12/12/2013 2 Comments
The quality of leadership is an interesting thing and a couple of weeks ago I had an opportunity to meet and talk with a couple of leading figures one from national and the other from local politics who were guests speakers at the Next Generation Alumni event I blogged about recently.
First up representing local government was Stephen Greenhalgh whose slot was called ‘Reflections on Leadership’. Following on from him was Lord Heseltine and I shall blog on another day about his thoughts and what I took away from them.
Stephen is the former Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council and now working for Boris Johnson as his right-hand man running the Police service as Deputy major for Policing in London.
Stephen spoke about London policing and I was surprised to learn, when I consider how small the Suffolk Police force is (£120million budget and 3,000 or so staff), of the sheer scale of the metropolitan police with its some £3.5 billion budget! But it was not a surprise to hear of his approach, given that he made his name in local government by cutting his council’s back office and lower Council tax, as his is championing a 20% budget cut over 5 years in the Mets budget yet at the same time demanding a 20% improvement is the detection and conviction of things like assault, robbery, theft all to be alongside a 20% increase in public confidence, looks like he is rightly carrying his ‘more for less’ approach across the different sectors.
Stephen made his name for himself with his no nonsense, can do attitude that enabled his council to continually lower the council tax yet deliver quality services and this mind-set continues today as they have recently announced another cut for next year. His interesting thoughts sort of re-affirmed my beliefs that a Council can learn to live within its means and deliver quality services to the vulnerable in our communities at the same time. The physical manifestation of this is that as I go around the county discussing Suffolk’s Big Budget Conversation, people tell me that our services are well respected and valued, just as is our conservative promise of no Council tax increases for the next 4 years.
I am still jealous that we have not be able to actually cut the rate further to help the hard pressed Council tax payers of Suffolk as Stephen did in his time as Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham but of course the service delivery model for a London Council and its far higher Council tax collection based on property bands alone, makes it a very different place and shape of council. Having said that, in Suffolk with what will be a 7 year Council Tax freeze, if you put inflation at say 3% per annum that actually makes a cut of over 20% over the period which is not bad, not bad at all.