A Different Prospective

PHEE PictureYesterday I was invited by the Public Health England, Network for Public Health Registrars to speak at a seminar they were holding in Cambridge entitled ‘Working in Local Authority and Navigating the Political Environment’. In the session I spoke at I was joined on the platform by Cllr. Dr. Tim Moore who was previously a Public Health professional and now Lib Dem City Councillor for the patch that has Addenbrookes in it, and Cllr. Kilian Bourke, Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Councils’ Heath Committee who is also a Liberal Democratic, so no Labour Councillors, but hey never mind!

The event was held at Addenbrookes Hospital and not a stones throw from where I took my mum for the first 6 months of this year as she fought Cancer. I arrived early, as I was that way for another meeting in the morning, and so walked across past where I used to usually park my car and through the halls of the hospital on my way to the food court for lunch. As I did I reflected on two things, bizarrely I recalled an episode of the great American sit com Frazier where they visited hospital and the episode flashed back to all the events in that families lives that had been played out there and it struck me that a sad section of my families’ life was played out in the hotchpotch of buildings that make up this sprawling hospital only a few weeks before, which now seems another time altogether, time does seem to march relentlessly on as each of all our families stories are, in part, played out in such places.

Back to the matter at hand and all three of us spoke for about 15 minutes and then there was a Q & A session. Both Tim as a new Councillor, 3 months in post, and Kilian were really interesting speakers and I did remark at the start of my few words that it was worrying to find myself agreeing with Liberal Democrats and equally, going third, it’s not easy to find something to say when the best words has been said! I did find some words hopefully interesting about the challenges and more importantly if successful the opportunities ahead and I found the Q&A really thought provoking. As is often the case I think I came away challenged in my thinking and learning a great deal about the different prospective Public Health professionals face as they seek to deliver for the communities we serve and how they work effectively in this new political environment they find themselves in.

Board Appointments

Last week I had confirmation that I’m continuing on the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board for my second year, following my two years as a substitute member. The work of the board and its voice to central government have never been more important as we look towards the next parliament and influencing the incoming government’s agenda around Health and Social Care from a local government prospective. This year because of the changes in the political control of the LGA we take the chairmanship of the board and I delighted that Cllr. Isobel Secombe, Leader of Warwickshire is our Chairman.

A couple of Wednesday’s ago the importance of such policy forums was reinforced to me as I attended my first board meeting of the national ‘Think Local Act Personal’ (TLAP) Board having recently been appointed to the LGA’s representative on this important national Programme board.

I am particularly pleased to take up this role as it’s got a real local community focus and making it real has an effect in the villages in my Division. One of the programmes I helped shape in Suffolk when I was Cabinet Member for Adult and Community Services is called Supporting Lives, Connecting Communities, put simply it’s about helping communities to do more for themselves and developing the community to support our residents as we face both budget pressures and a growing and ageing population.

In many ways the TLAP nation initiative is very similar but at the national policy formation, system thinking and lobbying level, so I’m really pleased to be involved. As I read through the considerable background papers to my new role it’s really interesting to see many of the organisations I drew upon as we in Suffolk came up with our policy are represented on its board.

on its board.

Community Spirit defined

Much is written about the ‘Big Society’ and to a lesser extent the initiative in Suffolk called Supporting Lives, Connecting Communities (SLCC), which I politically started about how to replica those pockets of great community activity we find across the county and dovetailing county social services in and around our communities. In essence it’s all about understanding what any one community really needs rather than a universal blanket service which inevitably will diminish as the cuts in spending required to put this county on a sound economic basis bit. The last comment is a change from its original intention as the SLCC programme was always designed to help deal with our increasingly ageing population rather than to make savings but such. It will be interesting to see if the early savings from the intense pilot work actually can continue to save money and contribute towards the saving targets at Suffolk County Council in the way they are now required to do, I have my doubts.

More locally in my home village of Lakenheath I have a reasonable understanding of its community eco-system and last Saturday and then on Monday evening there were fine examples of what makes Lakenheath such a great place to live and an honour for me to represent.

On Saturday, the community, led by some very hard working activists, staged the village Carnival and fete. As I stood with a retired ‘brickie’ who used to work with me, I said to him it certainly comes in handy that we are a farming community and have so many tractors and flatbed trailers donated by local farmers, on which to mounted some really great floats. People turned out in their thousands and a great day was had by all, the forecasted rain even held off. On Monday evening and equally impressive was the turn out at the village War Memorial for a simply ceremony of lighting candles, placing them on the memorial and then the Roll of Honour of those from the village who died in the First World War was read out followed by a minute’s silence before all the candles bar one were extinguished at 10pm to mark the start of the First World War. What was particularly memorable was the number of children who attended and placed their candles at the base of the Memorial, the sight of it lit by candle light was a small act in remembrance of those who gave their lives.

In these two events one great fun, the other reflective, friends gathered, conversations were had and moments shared and these simply things are an integral part of how people and communities support each other.


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