The following document was issued to TAG Regions at the end of 1999 for discussion and comment. Comments received were generally supportive. TAG Council of the 21 January 2000 adopted the recommendations of the document and also adopted a Protocol with SOLACE to take discussions further. A small working group was established to engage in discussions with SOLACE and other potential partners.
TAG – Futures
Purpose of the document
A special meeting of TAG Council was held on the 15 October 1999 at Warwick University to discuss the future of the association in the context of the future for local government. This followed preliminary discussions at the previous meeting of Council in London. A list of those present at the meeting is appended to this report.
Discussions were preceded by presentations from Andy Elmer of the Local Government Association on the future for local government and by Mike Sanders of SOLACE on possible futures for local government professional officer associations.
The purpose of this document is to present a summary of the views expressed during the meeting and to provide a basis for discussion of the issues by the wider membership of TAG.
The Future – the issues.
The Local Government Association is undertaking a new phase of policy work under the heading of “Local Government Futures”. A briefing leaflet was launched at the annual conference of the LGA in 1999 entitled “Local Government Futures – Ten Challenges to Local Government”.
Andy Elmer spoke to these ten points and stressed that there was a need to get the next generation of officers and members involved in the debate – this should not be an elitist process. Some ‘one-liners’: we are survivors; are we serving the citizen or the consumer; too much information available; a problem with the take-up and understanding of ICT (Information Communications Technology).
Andy then initiated discussion with four provocative statements:
(i) Local government needs a new breed of members.
(ii) There will always be excluded groups
(iii) Local government should stop delivering services
(iv) There is no place left for local government – the regions and neighbourhoods are better placed.
Mike Sanders in a wide-ranging presentation first explained the structure of SOLACE and its key objectives. Of particular interest to TAG members are the perceived need of SOLACE for more policy capacity and the need for a London presence that might be shared with others.
Other important messages were:
The future. Local government had to modernise, lead and deliver. The new political arrangements have left some backbenchers complaining of lack of involvement. The government has made it clear that local government had to deliver or die.
Shared aims. We have to put our house in order we must be proactive, forcing the agenda. We must put up new ideas – be valued.
The mechanics. There are too many officer associations. SOLACE recognises the need to build alliances. It has a small executive with five portfolios including a policy portfolio. It is not as well resourced as some associations and there is a need to work with others particularly on policy development.
Objectives. We should concentrate on outcomes and quality, people not structures. We need to develop people and take risks, be the best in the world, be needed and valued.
The tools. Developing joined up professionals in joined up government confident in working across agencies and with the private sector. We need to make what the local authority does more relevant to the lives of people.
Issues. SOLACE could share its internal services and its policy agenda. There were opportunities to work together and join forces. A collegiate approach was a possibility.
What next. Parallel internal talks. Consider sharing internal services, a shared base and where necessary, outsourcing. TAG and SOLACE might share a policy agenda, support each other in member development and the provision of seminars. Each association should work at outlining propositions, recommending an approach to their members and initiating parallel talks.
Responses from TAG Council to these presentations were positive but there were a number of problems to be overcome. There was agreement that TAG currently had too narrow a professional focus. TAG could offer much in the policy area of sustainability. There was a need to work at the professional/technical level and the strategic level.
Following these presentations TAG Council broke into three groups to discuss futures issues under a number of heads suggested by the President. The outcome of these Groups in the form of bullet point issues is appended.
Council then reassembled for a final plenary session. A representative from each group presented their key findings and this led to a general and wide-ranging discussion of the future. This part of the session concluded with detailed discussion of a model with the form of a flower with petals developed by one of the groups. An illustration of the model is appended.
Summing up by the President
The President gave a summing up of the day identifying the following key points:
· There was common agreement that TAG had to change
· There was a need to widen the membership and in parallel start discussions with SOLACE about a possible shared future
· There was a role for ex local government officers working in the private sector
· We needed to be active at a local and regional level with a technical focus in our committees
· A collegiate system seemed to be favoured through which we could retain some ‘technical’ identity – equal status in the colleges would be critical
· We needed a national structure with cross-cutting panels and task and finish groups. There would also be a need for a local/regional structure
· Policy development – need to be ahead of the game and need to fund a secretariat
· Membership – we need strategists, technical specialists and the active retired
· It was essential that we had no political affiliation
· Good communications were essential and would increasingly rely on ICT
· The association should concentrate on professional development training, leaving specialist technical training to others
· The ‘flower and petal model’ may help us to develop our ideas
Members final thoughts
Following the summing up by the President, members of Council were invited to give their views on the outcome of the day in a few words. There was unanimity in the expression of the need to change and many of the points were effectively endorsements of the views expressed by the President. Twin tracking was favoured – we should continue discussions with other technical associations about amalgamation and co-operation, and engage in discussions with SOLACE. However the question of status was raised by a number of members and clearly is a matter of concern.
