November 12, 2014
This month our council launched a major public engagement on the cuts. We’ve called this ‘Cutting our Cloth’ to attract attention to it and we have already had well over 300 responses from the public. The severity of cuts is unprecedented and goes beyond what officers or members of Denbighshire would have wanted.
However, even while this exercise is taking place, the council should celebrate the major, exciting investment in key services to our residents. These include the proposal to spend £4.2m to transform the Nova in Prestatyn and £25m to build a brand new secondary school in Rhyl. The Rhyl new school is no longer an aspiration; it is being built while you read this blog.
You can follow progress on new build and refurbishment projects in our schools in our new blog, which you can read by following this link – http://educationindenbighshire.wordpress.com/
It is a tribute to the creativity of the officers of our council that we are able to manage both a major cuts exercise and a major investment programme simultaneously and with reducing resources. The encouragement and support they receive from our elected members is invaluable and that partnership is the key to our success.
I have spent roughly a quarter of my time this month on the voluntary merger option. I will be presenting a joint Expression of Interest (EOI) to our council in November and recommending that we proceed to the next stage. The same EOI will be presented by Conwy’s CEO to their council on the same day and if our councils agree we will then proceed to develop a detailed Business Case by July 2015.
This month I have attended a number of meetings with staff, and our partners, including Prestatyn Town Council and a meeting of clerks and chairs of the City, Town and Community Councils to discuss and debate the budget cuts. I also hosted a number of slightly more light hearted meetings with new members of staff to hear how they are settling in.
October 7, 2014
This month our council took a decision to start talking to Conwy County Council about the possibility of voluntary merger. This was a major decision for our council and a correct one. Our members have shown that they are willing to consider this option if it can help to protect services to our residents. Whether, when we examine the details of the option, the case for voluntary merger is strong remains to be seen, but it’s right that we seriously consider it.
Researching the issues involved in council mergers is obviously crucial and I was pleased that Nicola Kneale, who is a current member of our HwB, has agreed to work on this with me. The HwB provides an opportunity for people across the organisation to be part of the many exciting and varied activities going on in the council that they may not have the opportunity to participate in within their current role. The commitment from Hwb members use some of their time and in return they will learn new skills and have access to other development opportunities. I have recently heard from the other members of the HwB too and it was great to hear how these colleagues are developing their skills while contributing to important corporate projects. It is proving to be an excellent idea.
I have met with two groups of staff who have been with the council for less than a year. These meetings are really important for me because I hear, directly, from staff who have been here for only a short while and they are happy to share their perceptions of the council and compare their experience with previous employers. They are also a great way of communicating some key messages about expectations – both ways.
My son has secured his first job since graduating this summer. He has a casual (zero hours!) contract as a football analyst and he has just been appointed to a temporary post of salesperson for Harrods’ Toys Department. He also has four ‘clients’ (all school friends I think) who he trains in our garage, which I’m sure you’ll recall is now a super gym!’