Last week “The Economist” magazine carried a piece about investment in transport infrastructure across the English regions. A small graphic showing capital investment in infrastructure placed Yorkshire and Humber at the bottom of the regional league table. London (of course) topped the table by a country mile with estimated expenditure at a little under £2000 per head of the region’s population. In Yorkshire and Humber it was put at less than £250 per head.
As we endure the pleasures of bus based Pacer trains from the 1980s, under investment on the East Coast Main Line, congestion on the M62, A64 and A19 and the absence of a modern mass transit system in Leeds, I am sure we all take comfort in the benefits of the new Elizabeth Line at £15bn and a new trains programme for Thameslink valued at £6.5bn. Let’s not mention Crossrail and maybe even Crossrail 2 to come or the dubious benefits of HS2 to the north and north east.
Government announcements in July ended hopes of transport investment in south Wales, the East Midlands and the North in favour of London – “the highest priority”.
The productivity benefits of investing in modern transport infrastructure cannot be denied. That after all is the basis of the investment in London and the south east, but it is negligent almost beyond belief to ignore the pressing and significant needs of the regions, and the North in particular, to such an extent, and to forego the social and economic harvest that investment in the North would bring.
On Thursday morning I spent some time at Webster’s Theatre in Arbroath attending a joint meeting of our primary and secondary head teachers. At the start of a new year, and a new term, those familiar with the world of education will not be surprised to hear there was a buzz in the room, even with the council’s Chief Executive coming along to tell his audience how tough the year ahead will be in financial terms. And I did not miss that opportunity.
In the time allowed at the end of my session for Q and A a number of comments were made about the extent to which our schools are not as joined up as they could be with the council’s efforts to transform communities and in particular our community planning and engagement processes. There was, I think, a clear willingness to be more engaged with that work and to make a contribution.
As we refresh our Community Planning Partnership, and in particular the localities model, we need to make sure that we go beyond seeing our schools only as places for formal learning. They are at the heart of our communities in so many more ways. At the same time colleagues across the council need to think more about how well we are aligned with the efforts schools are making to give our young people the best possible opportunity to be happy, healthy, safe and successful.
I have just given some money to the DRC for the Nepal relief appeal, on my phone. It’s only the second time I have done this sort of thing with a mobile. The first was at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games when (it seemed) I was the only member of the Angus official delegation that had a smart phone on them. The donations x 6 all appeared on my next bill. The others did pay up if you are wondering! Thousands of people at Celtic Park donated a huge sum to charity in just a few moments.
Time and again we are reminded by the media of how safe and comfortable our lives are, and we are challenged to do more to respond to the needs of others, especially in times of crisis or emergency. The devastation that has hit Nepal is truly awful, the latest estimate being that it may take a couple of decades for the economy and society of Nepal to recover. I hope it will take nothing like as long as that. And we can all help to make that so.
If you phone doesn’t do it you can give on-line at – http://www.dec.org.uk/?gclid=CJHaxIiBnsUCFWrkwgoddoYA6Q – just a few pounds will help.
This afternoon I paid a visit to Angus Council’s new children’s home nearing completion in Arbroath. It’s a building site at the moment about a month or two from completion, and its a great project. The council’s contractor – Hadden Construction – are doing a superb job in translating concepts into reality.
The new facility will replace a one in the town that is no longer fit for purpose. Walking the site and the two new houses with the manager of the current facility I was impressed by the thought that had gone into layout, fixtures and fittings – involving both staff and young people in the planning. Children had visited the site and will again before the moving in.
The key word here is “home” – this facility will be home for some of our most deserving young people. The social work manager with us talked about wanting to “achieve excellent”. This new build will certainly be a platform for that aspiration to be achieved. We wanted excellent for our two sons and tried to provide it.
In law Angus Council has parental responsibilities towards the small group of young people whose home this building will be. I detect in the colleagues I met the ambition to go beyond what the law requires in fulfilling our obligations. This is about changing lives.
Along with three colleagues I spent a couple of hours in Arbroath this morning at local company Journeycall – part of the ESP group – with their MD Theresa Wishart. This company, relatively recently moved to Arbroath, occupies newly remodelled premises on the Kirkton estate. The reason for the visit was to look at their offices with an eye to learning about what works and what doesn’t in the modern workplace to help inform our own mobile and agile developments at Angus Council. It would remiss of us not to look at the experience of one of the county’s most successful companies right here on our doorstep in creating a modern work environment. The use of space, provision of facilities for staff and the really powerful harnessing of technology was impressive.
It was also an opportunity to learn a bit more about this successful and growing firm who are specialists in the customer service and contact management field. See here for more –