Tag Archives: Awards

Councillors v Postmen

I attended the LGiU’s C’llr Achievement Awards last night. A small event to celebrate the winners (and nominees) of a series of awards recognising their service to their local communities.

A few quotes from the night stuck with me:

  • Andy Sawford, the Chief Executive of the LGiU observed that being a councillor is “the highest form of community service.
  • Caroline Flint, former Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government commented that councillors are special in being “ordinary enough to be representative, but extraordinary enough to be representatives.” (Confession, she actually said that at last year’s awards, but it’s a fine bit of rhetoric that deserves repeating.)
  • Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government, and a former councillor himself, celebrated that “councillors come with a passion to make a difference to their community.
  • And finally, although not at last night’s event, the RSA in their report Connected Communities (PDF) state: “more people recognise and find value in their postman than their local councillor.

The RSA’s report is quite old (it was published in 2010, although I’d not come across it until someone mentioned it to me recently) and I mention it because it is, sadly true. Yet the evidence of last night’s winners shows how much difference councillors can and do make to their communities.

This is not to belittle councillors or postmen – both have their roles – but instead to express a little sadness at the way society views or, more accurately, generally ignores those that undertake public service.

You need only take a moment to think about the huge amount of influence local councillors have over a local area, from keeping the streets clean and parks pleasant, to educating the young and looking after the elderly, it is local councillors who have the biggest direct impact on your local area.

But it often seems that they are overlooked, unless there’s something negative to say about them. And when it comes to electing a local council it’s often what’s happening in Whitehall not the Town Hall that determines people’s votes.

I know full well that, as a country, we give too much weight to the views of the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Daily Mail. I stood for election knowing that, so can’t complain. But I do wish we sometimes paid a little more attention to the positives, like the very worthy winners of last night’s awards. Congratulations to them all.

Roehampton: SNT of the year

Last night I went to the awarding of the Safer Neighbourhood Team of the year award. I was a member of the judging panel and have to say it was a hard choice, with Roehampton just pipping Fairfield to the title. Building on their special award at last year’s Enterprising Roehampton awards.

Both teams received many nominations from every part of the communities they serve, and this, I think, shows the strength of SNTs lies very much in their ability to build relationships in their areas.

Some of the nominations reflect this:

  • “The SNT are visible, clued up, approachable and able to relate to the local community.” (Local resident)
  • “They are like family … watching over us making sure we don’t get hurt.” (11 year old resident)
  • They “successfully build bridges with the local community with their friendly but no nonsense attitude.” (local business)
  • “The most amazing thing is the follow up care. In this day and age people often forget the long term effects on a person of a crime but the Roehampton team provide over and above support.” (local GP surgery)
  • “Their ability to raise students’ awareness of personal safety issues and social responsibility within a vibrant and established community has had nothing but positive impacts in Roehampton.” (Roehampton Students Union)
  • “I like the police here you can always talk to them about anything without getting into trouble” (10 year old resident)

Weekly wrap-up, 22 January

I seem to have stopped taking photos this year – so the cup of tea is getting a few outings – not that photos of meetings or a fairly damp and dreary London are any more exciting.

Councillor Awards
I started the week off acting as a judge for the Local Government Information Unit’s first national councillor awards. While I’ve judged a few things in Wandsworth (most recenty the SNT award) this is the first time I’ve been part of a national award’s judging panel.

It was certainly a fascinating, and humbling, experience – and a real privilege to be asked. Seeing what councillors and local government around the country are achieving was an inspiration.

While the winners aren’t announced for a few weeks (they all find out at a conference at the Emirates next month) I can, of course, start acting on that inspiration.

Wandsworth LSP
The Local Strategic Partnership is one of those bodies that exist in every local authority that no-one actually knows about.

The name gives away what it is (or should be) it’s a high level partnership of everyone involved in the local area – the council is an obvious member, but they are joined by the police, local health service, local businesses and charities to help set the overall direction of the area. The partnership in Wandsworth works remarkably well, and has certainly improved enormously since I first joined (that is a function of a change in the partners around the table, rather than my joining).

One interesting point that came up (I think from one of the health service representatives) was the amount of work we can create for local businesses when tendering contracts.

Until fairly recently it would have been illegal to consider bids on anything but price and quality, though this has relaxed recently, but is an issue that I’ve been looking at over the years. One thing I wouldn’t want to do is start putting a price on location. Is being Wandsworth based worth a £1,000 or £10,000? And what happens if a company moved mid-contract?

The key problem, though, is that Wandsworth is predominantly a small business economy and the public sector is forced to be quite restrictive. For example, we require significant financial guarantees and will look through a company’s accounts to ensure the public money we are spending is at as little risk as possible. These have certainly deterred businesses in the past and often a small company just won’t have been in existence long enough to meet these requirements.

But we can improve access for local businesses by advertising the opportunities and providing advice on how to bid and this is something we are starting to improve. We have long been accessible to local businesses (through things like the Wandsworth Business Forum, the next one being on Monday) and are always willing to advise and help a business compete for our contracts.

Nine Elms Opportunity Board
My last meeting of the week was the Nine Elms Opportunity Board. Now that the area is finally starting to develop this is becoming an exciting meeting again (for years its meetings seemed to be just to discuss what wasn’t happening).

The body was initially formed to try and maximise the benefits to local residents of the development of the Power Station site and the report from Job Centre Plus was interesting. Yesterday I highlighted the small drop in Wandsworth’s JSA claims, but apparently the movement in the market is considerably higher than this time last year. So while there were only a few job vacancies being reported at the beginning to 2009 there are plenty being reported and filled this year. Perhaps we can start being a little more confident about the end of the recession.

Weekly wrap-up, 27 November

Canary Wharf from Westfield Stratford

Canary Wharf from top of the Westfield building site

Campaigning
I’m not sure why but it seems like campaigning seems to be taking up more and more time, although looking through the diary we’ve been keeping up a fairly stiff pace through the summer months. It is perhaps the onset of darker and considerably colder nights makes an evening on the doorstep seem a lot less appealing than it did in the summer months. Or it might be that the elections are starting to seem a little more real now that other candidates are falling into place – I’ve heard Martin Linton’s wife, Sara Apps-Linton, is standing as a council candidate in Shaftesbury – whether the story is accurate or not there is no doubt that we are definitely heading into election territory. If you don’t like elections and politics it might be an idea to book a long holiday!

SNT awards
Awards of one form or another have formed a large part of this week. I was one of the judging panel for the first Safer Neighbourhood Team awards this week, responsible for sifting through the hundreds of nominations made by members of the public, businesses, charities, pubs, councillors and children who all thought they had the borough’s best SNT.

At the risk of using cliché it was not an easy decision. I think the result changed several times during the discussions before the winner was finally decided. And while I’m not going to name the winner here, it says a lot that there is such support and recognition in the borough for the work of the SNTs.

CSD awards
I also attended a little session to recognise the awards that the council’s Community Safety Division have received over the past few weeks. I have often said how privileged I have been to work with some excellent council officers from all parts of my portfolio, but it’s always good to see their good work recognised externally. Since October Community Safety officers have been part of the team winning the London Region Tilley Award (a Home Office prize awarded annually) received a commendation from Ron Dobson, the London Fire Commissioner, (I understand this is the first time council staff have received such recognition) and also received commendations from Stewart Low, the Wandsworth police borough commander, for their community safety work.

That they are an award winning department is no surprise to me, and I’m incredibly proud of all that they have done for the borough.

Westfield Stratford City
While not directly related to the borough I took up an invitation to have a look around the Westfield Stratford City site this week. It is a truly massive project and (I am happy to admit) one that I hope I will never visit when finished! But however much I dislike shopping I cannot deny the regeneration benefits it will have for Newham, creating enormous employment opportunities for the area and fitting into the wider regeneration through the Olympics. Of course, a retail-led regeneration of that scale is not directly suitable for Wandsworth, not least because it would undermine the council’s five town centre strategy. But it is a example of what can be achieved between the private and public sector and while the parallels are not direct gives an indication of the sort of benefits might accrue to local residents as development begins in Nine Elms.

As an aside, it also offered an excellent view of the Olympic venues. Several are visible from the upper areas of the Westfield building site, and while the media (I think) tends to portray a negative image but when you see them you realise that they are very close to completion and that the Olympics are not very far away at all.

