The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers has just polled chiefs to find the five things at the top of their minds. Pay, pensions, job security, being bashed in the media or dissed by politicians were not mentioned.
Bless the altruistic bunch - their top answers, in my words, were: what’s Big Society?; cuts; the effects of cuts; doing things better; and staff capacity and morale. If you add trying to write this column every week, I’m a stereotypical chief executive.
Big Society puzzles me. What is our role? I had dinner last week with an old friend of mine who trains social entrepreneurs. He thought we were part of the problem, not part of the solution.
First, because we are as bad as any part of the state in continuing a dependency culture in the way we deliver services. He thought it was too much in our interests to continue dependency as it protected jobs and meant we didn’t have to change.
Second, we stifle enterprise. If change is to come from communities, they need leaders who can manage the change, ie, social entrepreneurs. My chum had just finished a research project funded by one of the major banks about how you create social entrepreneurs. The research concluded that you can’t.
What you can do is create the conditions that allow them to emerge. Given how we spend our money, procurement rules and how risk averse we are, he argued that we will never have a role in creating such an environment.
Finally, he argued that we were part of the repressive state machinery that will always keep people down.
As you can tell from the last comment my friend is of a leftist persuasion. But his first two points need careful thought. Besides the obvious answer about getting people into decent jobs, can anybody provide me with examples of where we have put ourselves out of work by ending dependency? Are there any chief executives out there willing to risk public funds with some social mavericks?
Answers on a postcard, please.
The one thing he won’t comment on is his identity…