Monday, 7 July 2014

Airport Commission meeting

We have been approached by the Airports Commission to assist in facilitating a visit to the Gatwick area for the Commissioners to meet with representatives from local communities.

The Airports Commission has been asked to examine the UK’s aviation capacity and need in the context of maintaining the UK’s position as a leading aviation hub.  It has been asked to make recommendations to the Government about how that capacity should be delivered.  In its Interim Report (published in December, 2013) the Commission shortlisted three proposals – two at Heathrow Airport and one at Gatwick Airport – for providing additional capacity.

The Airports Commissioners – Sir Howard Davies, Sir John Armitt, Dame Julia King, Professor Ricky Burdett and Vivienne Cox – are keen to engage with local authorities and MPs and communities around the shortlisted options. 

The Commissioners are also keen to ensure they understand local concerns as they work through the appraisals of each option. 

WSCC’s position is that we support the case for a second runway, in principle, but are cognisant of the environmental and infrastructure issues that may arise.  We do understand that feelings run high and that there is a lot of opposition. However, we do believe the economic case and the benefits it would bring to the county are solid.

Although notice has been short, we have worked hard with the Commission secretariat to facilitate this opportunity for local representatives to meet with the Commissioners, which will take place on Wednesday. This is a private meeting for the benefit of elected local authority leaders and MPs. It will be followed by a wider discussion when they will answer questions from additional invited guests, including Councillors, local groups and organisations such as parish councils, Gatwick Diamond and Manor Royal.

I will post another blog after the meeting because I am keen to share what happens as I know there is a lot of interest.

Best wishes,

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Changes to the management structure at WSCC

Over the last few months there has been much work going on around transforming services at County Hall -  all part of the County Council’s on-going evolutionary process .

At the backbone of that evolution is the relentless focus we have on our three key priorities, Start of Life  and making sure children have the best possible start,  growing a strong and diverse economy and Later Life, ensuring our older residents can live as independently in their homes for as long as possible. And of course, all that is underpinned by ensuring that we, WSCC , are there in an emergency, that we protect the frail and vulnerable and that we help people to help themselves.

A new senior management structure has been designed to help meet our communities’ needs around these key priorities. There has been a considerable amount of consultation with staff about these changes - road shows, meetings and presentations to the county’s different political groups.

On Monday, the proposed new structure was formally discussed at the county council’s  Governance Committee where it was agreed.
It will now go to the next meeting of the Full County Council on July 25 for discussion and final approval.

This structure is much smaller and cuts out some management hierarchy where we know there is a real need to improve. It also provides a better focus on our work on the local economy and growth and includes additional capacity to support our agenda around being more commercial, providing value for money to the people of West sussex.

Of course this means that staff numbers will reduce which is always difficult news for staff. The plan is to reduce our senior management structure from 64 to around 20 with some of the functions in the current structure being delivered in a different way. We will keep the model of a Chief Operating Officer as the most senior officer of the council and there will be four executive directors (rather than the current eight) to help lead the Council.

We are confident that this leaner management structure will deliver those all-important outcomes for our residents and our communities. This new structure, when the next phase is carried through over the coming months, will also achieve significant savings and when we are currently looking at finding around another 128 million savings, this is welcome, particularly as it helps to ensure frontline services are protected.

This will inevitably mean redundancies, although many we hope will be voluntary. Over the last couple of years we have been setting aside money to meet any such costs. 

I have over the last couple of weeks read through the staff comments from the consultation and been impressed at the considerable thought and realisation that this is something that needs to be done.

No doubt some of the political opposition will claim that these plans are not radical enough or even too radical but let me reassure you that much thought and consideration has gone into getting us where we are today. And we continue to ensure a relentless focus on delivering those all-important services.

Fundamentally,  as an authority delivering over 80% of local public services to our residents, we need to be flexible and responsive at all times. This new structure allows us to do just that.

Best wishes,