Monday, 16 January 2012


A great day in Surrey; although in fact it wasn't as it was the London Borough of Kingston! I was speaking to the senior managers and directors and members of Surrey County Council at one of their lunchtime leadership sessions. And the HQ of Surrey CC is in Kingston. Once, of course a while back that was indeed in Surrey. Indeed my own dear Borough of Lambeth was in Surrey ( hence Surrey county cricket is at the Oval! ) some 100 years ago.

I was talking to a senior group of directors, to managers and members about how the third sector can deliver more services and how partnership working has to be the way forward. A very positive and constructive response. They are interested in taking the debate forward and were particularly keen to talk about the potential for loans to the sector.

Inevitably they raised the need for the sector to get its act together. How we don't cooperate or coordinate and how we sometimes assume we are good simply because we are the voluntary sector.

I had to agree. We sometimes lose good friends and allies locally by bad behaviour. It's why I abhor the sillyness around small v large national v local. It does not help our case in promoting the sector and the work we do with our beneficiaries. And it is no good pretending all we do is always brilliant and that funding streams must continue for ever without change.

We can do so much more with a professional approach and I intend to follow up this lead in Surrey and see ACEVO and the SIB can join forces and promote a greater partnership working.

And then to cap off my local council day it was off to the Lords ( if I spend more time there they will think I am one, Robin !!! )For a reception to mark 25 years of Michael Burton's editorship of " Municipal journal" the lead in house mag for local councils. Blog readers may not have spotted this but I write a weekly column in that journal on their third sector page. Always worth a read I suggest. And it's worth marking anyone's 25 years in a job....I have a lot of catching up to do. And 25 years is such a short space of time to really get a grip on a job.


Dan Filson said...

Did you ask these senior officers of Surrey County Council why they were meeting in a county hall outside their county when there are perfectly functional offices within Surrey, and indeed why County Hall has not been relocated, to Guildford for example. This must be the only county in the United Kingdom to have its county hall in exile outside its boundaries. Was it perhaps that back in 1965 the county councillors ducked a row and a difficult decision as to location, and still do so?

By the way, it's the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames

Geof Cox said...

Interesting. I'm working with both Surrey County Council and The Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames on the transformation of social care services to social enterprise. I find the belief widespread that the voluntary sector does not have the capacity - or indeed the business and governance models - to take on public service transformation.

Dan Filson said...

The issue of outsourcing from central and local government to the voluntary sector is an interesting one. Yes, it does increase the VS revenues and to some extent can mean overheads are spread across more projects. But it does render the VS very vulnerable to being squeezed for the last pip by the "client" in negotiations which can get very one-sided and also to having contracts removed without adequate wind-down time.

As a general principle, in my humble opinion, the voluntary sector should not act as a proxy for local or national government, often intended as a way of saving costs, but should be innovators in providing something new or different, or gap-filling where what the national or local state provides is so structured as to be not sensitive to personal needs.