense of the work going on across the Eastern Region and that the point of spending time at a conference is to then take that information back and discuss the direction in light of the learning and that is precisely what we will be doing over the coming weeks.

Not so much dining on Concorde as under Concorde

I never got the chance to fly on Concorde before it was decommissioned but on Thursday night I dined underneath one, at the CBI Eastern Regional Dinner as a guest of Anglian Water at Imperial War Museum Duxford.
It was a great opportunity to meet business people and discuss issues that affect us here in Suffolk and in particular discuss with Anglian Water the important issue of planning our water supply as we build new houses and bring new business to Suffolk. I sat next to the man who had the fun of standing in front of the TV cameras with a brolly and wellies (well not quite the wellies) announcing the hosepipe ban as it poured with rain earlier this year; we also discussed the more serious issue was how close we came to farmers not being allowed to water the crops in the summer; there is no doubt we have to think about this vital resource as we develop our Suffolk economy.
The key note speaker was Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor. He spoke well and played to his audience with great skill leaving the more, shall we say, socialist elements of his usual speech back in Westminster.

Tour of Britain, the Grand Depart

Yesterday morning I was up early for a Sunday and headed off with my partner Lisa to be at the Grand Depart of this year’s Tour of Britain which is truly a great honour for Suffolk and Ipswich.

The Tour of Britain is the UK’s biggest professional bike race and a centre piece of the British sporting calendar.  Big names including Tour de France winner and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins and Tour de France stage winner, Mark Cavendish were there and I even managed to get a few shots of Bradley Wiggins just in front of where I was standing.

I will post some pictures to my flicker account that I hope with show just how wonderful a setting the waterfront of Ipswich was for this great honour, in the sun shine it was a magnificent sight, each year it mazes me just how big this thing is with the outriders and support cars and TV crews. An audience of 600,000 watched the 2011 highlights programme on ITV4. Additionally the highlights were broadcast worldwide by 14 separate stations all here filming in Ipswich and showcasing our wonderful countryside as the tour heads towards Norfolk all in brilliant sunshine, it could not have been a better day for it.

Even I had a small walk on part to play as I and Professor Brendan Noble from UCS where invited onto the stage as part of the pre-start show, cue the ‘noble’ jokes from the compare. I spoke about how fantastic that this year we have gone from being Stage 7 to Stage 1 and how this was because 150,000 of us turned out in Suffolk and Norfolk to watched Stage 7 in 2011 which was 30,000 more people watched last year’s Suffolk / Norfolk stage compared to 2010 so we are hoping for 200,000 this year lining the route and cheering the riders on.

Of course there are other reasons the Grand Depart was staged in Suffolk and Norfolk and in part that is because of the efforts all the Councils in the two counties have worked together to accommodate this massive event. Since the idea was first muted at a cabinet meeting a few years ago; Suffolk County Council has been 100% behind it, working hard to make it happen and providing the sort of support that has, well moved us from Stage 7 to Stage 1. I think a number of officers who have worked so hard on the project can take pride in us getting the Grand Depart here in Suffolk in 2012.

The Tour of Britain is a fantastic way to inspire people to get out and get active and provides a significant opportunity to act as inspiration in our aim to make Suffolk the ‘MostActiveCounty’.  It’s estimated that 75% of spectators in 2011 were inspired to cycle more frequently and after watching the Italian F1 GP in the afternoon, what did Lisa and I do, precisely that, we went for a bike ride. Also this year there was a 20% increase in the number of people who signed up to take part in the Tour Ride on Saturday and cycle the stage route before the professionals. 

Ultimately this is what hosting these events is all about, just as with the Olympics, its all about getting all of us inspired to get out and do more exercise, in our busy lives its very easy for us to put exercise to one side but from children to the retired; we all need to be doing more and cycling does not require us to spend a fortune on equipment just to get out there and just do it.

Get your free, sorry expensive, Council Newpaper here.

I heard from my Conservative friends across the road in Ipswich, that true to type the Labour controlled Ipswich Borough Council are returning to an Offical Council Newpaper so Residents are informed about the wonderful plans of the Labour Party sorry the Council.

They plan to pay Archant Newspapers, the publishers of the Ipswich Star and the East Anglian Daily Times, to publish the council’s newsletter “Ipswich Angle” and distribute it with the Ipswich Star.

A Council newspaper in this day and age!

If you don’t believe me then follow put this into your browser and have a read

I also hear that Conservative Leader John Carnall have quite rightly called it in to Scrutiny, well done John.

But far more worrying than just this old fashioned Labour Council spending, is the disregard for the budget. Ipswich Borough Council has a budget for this set at £16,000 but they are planning to spend over £42,500 on a 5 copies in a six month trial period taking money from other budgets and each copy is going to be 12 pages long to boot!

In the report I mentioned at 1.3 it talks about supporting a local publishing company, I think the Ipswich Star is a good local paper and even though Suffolk County Council have been on the receving end of the occasional criticism!!! I fully support an independant press and that firmly believe the quality of local politics is inherently linked to a robust challenge by local newspapers. But I don’t believe any council should be supporting a local company by, in my opinion, the inefficent use of public money. Yes the occasional small publication is something people can keep with useful numbers etc but this surely not.

What about a blog or web site or email list or an app do we really still need to be spending Council tax payer’s money informing them about the Council via a Council newspaper and so many so often.

I fully understand that not everyone has internet access or a smart mobile phone, so print some copies and put them in key locations such as the libraries or better still encourage people to use the free internet access in the town’s libraries to see a blog or web site.

Then you could give the money back to the people of Ipswich or spend it on something important like putting in more wet rooms for older vulnerable people.

So if you live in Ipswich, look out for this important Labour Party, sorry Council publication, you’re paying for it!

%d bloggers like this: