A Christmas Fable of Promises and Gold

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a king and his four sons.  The king had come to power through a promise he had made with the elves and fairies of the kingdom to look after their needs and wishes in exchange for him ruling the kingdom.

For many years the kingdom was successful and as his sons became older he gave each of them a task. The first prince was responsible for ensuring that there was sufficient food and firewood. The second prince was responsible for collecting taxes. The third prince was responsible for castles and weapons. The fourth prince was to look after the needs of the elves and fairies.

For many years the system worked well and the king, the princes and the people in the kingdom enjoyed happy lives. But one day the gold which was kept in the biggest castle was stolen and the kingdom was thrown into chaos.

The king called his four sons to a meeting and explained that their reserves were very low and they would all have to reduce their expenditure if the kingdom was to survive. He set each of the sons off to consider their plans and commanded that they return the next day with proposals.

The first prince decided that he would plant cheaper crops, reduce the amount of food given to each member of the kingdom, and increase the cost of food.

The second prince decided to increase income tax, put up taxes on hovels, and reduce the donations made to court beggars.

The third prince decided that they could sell off one of their castles to another kingdom, reduce the size of cannons on the castle walls, and stop the building of a new castle which had been planned for many years.

The fourth prince was stuck. He looked at his job and could think of lots of ways that he could reduce his costs.  For example, he could stop giving each elf a gold coin every day; or he could stop allowing fairies to replace their wings on a weekly basis; he could even take the drastic step of telling the elves and fairies that would no longer have a room of their own in their fairy castle.

But each time he pondered an option he came up against the promise that had been made by his father, the king, to the elves and fairies.

The next day the king called his sons to his court table and asked them to set out their plans.  Each of the first three princes explained in great detail how they would manage their reductions.

On completing the presentations, which had been well received by their father, they turned to the fourth prince.  He began by reminding the others of the promises their father had made to the elves and fairies on his becoming king.  As he continued he could see that his brothers were becoming angrier and angrier as it became obvious that he was saying that there was no way that he could reduce his expenditures if he was to keep the promise their father had made.

The other princes demanded that their brother go away and return the next day with a proper plan for reducing his costs in the same way in which they had done to the approval of their father.

That night the prince had a sleepless night for he had explored every possible avenue to reduce the money spent on the elves and fairies but he kept coming up against the promises his father had made to the elves and fairies on his crowning as king.

The next day they gathered again in the great hall and they waited patiently for their brother to match their proposals.  As he slowly got to his feet he stuttered that he did have a plan.  That plan was to stop giving each elf a gold coin every day and give them instead a silver coin.  He had calculated that this would save the same as his brothers and that it would allow the kingdom to survive.

His brothers were elated – they knew that their brother had been holding back on them and that if they pushed hard enough he would come up with a plan like this.

However, the king was a wise man and did not share his sons’ euphoria. He asked the fourth prince if he had discussed this plan with the elves and fairies.  The prince explained that he had but that they had not accepted the change in the conditions of the promise.  The other princes did not think that was important – surely the elves and fairies understood that if savings were not made that the kingdom would fail and that none of their conditions of the promise would be met in the future.

The king sat quietly and contemplated the dilemma. As he sat the other princes shouted and demanded that the condition be changed.  Eventually the king spoke.  He explained that the promise made to the elves and fairies was one from which there could be no withdrawing. He instructed the princes that the ‘problem’ and the ‘promises’ belonged to each of them equally and that they must work together to solve their challenge.

A year later the kingdom had survived its trial, for the four princes had come to recognise that the problem could not be resolved by working in isolation, or by ignoring commitments they had made to others, but only by working together in sharing the problems each of them faced in an equal manner. And they all lived happily ever after.

Microfinance: supporting social enterprise for student and community benefit


Option 29 described in the curriculum for excellence senior phase post was described simply as: Establish a microfinance investment fund for student application.

I’ve been asked by a number of people to explain what I meant by this and how it might work.

This option has a number of threads but the starting point is founded upon a perceived need to encourage students to actively create social enterprises which will benefit their communities, and in turn,themselves.

The idea is not new and is rooted in the Grameen Bank  concept, although with more of a focus upon community benefit and personal/group development, rather than tackling poverty. The scheme should certainly tackle some of the symptoms of poverty within communities.


The concept is based upon the establishment of a microfinance fund using donations from local business people and other sources – councils included.  This money would be placed in a trust to which students, or other members of a community, could submit an application for a micro loan which would allow them to establish and develop their social enterprise. The only stipulation – aside from the viability of the plan – would be that the proposal must have a direct benefit to their local community.

