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LGC - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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CPA: crude partisan action ...
CPA: crude partisan action

In your report on the departure of Paul Kirby from the Audit Commission (LGC,

13 September), Sir Andrew Foster says the Audit Commission involved the Local Government Association at every stage. I should stress that the Conservative group on the LGA pointed out the flaws in the comprehensive performance assessment process at every stage.

In your list of CPA flaws you did not mention the most important - the attempt to force every council into one of four or five categories with the misleading picture that such crude categorisation would give.

An example of the problem with the CPA process is that the councillor member of an inspection team of one council under single party control could be a member of that party whereas, at another, the councillor inspector could be a member of an opposition party. However worthy those councillors may be, it is difficult to argue that the two authorities have been treated even-handedly.

Gordon Keymer

Conservative group leader, LGA

Filling posts not enough

Unison has welcomed the Employers' Organisation report which shows social services departments are introducing better working conditions. This is only a small step (LGC, 13 September).

The stark reality is that there is still a major recruitment and retention crisis. Until ministers and employers realise they need to give a big boost to social services funding we will always be playing catch-up.

When Unison carried out its own survey of social services staff earlier this year, it showed that even if all the vacant posts in children and family teams were filled, there would still not be enough social workers to manage current caseloads. What is needed is more funding to recruit more staff and to give existing staff better pay.

Owen Davies

Deputy head of local government, Unison

Gritty realism

With reference to the debate on sand pits and germs (LGC, 6 September), perhaps I can offer some advice.

Sand is cheap, so fill up the pit when you intend to use it and empty it afterwards. As we live increasingly in a society where we hardly dare to cross our front doors for fear of being hurt, 'germed' or competitive, I think it is the best solution.

After all, someone may have wiped their runny nose on the bean bag.

Vivienne Aldred

Clerk to Rochester Parish Council

Use the force, Mike

I am pleased that Tameside MBC chief executive Michael Greenwood sees the proposed local government commission on pay and other issues as an important opportunity (LGC, 13 September). Some of his ideas need to be examined in detail by the commission. I am disappointed, though, that he has not been able to get to grips properly with our work on workforce development and diversity.

The Employers' Organisation operates the Local Government National Training Organisation and is leading the fight to convince government of the need for a local government sector skills council. We are taking the leading role in skills development and graduate development, as well as sponsoring training for shortage groups such as educational psychologists and environmental health officers.

We run DIALOG (diversity in action in local government), architects of the equality standard for local government, and produce the training manual for the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. We are working on initiatives to support councils to improve people management and to support the improvement process, including recently establishing an organisational development consortium to promote effective organisational change.

We are consulting on an agenda that sets progressive thinking on pay and conditions in the context of the wider needs of authorities and the communities they serve because we want to make sure that the commission is used as a springboard for improvement. Pay and reward policies need to be modernised to support the organisational changes we all want.

As Michael says, it is difficult to get all councils to move forward on many of the issues that make up this wider agenda at the same pace.

We have to remind ourselves of the need to win the support of our workforce. I agree this will be difficult but we must not shirk. We have to work through whatever mechanisms are available and, certainly, the commission can be one of these.

I am encouraged we are now beginning to get some real debate and look forward to seeing other radical thoughts in your pages over the next few weeks.

Rob Pinkham

Deputy executive director, Employers' Organisation

Sell it on campus

I read with interest the letter from Ian Kavanagh (LGC, 13 September) about recruiting young people into local government, and concur with his views.

Sadly, local government is too often viewed as being the poor relation to the private sector. Most students I meet tell me they aim to work in the private sector because they believe it will offer greater opportunities, salaries and benefits.

I am frequently invited by local colleges in and around Rushmoor to speak to students about opportunities within my profession - leisure services. I take the opportunity enthusiastically to explain about the role which the council plays in the provision and delivery of high-quality services, and the diverse range of job opportunities in the public sector.

I am able to dispel some of the myths and negative impressions which young people have which will of course influence their decision on whether to seek employment with a council.

Rushmoor BC is far from unique in developing partnerships with education providers, but often these are at a strategic level. The importance of developing informal partnerships with teaching staff at all levels is equally important as, from my experience, the teachers and lecturers welcome visits from practitioners. The enquiries and requests for work placements I receive from students after such visits is a positive indication they are considering careers in local government.

I would encourage colleagues, across all professions, to get in touchwith the education providers in their area and promote local government as a provider of

worthwhile careers.

Phil Stoneman

Principal leisure officer, Rushmoor BC

I told you so

Your description of best value as a 'drawn-out shambles' regrettably is most apt (LGC, 13 September). In an article you published on 4 July 1997 I said best value would 'end in tears' if value management was ignored.

While best value and value management share similar principles, the skills, methods and commitments to make best value work were indeed ignored and, for the same reason, the comprehensive performance assessment will end in tears.

The powers that be should take on board how world-class organisations at the leading edge of performance improvement do things.

World-class performance has little to do with inspection but much to do with performance skills and leadership. Whether such a change in thinking is possible given the insular climate at the top and the interests now vested in inspection remains to be seen.

Clive Bone

Senior partner, Bone & Robertson

Visibly bizarre

I think it may have been Jonathan Miller who once rudely suggested that satire died with David Frost. But be not afraid - it lives on in Ealing LBC and the Vale of Glamorgan Council. What else can I say when I feast my eyes on their advertisements for an executive director of learning and ambition and, wait for it, a head of visible services respectively?

I can't wait for the details on the head of invisible services. But enough. I have instructed my butler to cancel my subscription to Private Eye; satire lives and breathes in the LGC.

Michael Conroy

Committee services, Wycombe DC

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