This week has allowed and included some time for reflection, not least because my annual appraisal took place this week, but in addition to that our weekly Leadership meeting (EMT and the political leadership of the council’s administration) and Tuesday’s Exec Management Team meeting also prompted some thinking about where we have got to, and what needs to come next. The big picture.
It’s certainly true to say that most weeks are full of muck and bullets. It’s easy for us all to become so focussed on the day to day that there is no space for reflection on that bigger picture. My week is no different to any one else’s in that regard.
My take on things just now is that as a council we have come a huge way in the last few years in the face of some of the biggest challenges councils have ever seen. The reshaping of services, the achievement of efficiencies, the establishment of new governance and delivery models, new engagements with our community, embracing digital realities and opportunities, and the list goes on. Only this morning the MD of a company we have worked closely with over the last 2 years on one particular aspect of the transformation journey contacted me to say how impressed he was with what we have and are achieving. It’s good to see outside perceptions being so positive. But…..
There is always a but, or perhaps several buts. There is certainly a lot more to do. Balancing our budget is, and will remain, a major challenge. To do it we must continue to innovate and continue to change, and that means that many in the community and within the organisation will feel unsettled by the proposed developments as they unfold. And so alongside the challenge of getting innovation and change delivered is the challenge of ensuring that those we serve understand what we are doing and why. And the context we are working in.
It’s fair to say that for any single service efficiency, cut or change “there is no alternative” is not the position. But in my view it’s true to say that there are often very few options to choose from. We have to accept that some things will be top of the list for review and change partly because the other things we spend our money on are so important to our communities and our well being that we really do not want to reduce those unless there really are no alternatives. That’s not an excuse for giving no time to ensuring cost effectiveness and efficiency in those so important areas of service. But it is an explanation of why some things come first in our thinking about change and others don’t. It’s all about our priorities.