An example we have been developing relates to an Elders Buddy Scheme. Let’s say that a student (or students) at the school applies to the fund for an interest free loan to set up the buddy scheme, which will involve families or individuals paying a minimal fee for a young person to spend 5 hours week making an evening home visit to an elderly person. The social entrepreneur/s, would use the loan – to a maximum £1000 – to pay for advertising, information materials, recruitment, training, disclosure fees, and other costs.

The microfinance fund would seek to provide additional support through a business /community mentor and a further network of relevant contacts  and fellow social entrepreneurs.

Areas of possible community benefit include; early years and child care; elderly care; youth programmes; disability support; and environment.

Obviously there are numerous working details missing from this description but in order to keep this post brief and to the point I’ll focus upon the benefits to the indviduals and the community they inhabit, and the possible problems.

Here’s a list of possible benefits:

  1. Young people are introduced to the world of work and enterprise in a real and meaningful manner.
  2. Communituties would benefit from the services provided.
  3. Experience in developing and running a social enterprise would be highly regarded on applications for employment or further/higher education.
  4. Young people develop real experience in financial management.
  5. It gives meaning to other academic studies as they become contextualised in a world of work and social duty.
  6. If  recognised as part of a young person’s senior phase curriculum it would enhance and  deepen that experience.
  7. It would promote comunity engagement and awareness of young people with/about their community.
  8. It woukd raise the positive profile of young people in their communities.
  9. Encourages young people to take the next step into running businesses for themselves.
  10. Promotes and entrepreneurial spirit in a community/school.

And possible problems:

  1. Loans are not repaid
  2. Enterprises collapse as young people leave their communities for further study or employment
  3. Services to vulnerable groups are not sustained
  4. Existing services with full time employees are placed at risk due to competition.
  5. Schools do not recognise the value of the scheme and only allow high achieving students to particpate or do not facilitate time  for involvement.
  6. The scheme does not offer sufficient support in the initial stages
  7. The bureaucracy of the application process is too off putting and complex.
  8. Funding is too short term.
  9. Insufficient number of financial backers.
  10. Works only in areas of high net worth and not in communites which might really benefit.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

Further reading:

What can social finance learn from microfinance

Social innovation

Peer to peer microfinance for young people

Youth enterprise

Microcredit for young entrepreneurs

Radical Efficiency: ‘different, better and cheaper’

I’ve been corresponding with David Jackson of the Innovation Unit who has referred me to the work the Unit has being doing in relation to what they describe as “Radical Efficiency”.

The basic premise is that it’s possible to reduce costs and improve services. As someone who’s at the sharp end of making reductions in budgets I know how sceptical people are when you suggest that this must be our goal.  It’s good to find a model which actually sets this out ina coherent manner.

Thew following is lifted from their wikisite

From operational efficiency to radical efficiency

All of these elements are important and powerful. But it is how these components are combined that determines whether or not an innovation is just operationally efficient (‘same for less’) or radically efficient (‘different, better and cheaper’). For an innovation to be radically efficient, it must employ components both above and below the line.

Operational Efficiency: ‘same for less’
Innovations that employ only the two components that lie below the dotted line offer new solutions to old problems. This is using different resources and maximizing the usefulness of existing ones to offer ‘same for less’.

This kind of innovation basically takes the system – or desired ends – of public services as given and static. This is not to say that exciting innovation is not possible here. User involvement, as discussed earlier, is evident in all segments of the model and is capable of reshaping existing services with dramatic results.

The Arizona Department of Corrections[1] offers an excellent example of this kind of innovation in practice. By engaging recent inmates in the design of programmes that help prisoners to re-integrate into society, savings are made both in the short term and the long term. In the short term, resources are not wasted on expensive programmes that have little impact. Less money can be used on different inputs. In the long term, the prevention of recidivism could have a major impact on the budgets of many public services – from health to policing.

But in any example of this type, prisons are still prisons. The effectiveness of service delivery has been improved but something even more significant is still possible.

Radical efficiency: ‘different, better and cheaper’

Innovations that employ three or four components of the model – that is, above and below the dotted line – offer something truly different, better and cheaper.

Radical efficiency turns the role of provider on its head – they are no longer solution ‘deliverers’, crafting better answers to decades-old questions about how to provide a standardised welfare state for mass consumption. They are pioneers of a new type of public service, asking sometimes difficult questions about who they are trying to serve and what they are trying to achieve.

