Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

Read more on this

Read more on this

An insight into the work of a councillor

by Ian Shires on 12 April, 2017

Over time many people have asked for an insight into the kind of things that councillors do in the course of their work on the council.

The scope of what we do is wide and varied depending on whether or not you are part of the controlling group or in Walsall’s case, (as there is a Labour/Liberal Democrat Coalition currently in power) controlling groups, or part of the opposition. And let’s not forget the all important work done by councillors within their communities.

Because the work is so varied it’s difficult to put down on paper exactly what the work entails. However this week an opportunity presented itself to at least give you an insight into one aspect of the work.

Currently I am a member of the Cabinet on Walsall Council. My responsibilities are specifically to do with transformation and change as the Council adapts to a reduced number of staff and has to find different ways of working to deliver services. The Council met in full session this week, all sixty members, and I had to present a report outlining the work that my Portfolio had been involved in since taking office back in May last year. I thought it might be useful for me to share what I said at the meeting.

“In order to give some clarity as to what is the meaning of the phrase “Change Agenda” in the context of this Portfolio, Change covers any change activity internally and externally so that the relationship with the public, how we as a Council engage with them and how we deliver services to them is within the remit of the Portfolio.

The focus for this year has centred around delivering the foundations for future success of change within the Authority.  These key foundations are:

  • A four-year financial plan.
  • Embedding of the Marmot principles:-

    ‘Fair Society Healthy Lives’ (The Marmot Review) – IHE

  • A cohesion strategy that looks both internally and externally.
  • Meaningful dialogue with our communities.
  • The transformation programme which is designed to have an effect across all of our services.

The four-year financial plan moves this Council away from the short-termism that has dogged different administrations for years.  Decisions can now be made within a long-term framework giving more time and space for the strategic thinking that is needed to effect the changes needed to make us fit for purpose in an age of austerity

The Marmot principles are now an integral part of cabinet reports ensuring that we as a Council aim to:-

  • Give every child the best start in life
  • Enable all children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives
  • Create fair employment and good work for all
  • Ensure a healthy standard of living for all
  • Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities
  • Strengthen the role and impact of ill-health prevention

These principles are not tokenistic but are now embedded in the Council’s DNA.

Walsall has a diverse population and this administration is determined to work towards a truly cohesive society in which we should be giving a lead with a workforce that truly represents the communities it serves.

We must develop a meaningful dialogue with our communities one which promotes good engagement with our residents, the business and voluntary sectors and our neighbours.

One of the many difficult decisions that this administration has had to make in the Budget process leading to the four-year financial plan has been  the need to close a number of our smaller libraries.

Having gone through the pain of doing this it is therefore all the more important that we work together in order to utilise, where possible, that library space for the good of our communities. This will be a major piece of work in the first part of the new council year.

Each space is unique and will have different issues to overcome.  The Council will approach each one differently, applying the Marmot principles in its efforts in finding solutions and ensuring the communities affected are involved.

The administration is on the verge of endorsing a four-area geographical footprint, along with the elements required to affect a delivery model at a local level.  We have been engaging with our partners through the Walsall Strategic Partnership Group and the Borough Management Team and will be looking to progress this work over the coming months.

Linking our communities with the activities of the emerging West Midlands Combined Authority through democratic decision making and influence will be a major challenge.  One aspect of this will be the role of the Overview and Scrutiny function and how this operates across the region in reviewing key decisions of the Metro Mayor and the Combined Authority, assisting as it will in the development of regional policies.

Moving on to the refreshed Corporate Plan which was approved at Council on 23 February this year, during the drafting and approval process it was recognised that strategies needed to be further developed to ensure the Council has the appropriate infrastructure to deliver the commitments detailed in the Corporate Plan. The Strategies identified as supporting the Corporate Plan are listed in my report and consist of

  1. ICT Strategy
  2. Workforce Development Strategy
  3. Asset Management Strategy
  4. Medium Term Financial Strategy
  5. Communications Strategy

It has been recognised that the priorities within the Corporate Plan relate to the Walsall Plan which is the Health and Well Being Strategy as they are both based on the needs analysis intelligence for the borough.

Over the last 6 months a significant amount of work has been carried out to develop a 4-year medium term financial plan. This has allowed the organisation to move its planning focus to a longer-term approach around specifically planning change and transformation.

At the moment, current thinking is that the programme will include themes which will support the corporate plan:

  • Getting our workforce ready for the future and ensuring they have the right skills going forward.
  • We need to look to ensure that we are communicating in the most effective way possible.
  • We need to be reviewing our property portfolio.
  • We need to be looking at what data and intelligence we have available to us, and how we use this.
  • Our voluntary and community sector will need to play key parts in helping to provide services as the Council continues to shrink due to centrist policies of the May Government.
  • We need to decide how best we ensure that our policies and procedures across the council drive the “Health for all” agenda.

The transformation programme will look at 2 service areas in particular, those being how we manage demand in adults, and how we can safely reduce numbers and associated costs relating to looked after children.

These themes are likely to change and evolve as time goes on, as all good change and transformation programme should.

The transformation and change agenda will improve and modernise our services, in collaboration with our partners, in helping the council achieve all of its priorities as set out in the Corporate Plan.”

A copy of the full report can be accessed here:- 14 – Portfolio report – Agenda for Change

   Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>