The lighter side of local government and the fruit cocktail made at the LGC Summit
LGC was honoured to introduce Labour’s former spokesman on local government, David Blunkett, as its afterdinner speaker at the annual LGC Summit last week.
Mr Blunkett regaled guests with anecdotes and observations about the sector, including Barnet LBC branding itself “EasyBorough” to underline the no-frills approach it intends to adopt towards services with residents paying top-up fees for perks.
After bringing up the now-legendary comparison by Katherine Kerswell of her council, Northamptonshire CC, to a strawberry, he mused that perhaps Barnet could be a gooseberry. Or perhaps a kiwi fruit… if you paid a little more.
The groans prompted the former home secretary to quip that this was the first time he’d used the joke and it might also be the last.
Conversation round the wine cooler at the LGC Summit inevitably drifted towards which council caused its officers most pain by holding meetings that drag on into the night.
One London borough in particular, which shall remain nameless, was highlighted for its gruelling debating sessions.
Officers staggering into the night with bloodshot eyes must wish there was a single magic word which would cause councillors to wrap matters up after, say, a brisk two-hour debate rather than a four-and-a half hour marathon.
And there is – it is “Arsenal”. Try it and see.
It’s up to you
Delegates at the LGC Summit had the benefit of taking part in the usual high-level policy debate.
But there was an interesting vignette during a debate about personal budgets in adult social care. One chief executive recounted a tale whereby his authority had received a request from a quadriplegic resident who wanted to use his personal budget to travel to Amsterdam to visit a prostitute. What should councils’ policy on such a request be?
Never short of an innovative solution, the room came to the considered view that the council could pay for the air fare, but the sex would have to be on him.
Proof that politician bashing is still in vogue arrived when it emerged that rubbish had been dumped on the doorstep of Leeds City Council leader Richard Brett (Lib Dem). The incident came as the council’s street scene teams were striking over pay.
Diary couldn’t help but notice that the incident seems to imply that the long arm of the law wasn’t, on this occasion, quite long enough. A group of coppers were actually inside Cllr Brett’s house investigating a threatening message left on his answer phone when the special delivery was made.
West Yorkshire Police might have the last laugh after making six arrests.
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