We only have to look as far as the success of The Open University to see the power of rethinking the possible clients of higher education and the resources best suited to doing so. Designing a system around previous ‘non-customers’ who were unable to participate in expensive, full time, residential education, and taking advantage of cheap, unused bandwidth on public television (amongst other things) has resulted in a system which today serves over 150,000 undergraduates. Unit costs per student are significantly lower than those in the traditional system.

Some of the world’s most well respected, game-changing innovations clearly fit here. The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh did not keep hammering on the question of how the question of adverse selection (unreliable borrowers defaulting and making loans too expensive for reliable members of the community) could be solved in its existing micro-finance system. Instead it asked afresh how capital could be made available cheaply for the small business investments that play a major role in development. It reconceptualised who its customers should be (mostly women – the ones responsible in practice for family business investments), it reconceptualised who its suppliers should be (members of the local community who know each other) and what its available resources were (close-knit groups of women who know all about each others lives, their reliability and who were able to issue meaningful social sanctions against defaulters). All this was initiated not by the old system-designers (private lenders) but by a new ‘knowledge-generator’ – Professor Muhammed Yunus – an economist who has since been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. This was a whole new system in microcosm, which has since been replicated throughout and beyond Bangladesh.

So Grameen represents radical efficiency that re-thinks the challenges its community faces (and the outcomes it wants to see) as well as employing different resources to make those outcomes happen more effectively. In doing so, it seeds a whole new system, rather than perpetuating the existing one.

In health, education and social care, we can see equally compelling examples from across the globe. In the UK, School of Everything[4] starts from the premise that ‘everyone has something to teach, everyone has something to learn’, offering a new conception of adult education and new tools for teachers and students to connect and agree fees. In a totally different context, a mental health first aid kit developed in Australia enables friends, colleagues and family to help keep people healthy (and prevent costly, crisis interventions), whilst lunar powered street lights in San Francisco (that dim when the moonlight is sufficient to illuminate the area) help save money and the environment.

Linking educational funding with learning activity



Professor Richard Teese 2008

Back in December 2007 the OECD published a report entitled Reviews of National Policies for Education – Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland. I’ve written previously about Professor Richard Teese – the main reporter for that report -who criticised the Scotish education system for not making a strong enough link between funding and educational outcomes. I picked up on this same theme in a related post when considering further how funding might be used as a lever to improve educational outcomes for children.  However, over the last few months I’ve been giving this entire area a great deal more thought and have been researching how we might change the way we do things in Scotland.

I suppose my interest was initially triggered by considering how we could fund sixth year students who wanted to take Open University courses through the YASS scheme. The problem that I encountered was where would such funding come from to allow such students to follow these courses?  The reality is that all available funding is locked up in schools through the traditional secondary school funding formula which is typically based upon a per capita allocation which takes account of the number of students in the school.

It is this “devolved” budget which pays for teachers and support staff, allows resources to be purchased and covers any other expenditure deemed to be the responsibility of the school.

The alternative model I have been exploring is one which identifies the “per capita” allocation as a flexible learning credit which the student can use to access learning at a place and time of their own choosing, e.g. their own school, YASS, Queen Margaret University in East Lothian, a Further Education College or even another school in East Lothian.

For ease of exemplification let’s say that every senior student in East Lothian currently carries a nominal “value” to the school of £3000. Before the commencement of an academic session students would select their “learning programmes” from a wide variety of courses and opportunities ranging from their own school’s traditional senior school curriculum or other learning opportunities which may be available outwith their own school. The system I have in mind is that the funding would follow the student. In such a scenario some students may select to study a distance learning programme with a university which carries an SCQF credit equivalent to HNC, Higher or Advanced Higher – the payment of such courses would directly follow the student and be credited to the relevant organisation delivering the learning.  Most  students would choose to continue to study courses at their own school and the funding would remain within that establishment.

Of course there would be some real concerns that schools might see a drain of funding from their own school as students choose to study elsewhere.  However, one of the benefits from such a scheme is that it would incentivise schools to co-ordinate their senior courses to allow certain schools to specialise on delivering some programmes which currently are not viable when only recruiting from within their own school.

The last element of this possible scheme is that funding would also take account of student outcomes. I’m not yet sure how we might be able to achieve this but I reckon that a certain proportion of the funding for each student would be linked to educational outcome and would only be released to the organisation claiming the funding on confirmation of outcome, e.g results. 