The next steps
It was agreed that the Senior Vice President would produce a discussion paper for the wider membership based on the outcome of the day for. A draft of the paper would be sent to the following colleagues for comment prior to finalisation;
Members are asked to support:
(i) Enlarging TAG or developing a new association through amalgamation with other technical-based associations.
(ii) The opening of discussions with SOLACE to explore ways of working together and the possibility of establishing a collegiate system of officer associations
(iii) Encouraging the participation in the technical work of TAG of younger Associate members
(iv) The search for opportunities to participate in the development of cross-cutting
policy issues at a national level
(v) Increasing the membership of TAG through recruitment with Regions leading a recruitment drive
Senior Vice President
The TAG Flower Model
The graphic (developed from a suggestion by Richard Otter) illustrates a possible collegiate approach to co-operative working between the various public sector professional officer associations.
Using TAG as an example, officers on Principal Officer Grade will be accepted as Associate Members. The most senior member from a particular authority (restricted to Heads of Service, Assistant Directors or Directors) will be accepted as Fellows. Officers on Chief Officer Grade serving under a Fellow will be accepted as Members. The outer zone is the realm of the specialist AM although it possible that some Members would wish to concentrate on a specific technical area. These specialist groups would provide a research and support base to senior members.
The Public Sector Network (PSN) zone is where TAG Members and Fellows retain their TAG member status but also become PSN Members. This is the level where networking between groupings begins to take place, either on specific projects or by way of linking to like minded groups e.g. effectively bringing together the various property-related groups.
The inner zone is the Zone of activity of Fellows of TAG who, with members of other associations at the appropriate chief officer level, become Corporate Members of the PSN.
A full-time administration would be formed for the PSN. However each professional association may wish to maintain its own part-time support in the early years.
The TAG Web Site could become the administrative focus for the technical associations within the PSN during the early years of development of the Network. Other technical associations would be encouraged to develop satellite web sites within the TAG Web Site.
In the longer term the separate identities of associations would transform into colleges of the PSN.
SPECIAL TAG COUNCIL AT WARWICK
SUMMARIES OF WORKSHOP FLIP CHARTS
1) The Future Implications for Local Government Service in the Community
· Strength of regional Government
· Single / Leaner Local Government
· Smaller Better Quality Member Base
· Links to National Strategies
· Democratisation of Quangos
· Joined Up Governance
Community safety – health action zones
More or only Unitary Authorities – regional dimension
Exclusion – 24 hour service – call centre
· Participation / Consultation
Forum for service development – priorities / divisions / delivery
Amplifies as :-
More diverse communities
Development of more unitary authorities
Issues of exclusion
Who can provide the best service
Balance between accessibility and cost effectiveness
What are the service needs
Local governance of a different shape
2) The Future for Technical Services Departments and technical Services Staff
· Get to the Centre of Policy Development
· Get to the Key Players – Chief Constables etc
· Promote ( Technical ) Skills – to get to centre
· Develop Policy Making Skills
Better use of professionals
Change of culture
· Service issues
Service type grouping
One stop services
Audit / Inspection
· Mixed Economy
· Mixed Departments
· Specialist / Generalist
3) The Future Implications for TAG
· Open Up Membership
Full membership – TAGTigs
Conflict of Interests – Central / Regional issues
· MAG / Council Relations
· Redefine TAG Role / Objectives
(Technical ) ?
· Collegiate – Equal Status
· Cross Cutting
National – Council or themed panels
Local structure – regions / county / other
Policy Development – to get ahead
Secretariat – money
Essential need to come together
New single body – wide as possible
Mix – Senior for policy – specialist
Active retired – valuable role
New organisation not political
· TAG Identity
Single badge – new organisation with badges for participating groups
· Way Forward
Consultation with wider membership
Approach SOLACE – partnership / merger – explore other organisations
Council to be involved
4) The Future Implications for TAG
· Broadest Base
Ex Education and Social Services.
· Cross Cut Focus and Vertical Integration
· ICT + Web – Virtual
· Two Level Member
Corporate – Generalist
Member – Specialist
Up – Central Government
Across – Region and Services
Generalist – TAG
Specialist – Institutions
The Petal Diagram – see Appendix A