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LGC-LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Follow the leader ...
Follow the leader
As I made clear in my speech to the Local Government Association assembly last week, Conservative pressure for a more assertive LGA is not new (LGC, 6 July).
Members look to the association to fight the tide of increasing interference from central government.
We have been supported in this by the LGA's perceptions audit. I am pleased it has responded to this and is doing more to stress the strengths and achievements of local government.
The arrival of a new ministerial team provides the association with an opportunity to make some gains on behalf of its members. This is why I am keen for the LGA to make a positive approach to the government on behalf of their members.
Gordon Keymer
Leader, Conservative group,
Local Government Association
A secret success
Your article on the best value inspection of Bedfordshire CC's strategic partnership with Hyder sheds light on one of the public sector's best kept secrets - local government is good at public/private partnerships.
Strategic partnerships such as those in Bedfordshire CC and Liverpool City Council can take up to two years to deliver. But isn't that to be expected from very large, complex projects?
The early partnership evangelists often overlooked practical difficulties. Now there are 161 projects in procurement and over 30 are operational. Despite this there is insufficient data to examine.
While the Institute for Public Policy Research's report on partnerships recognised the paucity of data it failed to notice the 11 successful schools private finance initiative projects.
Best value is predicated on the recognition that councils' performance varies. So why should we be surprised that some councils are better than others in procuring partnerships? Surely our task must be to learn from the best and support the rest ?
Peter Fanning
Chief executive, 4Ps
Profit or principle?
Plans to give private companies a controlling share of places on school governing bodies is privatisation by stealth. By side-stepping the protection afforded to public service workers whose employment is transferred to the private sector this move is even more sinister than straightforward privatisation.
It is alien for teachers to work in an environment where their efforts are directed at maximising profits instead of being focused on their pupils' needs.
We have seen from their involvement in Education Action Zones that minimal private sector support has benefited for those same private companies.
Teachers are committed to serving the public. This ethos cannot be replicated within 'for profit' companies.
Doug McAvoy
General secretary, National Union of Teachers
Safe and sound
Peter Hoyle's article on security (LGC, 29 June) pointed out the value of schools having security strategies which involve staff, pupils and the local community.
This sort of approach is better than just spending money on security products. But a partnership approach can only be successful if it embraces the most effective solutions for each specific case.
Milton Keynes Council addressed a threat to their schools' computer departments by installing a device usually linked to alarm systems in banks.
The device fills the area with dense smoke, making it impossible for thieves to operate. Milton Keynes has since seen a dramatic reduction in school burglary.
Simple measures, such as the repair of minor damage and the disposal of combustible waste, are effective and can be ideal ways to involve the community.
Kay Burgess
Press officer, British Security Industry Association
Driving best value
I was disappointed by some of the negative approaches to best value in evidence at last week's Local Government Association Conference in Harrogate.
In Newham we have used best value as the key driver to improve performance in focus areas. We know there are pitfalls that can mean best value becomes process rather than outcome driven.
As a best value pilot council we have the experience to address these issues. We have learned the lessons from some of our early reviews.
The key task continues to be making best value the central focus of all staff. If it is seen as an imposed bureaucratic process, the people who deliver improvement do not own it and it
will fail.
As long as local government uses best value for what it is - a driver for change and improvement - it will continue to be the means by which we can deliver and demonstrate our worth to the public. This is the message we should make sure the government hears - it is more important to our success than some of the complacency evident last week.
cllr robin wales (Lab)
Leader, Newham LBC
Nothing is so easily parted
You may be right that few people can remember the Local Government Association's six commitments now (LGC, 6 July).
But I bet you a year's subscription to First that in twelve months time you can't find anyone who doesn't.
Phil Swann
Director of communications,
Local Government Association
Talking it over
Your article on Newham LBC's failure to talk to Unison (LGC, 6 July) is incorrect.
Newham is in close contact with Unison, trying to resolve the situation for the benefit of all of our staff and service users. To say otherwise is misleading and potentially damaging.
We believe an agreement can be found which will be in the interests of all parties concerned. In the meantime I would like to thank the majority of our staff who worked as usual on the day of the strike. Thanks to them our services to vulnerable people were not disrupted.
Kathryn Hudson
Director of social services, Newham LBC
In harmony with Unison
So Essex County Council is the first to implement single status in full this month (LGC, 1 June)?
Not so. Those peering out of Eurostar windows, as they whiz past may not initially appreciate that we in the Garden of England have also been busy.
In full partnership with our local branch of Unison, we implemented single status for our former manual colleagues last year and applied the revised national conditions to all council staff with effect from 20 April this year.
We uniquely funded this cost by top-slicing last year's pay award for all staff, costing the taxpayer not one extra penny and demonstrating the true power of partnership between the council, its staff and Unison.
This shows what can be achieved when partners share the same fundamental objectives - prime minister and public sector union leaders take note.
Stuart Allen
Head of personnel and development and
assistant chief executive, Maidstone BC
Lower aspirations
Has anyone thought about what has happened to career progression/
aspiration in local government?
With modernisation, the professional chief officer is no more. Strategic directors have none of their former input and service heads are so tied up with best value they cannot be involved in the day-to-day workings.
The consequence of this is that the team leader level is probably the best most professionals can now aspire to.
We all know local government pay has slipped behind the rest of the public sector. If the government wants better services, staff should earn a modern rate and all public services treated equally.
Nick Hodgett
Nottingham
Restoration recognised
Carmarthenshire CC will receive recognition later this week for restoration work done to the old Bro Myrddin school in Carmarthen.
The Carmarthen Civic Society's Award will be awarded to the council for the sensitive conversion of the redundant Old Bro Myrddin School historic building.
The building now houses the county council's archives service, a Registry Office, office accommodation for council staff and an emergency call centre.
The programme of works has cost over£1m and several local contractors have been involved with the works with Carmarthenshire CC's operations department doing the majority of works.
This award recognises the work put in by everyone involved.
Cllr David Merriman (Lab)
Cabinet member for corporate development, Carmarthenshire CC
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