Over the coming months I’ll be researching and writing about this further but in the meantime I can recommend the following links for those who might be interested in following this up themselves.

Systemhttp://www.sfc.ac.uk/Scottish Funding Council

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/research/pdf_res_notes/rn99-23.pdf funding 1999

http://www.sfc.ac.uk/nmsruntime/saveasdialog.aspx?lID=5032&sID=4189 – grant letter

 http://www.crpe.org/cs/crpe/download/csr_files/pub_sfrp_wrkgrp_oct08.pdf – funding student learning

http://www.crpe.org/cs/crpe/print/csr_docs/home.htm – Redesigning Public Education

Solution Focused Budget Planning

The challenge of providing a high quality education service at a time when expenditure is growing faster than the available budget means that change, in some form, must take place.

There is a tendency in education to always reflect upon such an issue from the moral high-ground and simply state that more money must be forthcoming! As the person who is charged with responsibility for a budget of nearly £85 million to deliver education and children’s services for 15,000 children in East Lothian it’s a topic which is constantly at the forefront of my mind.

One of the key factors in managing such a budget is to ensure that everything is absolutely transparent. In East Lothian we have spent a huge amount of time and effort in “opening up” our books – there are no black holes, no smoke or mirrors, no hidden funds. What you see is what we get. When such information is treated as confidential it only goes to feed the suspicion that some groups are being treated more favourably than others.  When everyone can see the entire “pot” it becomes very clear that an increase in one area in education must be subsidised from another area within education.

It was with this in mind that we had our first meeting of a Strategic Finance Group for Education. The group has union representatives from  the EIS, HAS, AHDS, Unison, SSSTA; three parent representatives from East Lothian Parents’ Councils; three senior elected members; three members of the Education Department management team (including me); and a Finance Department Representative. I had hoped to get a couple of pupil representatives – but perhaps next time.

The group spent all morning reviewing the available budget for the coming two years (2009-2010/2010-2011); identifying and discussing possible areas where savings could be made; and planning for our next meeting.  The traditional approach to this process is for management to sit in a darkened room – consider the options, present these options to the administration and then implement them across the authority. This alternative approach turns this on its head by involving the stakeholders at the outset of the process and ensuring that there are no sacred cows such as central services which cannot be offered up for savings. The meeting was exceptionally enlightening as we approached each suggestion with true professionalism and objectivity. As stated earlier we have to make savings if we are to work within our available budget – the challenge is where these savings might be made. By involving those who are closest to the “chalk-face” we begin to build up a picture of how we might work together to ensure that any negative impact upon children is minimised.

The ideas which flowed from the meeting will be followed up over the next three months by firstly identifying the amount of money that can be saved by each option and an associated impact assessment for each option.  When we reconvene after the summer we will have produced a list with quantitative and qualitative impacts – this list will then be further considered by the group to identify preferences and recommendations which can then be considered by the administration. The bottom-line -as I reinforced yesterday – is that nothing is off the table in terms of making savings.

One of the key points to emerge was that the process is not as simple as it might seem.  Although some areas seem ripe for savings the knock-on impact they have beyond the immediately obvious makes it all the more important that the stakeholders present on the group have an opportunity to have their say.

Delivering a public service


It’s that time of year when the consequences of trying to deliver our service within the available budget require difficult decisions to be made.

Maybe I’m just kidding myself but I still believe passionately in the value of education, that teaching and learning is at the core of what we do, and that caring for kids comes first, last and always.  Yet the responsibilities of the job mean that people see me as the person who applies formulae and budget limits without reference to the needs of their particular school. “Surely he can’t care about kids if he’s not going to give us x”.

I received a letter from a teacher this week which kind of encapsulated this when the teacher described how they were going to withdraw from all authority work because of the efficiency savings we are implementing. The argument basically ran along the lines that my integrity must be called into question if I was prepared to implement the required savings. This is a great shame because this particular teacher has a huge amount to offer their colleagues throughout the authority. 

Criticism like this hurts.  We all like to be popular.  Nobody likes to be charicatured as the unbending bureaucrat who will implement policy without reference to people’s feelings or needs.

I try – not always successfully – to rationalise this by telling myself that my key role in such circumstances is to treat people and schools with equity and respect.  We have a duty to the public to deliver a high quality service within the resources available. No one in East Lothian would pat me on the back a year from now if we had an overspend of £3 million. I’ve seen the consequences of such overspends at first hand and believe me – I’d rather suffer the slings and arrows over the managed savings we are implementing this year, than see all the gains we have made in East Lothian education over the last decade decimated by a budget crisis a year from now.

