Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another disruption in service - back next week

I'm on holiday in Prague. (I fear that Charles Bridge may be busier than this.)

NHS targets - waiting for change

Apparently an investigation has been launched into waiting list figures at a Lancashire foundation trust. The case at Royal Preston Hospital will be an interesting one to watch.

Managing the public services by target is hazardous as I’ve noted here before. Hopefully the new regime will continue the moves away from targets. However, some experts, such as Professor Colin Talbot in Public Finance, are rather doubtful that a cull of targets will actually occur.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A new university league table - plus some thoughts on carbon and public services

The campaigning group People and Planet have published an interesting league table showing the greenest (and dirtiest) universities.

I do a lot of work with the further education sector. It would be interesting to see how colleges would perform if subjected to such an examination. Hopefully the Association of Colleges' Green Colleges initiative will build and extend some good practice going on. (I must confess to being a bit skeptical about how representative the colleges were in the AoC's quite positive survey on this issue.)

It is worth remembering that almost all universities and colleges (and many other organisation in the public and third sector) are entitled to a free energy survey by the Carbon Trust.

Before we all get too smug - as individuals we can count our carbon on the excellent Act on co2 website.

Social housing - time to give consumers some clout?

It is disappointing to read in Inside Housing that fewer than one in three of social housing residents in a National Consumer Council (NCC) study said their landlords took on board tenant suggestions for service improvements.

It is noteworthy that residents said local authorities were less likely to provide a flexible housing service or foster a sense of community than housing associations. (Something for the "Defend Council Housing" campaigners to ponder. How about campaigning to "Transform Council Housing"?)

There is a real need to give consumers clout in social housing. That can be done in all sorts of ways. Hopefully we will see a national voice for residents as recommended by the Cave Review. But new forms of accountability and governance are needed with a key role for community gateway housing associations and co-operative housing. Interestingly, the NCC has suggested an approach based on “markets and mutuality”.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Working in Sarajevo

Apologies for the lack of postings. I am working in Sarajevo. (Excellent timing as its the Sarajevo Film Festival this week.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Charities and bureaucracy - time to cut the red tape

Today's Financial Times reports that the National Audit Office has found that the “baroque complexity” of government funding is jeopardising plans to give charities a bigger role in delivering public services.

The NAO study of 12 large charities found that on average, the charities estimated they each spent £381,000 a year simply managing these multiple funding streams, which include Whitehall departments, local authorities and National Health Service bodies.

Each charity had between 95 and more than 4,000 separate funding relationships with public bodies.
If the big businesses of the charity world are entangled in red tape, just think how the smaller charities struggle.

When auditors think that red tape is unreasonable, something should be done.

Friday, August 03, 2007

College mergers: an interesting experiment

August 1st always see a few mergers of further education colleges. This year there seem to be a few more than usual. Maybe the legacy of the Learning & Skills Council, after it has been stripped of its funding roles, will have been more college mergers.

One particularly interesting merger this week was the take over of the struggling Skelmersdale & Ormskirk College by Newcastle College. This is certainly a controversial merger.

While both Skelmersdale and Newcastle are both rather northern colleges, they are 160 miles apart. I’ve worked at colleges where campuses as far apart as nine miles seemed such a long way. During college merger due diligence studies, I’ve raised issues where potential merger partners were an hour apart by road.

Making campuses separated by 160 miles can work will be something of a leadership challenge. (And the hostility of the lecturers’ union UCU is another one.) It will perhaps be complicated by the new localism in further education with the role for local authorities in funding 16-19 learners that is emerging from the changes in what was the Department for Education and Skills.

While the emergence of regional colleges has become increasingly likely, Newcastle College aspires to be more than this – according to the Guardian it has a strategy for becoming a “multi-region college”. This raises some of the issues of big as beautiful discussed on these pages in relation to mega housing associations straddling large parts of England.

It's definitely an interesting experiment.