A hectic but productive visit...

18 May 2015

A RedQuadrant day with Geoff Brock MP, Minister for Local Government, South Australia

Benjamin Taylor writes:

On 15 May I was privileged to accompany Geoff Brock MP, Minister for Regional Development and Local Government and from South Australia, to hear about some of the best UK local government and local-central initiatives. A true local government character, a smelter for forty years and Mayor of Port Pirie for many more, he’s an independent MP and was called, in dramatic circumstances, to form a government in South Australia – extracting a series of concessions for the regions in the process, in a state relatively dominated by Adelaide.

We packed a lot into the day:

Crack of dawn, onwards - Meeting the Mayor and City and Strategic Directors in Bristol, hearing not only about the groundbreaking applied transformation programme (which we are supporting), but also about the City’s Green Capital of Europe status (2015), plans (well advanced) to start a local energy company, and both hyper-fast broadband and local net electricity generation – amongst much more. ‘Brocky’, as he’s known to most of South Australia, it seems, was particularly pleased to meet a fellow Independent Mayor!

Back to London, then on to:

The new administration of Hammersmith & Fulham, where we heard about some big picture ideas for the future of the council and of the country, and a boisterously political take on the business of local government leadership! And I was also able to catch up with some LBHF employees I haven’t seen for many, many years…

And if that wasn’t a busy enough day, we then headed to the:

DCLG, where we met colleagues from across the commissioning academy, public service transformation network, localities team and more, hearing a genuinely new perspective on central-local relations and supporting the transformation of local government – one that recognises and doesn’t try to ignore or simplify the true complexities of local public services.

Our recent case studies were referenced and should provide good insight into some real innovations and commissioning approaches actually being applied around the country. The collection of all these commissioning case studies can be found here:
http://publicservicetransformation.org/resources/commissioning

A seemingly indefatigable Brocky then joined us at the RedQuadrant roundtable dinner, alongside a star-studded local government cast, who all enjoyed some fine Italian food, where conversation on local government transformation did not flag until the Minister’s final inspirational speech late into the night.

We were fortunate to be joined that evening by a highly respected and talented journalist, Vivienne Russell, Managing editor of Public Finance & Public Finance International. Vivienne was able to interview the Minister, resulting in her leader, here.

Now: I am no journalist, so I assume - much like the tens of years Ford Prefect spent researching The Earth, only to have his report edited to ‘mostly harmless’ – we can only assume that the fulsome regard, and numerous insights our day together generated were compressed by reasons of space to the succinct comment ‘South Australian local government is a bit further ahead than the UK’.  ;-)

We look forward very much to the return trip and finding out more about that!

The roundtable – concerning commissioning, transformation, the management of the same, and lessons learned by our guests in recent times – will be the topic of a separate piece soon, so please keep your inboxes peeled for that...

If you’d like to hear more about our work in Australia and the lessons we’ve been learning about local government transformation all round the world, drop me a line: Benjamin.taylor@redquadrant.com

For those wishing to explore Geoff’s recent activities, here are a few links of interest:

http://geoffbrock.com.au/news/
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/23/labor-to-form-government-in-south-australia
http://www.premier.sa.gov.au/index.php/geoff-brock-mp
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-28/abc-port-augusta-closure-geoff-brock-demands/5925564