That Was The Week That Was


No posts for over a week but life has been something of a blur.

I’m probably earning my corn at the moment with some major challenges facing us in relation to efficiency savings having to be made in the education budget.  Every meeting and piece of correspondence seems to be connected to this issue and I’ve got 100 letters on my desk from concerned parents of a primary school.  One of the things which helps me to remain focused on the needs of children are my visits to schools and I was glad I made time to get out to Prestonpans Primary School.

I’m  very lucky to be working with such professional people, in the form of staff in the centre and headteachers out in the schools. One of the things we have benefited from in the last 18 months has been our attempt to move to a totally transparent system in relation to budgets.  People now understand how much we have in our budget, where it goes and how it’s all connected.  In systems which are less transparent it’s possible for people to think that there are secret pots held within the centre which can be used at my discretion.  Through our Finance Advisory and Scrutiny Group we have established the fact that the budget is a single pot, or as I sometimes say “the pot is the pot” i.e. if someone in the system is to get more money then someone else has to get less – the pot does not expand.

In addition to budget issues I was out at three evening meetings with parents in the last week.  Tuesday was our first cluster meeting with Parents’ Council Reps from the Tranent area – the other areas will be covered in the next five weeks.  These meetings prove exceptionally useful and although a lot of the time was spent on budget matters we did get the chance to explore the idea of parents as customers – hopefully this is a theme which we can explore in the other meetings.

On Wednesday I was at a public meeting in Dunbar to share information about the new primary school provision.  The meeting was very positive and I think the parents and the community appreciated seeing some of the details we have been working on.  Having worked very hard to develop our communication strategy in relation to this matter it was good to see it starting to bear fruit.

On Thursday I went to speak to the Haddington Infant School Parents’ Council to brief them on the long leet interviews for the vacant headteacher post. We now involve a parent on the long leet panel as part of our response to the Parental Involvement Act and I think it’s made a really positive difference. We have chosen three excellent candidates to progress through to the short leet process.

Lastly, I have decided to apply for the Acting Director of Education and Children’s Services post. I was delighted for Alan Blackie, my boss, colleague and mentor when he was recently appointed as Chief Executive of East Lothian Council, although he will be a great loss to all of us involved in education and children’s services he will really make an impact on all services in East Lothian..  The job will be for two months in the first instance, as the administration want consider the possibility of new structures.  If I was fortunate enough to be appointed it would give me a chance to see if I enjoyed that broader role and also allow the administration to see if I could actually do the job.  Given that I acted up in my present post for the first year I’m not uncomfortable with that possibility.

Efficiency savings

The concordat agreed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Government sets out how funding and outcome agreements will operate over the next three years.

The document is worth reading on a number of counts but it’s the section relating to efficiency savings that perhaps sets out the greatest challenge for education.

The text reads as follows: 

For the period 2008-09 to 2010-11, the level of efficiency savings which all parts of the public sector will be expected to meet has been set at 2 per cent per annum. Under the partnership offer, local authorities will be allowed to retain all of these, to re-deploy against ongoing pressures and address local priorities. This represents special treatment for local government. All other parts of the public sector will have an element of their efficiency savings deducted at source.

When combined with the impact of removing ring-fenced funding streams, retaining efficiency savings will give authorities significant scope to re-deploy their resources to meet many of the funding pressures they will face over the next three years.

So at least 6% savings over a three year period.  At first glance it looks a reasonable deal for education but the reality is that there is no guarantee that efficiency savings made in education will remain there, although they may be spent elsewhere within the authority depending upon need.

We had a meeting of our Finance Advisory and Scrutiny Group on Friday and the challenges facing education in East Lothian will no doubt be replicated in the rest of Scotland to a greater or lesser extent.

The key role for all leaders in education is to ensure that we maintain our focus upon improving our service at a time when our budgets may be reducing – easier to say than to do – but an obligation nevertheless.

Local Outcome Agreements


We are about to enter a brave new world in relation to local governn ment funding with the introduction of Local Outcome Agreements (LOAs). An LOA changes the way in which money is released to Local Authorities by the Scottish Government and has the potential to radically shift the way in which we do our business.

