Local Government Leadership in Duxford

New-Hanger-Duxford-Air-MuseumLast Friday I travelled to Duxford Museum conference centre set amongst the wonderful displays of planes, of course last Friday was the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and as I looked across the assembled planes you could see some of those which were the backbone of the RAF in the War, which look so small set against the mighty war planes of today.

The conference was entitled the Entrepreneurial Council II – Creating new social businesses to secure local service and realise potential savings, hosted by the East of England Local Government Association an organisation I am very keen on as it helps the Councils of East Anglia learn from each other and to have an voice for East Anglia as a region, but hey I would say that as I sit on its Improvement Board.

Looking through the delegate list I was encouraged to see so many local government officers from across Suffolk but disappointed to only see there was only a handful of Councillors form across the region. But was delighted to see that my former colleague on Suffolk County Council Judy Terry was there and later we had a good natter about all things Suffolk.

The opening speaker was Danny Kruger, Chief Executive of Only Connect and former speech writer to David Cameron, who spoke about national renewal and touched on the Big Society, and what that actually means in this era of cuts. Then we heard from Stepping Out’s Craig Dearden-Philips talking about Turning Public Services into Thriving Social Businesses, which is exactly what his company is all about.

Later in the morning Aidan Dunn, Assistant Director Strategic Finance and Head of Procurement Resources Management, Suffolk County Council (he was teased about the size of the business card needed to get that title on to it!) spoke about the social enterprises and companies created in Suffolk by Suffolk County Council over the past few years. Both Judy Terry and I chatted at lunch about our small roles we played in the creation of some of these and the political battles we endured to do so.

Of course there is much debate about how to deliver services both in an era of a decade of Local Government cuts and an ageing population. Should council be direct providers of services, should they be commissioners and what is in future role of local government and its place in a new world of integration with health services.

Perhaps even to some extent a subtext of the future direction of Suffolk County Council and recent battles. But to my mind however complex the issues, the principles are relatively simple. Firstly as a conservative I believe in business and people being entrepreneurial. In local government terms I believe in social businesses doing things for the public good, I like a plurality of service providers rather than one large provider and that they are truly local. The more local they are the more they are able to work with communities and delivery services people really need rather than those services someone miles away think they need. Secondly from my actual experience, social enterprise can deliver outstanding services at a reduced cost, Suffolk Libraries, Realise Futures, Leading Lives and Sensing Change are shining examples of what we have done in Suffolk. And lastly I do not believe councils should provide directly provide services but they should be, the publicly financed, democratically accountable, co-producing with communities and intelligent commissioners, co-ordinators and protectors of services.

It will certainly be interesting to see how local government is delivered in say 10 years, a salami sliced version of what it is today, probably, basically failing to serve the expectations of the general public or more importantly the basic needs of the most vulnerable in our society or an innovative force for the sort of national renewal of which Danny Kruger and the closing key note speaker Dr. Neil Stott, CE, Keystone Development Trust and Senior Teaching Faculty in Social Innovation, Cambridge Judge Business School, spoke of, the challenge has never been greater, thus nor has the need for the right sort of bold leadership.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal, anything I write is promoted by Lance Stanbury on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Park Farm Cottage, Fordham St. Genevieve, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk IP28 6TS

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