Now the real work begins

As expected, Suffolk County Council yesterday gave its final endorsement to the plan to outsource itself (know as the New Strategic Direction but perhaps more accurately described as No Specific Detail).  As reported in today’s East Anglian Daily Times, council leader, Jeremy Pembroke has declared that “there is no blueprint under the table” and that it is too early to “come up with any firm details of how services would be transferred to other providers”.  I am not sure if we are meant to feel reassured by this.  Suffolk County Council has launched itself into the most radical transformation imaginable without a blueprint or having thought through the details.

What this really means, for the Council (obviously) and everyone else with an interest in this is that the real work starts now.  The lack of transparency and consultation has to end.  The maximum amount of scrutiny needs to be brought to bear on what happens next. The East Anglian Daily Times has been doing a very good job exposing the key issues – it needs to keep its’ foot on the pedal.  The Council cannot be allowed to roll-through these changes under cover.  Jeremy Pembroke has declared that “Our intention is to encourage a diverse range of mutuals, co-operatives, social enterprises, charities, community groups, town and parish councils” to deliver Council services.  His toes need to held to the fire on this one.  He needs to define right now exactly what proportion of our money is going to go to these organisations and how much will go to the likes of Serco.  If this intention is genuine, this figure must exist and must be made public.

The whole Big Society project is one shrouded in a mist of non-specific nonsense from the top down.  We need to see through this focus on what actually happens on the ground.

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2 Responses to “Now the real work begins”


  1. 1 Trevor Lockwood December 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Is this really working? As a local radio presenter (Felixstowe Radio) I went with my three County Councillors to see Guenever Penchant and the Head of Libraries.

    We wanted to tell our listeners what was happening.

    The result: Cllr Graham Newman was told by the Standards Office that he could no longer come to our radio studio (he’d come once a month to talk about local issues) as I had expressed an interest in the libraries.

    I questioned that decision and was told that my questions must now be directed at my elected representatives. In effect a gagging order.

    Since then a steering group has been formed to examine the libraries. We have not been told about its formation or purpose.

    My original concern was that a councillor had told me that CEO A Hill had suggested that Costa Coffee may be interested in taking over the management of our 44 libraries.

    * Supporting and strengthening local democracy
    * Enabling and encouraging more responsive and cost effective services, by putting budgets in the hands of individuals and communities.
    * Working with communities, so that they are more able to look after their own needs and to take more control over their lives

    What does that strategy mean? It could mean that senior council officers are ring-fencing their own jobs.

    • 2 richardstacy December 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

      Trevor,

      There are two huge issues with this ‘New Strategic Direction’. The first is the concept that decides that the best way for government to fulfill its responsibilities to its electorate is to sell-off those responsibilities to non-government organisations.

      The second is the way in which SCC is going about this – which appears to be chaotic, lacking in any form of consultation, transparency or even basic plan (the current NSD document is a long way short of my definition of a plan). It is therefore very important that anyone who has visibility on what the Council is doing, as you have through your investigation of the libraries issue, does everything possible to shine a spotlight on what is going on. The conventional media can only do so much and there is much more that can be done through the processes of digital networking and community building – which is ultimately what I am trying to do with this blog.

      Keep up the good work.


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