Up to this point in time the focus has been on inputs to the system and linking money to particular national initiatives. For example in education we would receive money for developments such as Healthy Eating, or Study Support.  This money was “ring-fenced” i.e. it had to be spent in these areas and as long as it went to that budget heading the government were happy (within reason).

The idea behind Local Outcome Agreements is that funding is less tightly connected to particular initiatives leaving the local authority with more flexibility to meet local needs and circumstances. What will be specified will be the outcome that the authority agree to focus upon, e.g to raise the academic attainment for the lowest attaining 20% –  how this is achieved will be up the authority with less interference from national governement – or so the theory goes.

The following is essentially a worked example. An LOA includes three elements – Outcomes; Outputs and Baselines. The examples included:

outcomes such as ‘a reduction in the number of crimes committed by ..% from x to y
by 2003/04’;

outputs such as ‘deployment of .. neighbourhood wardens in A, B and C’ and

baseline ‘The number of crimes committed in 2006 was x in AA community. The
target is to reduce the number of crimes by 5% to x-5% in AA by 2007/08. Source:
police/local crime surveys’.

The report sets out the following advantages and disadvantages of Local Outcome Agreements:

• Local ownership – priorities are set by partners and communities to reflect local
issues within a broad national framework.
• The shift in policy focus to outcomes and impacts – the LOA format makes partners
think about impact rather than just delivery and challenges them to consider what
approach to delivery is the most appropriate.
• Flexibility – the emphasis on outcomes rather than outputs allows partners flexibility
in programme delivery – a positive feature, particularly from the standpoint of
community involvement as the services and projects are not pre-determined.
• Clarity – LOAs provide a clear statement of priorities and aims.
• Accountability – there is a transparency about LOA partners and what they aim to
achieve. This allows the LOA to act as a reference document for the public and other
• Partnership – the general view was that the process of drawing up a LOA had helped
to engage community planning partners.
• Evidence – emphasis on outcomes means that LOAs have the potential to provide inbuilt
monitoring and evaluation and thus provide an evidence base for future policy
• The challenge of programme design – designing a programme with appropriate
performance indicators, in consultation with local people, is challenging.
• Consultation issues – for some Pathfinders the level of community consultation
involved in LOAs was excessive while for others not enough time had been allowed.
• Time limited – despite the greater flexibility of payment through Revenue Support
Grant (RSG), LOAs are still constrained by the difficulties of a time limited programme e.g. the difficulty of attracting and retaining staff for a temporary initiative.
• Conflict – for a few Pathfinders the use of LOAs led to a deterioration of their
relationship with the Executive. Other Councils felt that the Executive had been
flexible and understanding.

Education perhaps faces the greatest challenge in this new system as we had a large number of ring-fenced funding streams whcih went directly to support educational services in the authority. These funds will no longer be protected and it will be up to local authorities to prioritise where their money is spent – which of course means that there would be no guarantee that what previously came to education will necessarily come to them in the future.

On the up side we can have more flexibility to focus on outcomes as opposed to having to “do” things a certain way.  It would seem logical that this model is cascaded out to schools , where the school development plan would form a a Local Outcome Agreement with the authority with schools being much more at liberty to decide how they achieve that outcome. Of course the challenge would remain to try to keep some consistency between schools, although I think I would be happy enough to see consistency between schools wiythin a particular cluster.

The concern for schools will be the ability to becnhmark between authorties will become nigh impossible as they each identify separate agreements with the government based on local needs.

We’ll be getting more information over the next few weeks and I will endeavour to update this log as means of trying to make sense of it for myself.

A brave new world indeed!


Public Service

It’s accepted practice to give anyone who works for local authorities abuse and criticism.

The picture of petty bureaucrats and people who are not good enough to get jobs in the “real world” is rarely challenged.

When I met recently with David Spilsbury, our Head of Corporate Finance, to discuss issues relating to the education budget I asked him why he did his job – given the amount of stick it generates.  David’s answer was disarmingly simple and sincere – he is committed to the notion of public service. I think this is actually more common than people might imagine and runs through the core of the majority of people with whom I work, and with whom I come into contact during my day-to-day work.

David agreed to come out to a school with me today to look at how his work in managing the council’s finances is translated into public service at the sharp end. We both really enjoyed our time at Preston Lodge and I hope it helped him to understand the challenges we face in education whilst we were also able to gain an insight into the many competing demands for a limited council budget.

I will certainly challenge anyone in the future who casually lobs a criticism the way of our finance colleagues without trying to see the bigger picture.