Housing ASB conference
Finally, I spent his morning at a conference on Anti-Social Behaviour organised by the council’s housing department. Wandsworth’s housing department is very strong when it comes to dealing with ASB from its tenants, but it is something that continues to blight many people’s lives. One aspect is understanding, a resident in a working group I took part in commented that, very often, people felt intimidated when there was no ill-will meant and sometimes a group of teenagers is just a group of teenages and not a knife-weilding gang!

It is a point we often lose sight of and I was talking to a Shaftesbury resident this afternoon about much the same subject. While the council and partners need to be (and are) tough on crime and anti-social behaviour we need to ensure that in doing so we do not criminalise and marginalise a generation just for doing what teenagers have always done – meet friends and hang about.

Enterprising Roehampton Awards

ERA 2009

Last night I attended the Enterprising Roehampton awards at Roehampton University.

During my comments at the beginning of the awards I reflected that it hasn’t been a good year. We are the longest recession on record and while Wandsworth may be escaping the very worst effects we’ve still see unemployment rise significantly. Most disappointing was that the planned regeneration scheme became unviable as the length and depth of the recession took its toll on partners. (Although one benefit has been the level of support the scheme has since received.)

However, dark clouds always have silver linings. And in the case of Roehampton many were at the ceremony to receive awards. It is the small businesses and individuals who create the jobs and ad opportunities that, collectively, will pull us out of recession and help towards the longer term regeneration of Roehampton, whatever form that takes.

This is the third year of the awards, which are nominated by the public and seek to give recognition to those people and businesses that make a difference to the area. Congratulations to all the recipients.

The winners were:

The award winners are moved into place for their photo

The award winners are moved into place for their photo

Best Customer Service

  • Carol Hale, Co-op Pharmacy
  • Heanens Butchers
  • Dave Lennon, The Angel

Catering

  • Sean Darvishi, The Right Plaice
  • Roehampton Village Cafe
  • Ginger & Garlic

Community

  • Alan Housden, Chairman of Alton Playgroup
  • Hari & Marie Thakker, Roehampton Post Office
  • Geoffrey Bodker, Roehampton Business Forum

Education

  • Andy Smith & Simon Gale, Regenerate
  • Mark Evans, Extended Schools, Roehampton and Putney
  • Sue Goble, Kairos Centre

Environment

  • Dr Jonathan Horner, Roehampton University
  • Tessa Willy, Roehampton University Eco-champion
  • Roehampton Village Cafe

Sport and Well-being

  • Emma Roberts & Fiona Riley, The Roehampton Rascals Cheerleaders
  • Dennis Booth, Roehampton Football Academy
  • Eddie Leroux, Doverhouse Lions

Young Entrepreneur

  • Craig Baxter, A3 Carpets
  • Wayne Baxter, Baxter’s Windows and Doors
  • Hayden Harbud, Heanens Butchers

Special Recognition

  • Richard Bleckman, Chairman of Roehampton Business Forum
  • Jim McKinney, Holy Trinity Church
  • Police Sergeant Mark McLeavery, PC Andy Voong, PC John Frame, PCSO Nicky Edwardes, PCSO Marco Serrano, PCSO Noel Perkins, PCSO Fuad Osman, PCSO Lisa Burke & PCSO Richard Ahronson, The Roehampton Safer Neighbourhood Team

Wandsworth Volunteer Awards

Last night I attended the celebration of volunteering the council held to say thank-you to the many people in the borough who give their time to help others.  It was an inspirational event not least because it powerfully illustrated that there is still a strong sense of community and selflessness in the borough.

volunteerawardsth There were 140 nominations for awards, which barely scrapes the surface of the amount of volunteering that takes place – apparently the volunteering ‘economy’ is worth over £20 million a year in Wandsworth, and that’s assuming a minimum wage payment to the volunteers we know about.

I found myself as a standing for the second time in a week, presenting the award of volunteer of the year to Kitty Gilbert.  I lost count of the number of places she volunteers, giving her time to help with reading.  It was a real delight to see her enthusiasm and joy at winning.

Congratulations must go to the council’s economic development office and Wandsworth Voluntary Sector Development Agency, (who can provide information on volunteering opportunities in the borough) for organising such a great night.  But the biggest congratulations and thanks have to be to all the people volunteering throughout Wandsworth.