Introducing our Public Management and Leadership Executive Apprenticeship

Louise Reardon and Stephen Jeffares

As its Apprenticeship week, we thought we would take the opportunity to post throughout the week, on different aspects of INLOGOV’s Degree Apprenticeship programme. Today a brief introduction. Our Executive Apprenticeship in Public Management and Leadership gives public sector employers the opportunity to use their Apprenticeship Levy to grow management and leadership expertise within their organisation. It also gives the employee the chance to learn and apply new skills that will help them to excel in their current role and up the career ladder, while at the same time also gaining a master’s degree.

The programme is underpinned by our sector leading research, with recent projects such as the 21st Century Public Servant, putting us at the forefront of understanding the public sector environment and shaping best practice. Moreover, our Apprenticeship is developed in partnership with the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), ensuring that the Programme’s content meets the demands of public sector employers.

Given INLOGOV’s long history of delivering training to practitioners, we are acutely aware of the multiple demands that part-time learners face, balancing their learning with their busy job roles and personal lives, and the pressures employers face when staff have to be released for study days. That is why we have structured our Apprenticeship using a ‘blended’ format, with teaching delivered through a combination of online and face-to-face delivery.

Apprentices can study online at the time most convenient to them, with all the resources they need available through their laptop, tablet, or phone. This means that our apprentices do not have to spend significant amounts of time away from home or the workplace (only eight days on campus per academic year). The on-campus days give apprentices the chance to learn through task-based exercises, develop a close peer-network of fellow practitioners from across the UK, share best practice, network with guest speakers and the INLOGOV community, and take advantage of our campus amenities, including gym, swimming pool and libraries.

Want to learn more? Later this week, on Thursday 7 March at 12 noon, we are hosting a live webinar to outline the programme in more detail. Click here to sign up.

Dr Louise Reardon (l.h.reardon@bham.ac.uk) is a lecturer in Governance and Public Policy at INLOGOV. Stephen Jeffares (s.r.jeffares@bham.ac.uk) is a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at INLOGOV. Both are co-Directors of the Public Management and Leadership Executive Apprenticeship and MSc.

Electoral registers and choropleth maps

Chris Game

In 1967/68, while attempting concurrently, and unsuccessfully, to write a PhD thesis and earn enough to live, I had the good fortune to work as research assistant to the late Anthony King, well-known and respected Professor of Government, writer, broadcaster, and public intellectual. One of the two people who most shaped my so-called career, King wasn’t himself really a ‘psephologist’ – a statistical analyst of elections and voting patterns – but he was seriously interested in such things, including voter registration.

As a Canadian, he was familiar with this being a federal responsibility relying (then) on huge numbers of enumerators canvassing door-to-door, repeatedly if necessary, to produce a national register noted for both its completeness and accuracy – and thereby a complete contrast to the US’ almost entirely decentralised, and politicised, state-run process.

Knowing broadly how the UK resembled the US in not just decentralising electoral administration but in our case to a lower-tier of often quite small councils, King was instinctively sceptical about both UK registers’ completeness and accuracy and about whether indeed these things were even measured. My mission was to find out.

In one sense it was easy.  Two decades before the register-based Community Charge was invented, over three before we had a national Electoral Commission, and over four before the arrival (outside Northern Ireland) of Individual Voter Registration, hardly anyone seemed exercised by either part of the question.

An erstwhile University of Birmingham colleague, Kenneth Newton, provided a pleasing illustration in his 1976 book, Second City Politics.  After cautioning how high reported percentage turnouts can often be a product of low levels of electoral registration, he noted (p.22) the “extraordinarily high proportion of adults on the electoral register in Birmingham” – over 99% in 1951.

Which he then contextualised, recording the council election office’s proud boast of how, while of course endeavouring to contact and encourage voters to return their annual registration forms, its policy was to keep as many names on the register as possible, removing them only when it was certain that they were dead or had moved.

Newton doesn’t say whether he inquired what would happen if the figure reached over 100%, as indeed it can (see below).  But the unmistakeable point is that, even had they been measurable, the statistical accuracy and precision of registers were not in this era anyone’s serious priority.

It’s useful, though, to recognise what, for instance, the apparently impressive estimates of ‘96% completeness’ recorded in the occasional early research studies (see graph) actually meant. They were the percentages of electors found registered at the correct address during the autumn annual canvass the previous year.

Graph 1 chris game

However, by December, when the registers went live, the figures were already down a few percent, and, in an autumn election, towards the end of a register’s life, the proportions of correctly registered electors would have dropped to around 86% – and significantly lower among younger potential voters, in minority ethnic communities, and in inner cities generally.

Then, in 1990, came the Community Charge, followed swiftly by analyses of the 1991 Census suggesting that up to a ‘Missing Million’ people may have absented themselves from the Census returns (Wilks-Heeg, 2012, p.19).  It seemed clear that many disbelieved – with some justification – that their councils’ electoral and community charge registers were as totally insulated as they were being assured (Smith & McLean, 1992, p.6).

By now there was growing interest in registers of all sorts, with evidence suggesting (p.19) that in 1992, with deliberate absentees from electoral registers and/or the Census being disproportionately Labour or Liberal Democrat voters, the outcomes of up to 10 parliamentary contests could have been affected in a General Election the Conservatives won with a Commons majority of 21. But it took the long overdue arrival of the Electoral Commission in 2001 and the 2003 introduction of Individual Elector Registration in Northern Ireland for the extent and composition of non-registration to be researched at all rigorously.

This is not the place for even a summary of that research, but the headline statistics from the Commission’s most recent work are those in the red box on the graph: local government registers assessed as 91% accurate and 84% complete, parliamentary registers as 91% accurate and 85% complete.

Unsurprisingly, but particularly significant in the present political context, highest levels of completeness were for over-65s (96%), lowest for 16/17-year old ‘attainers’ (45%), then 18/19s (65%) – one of the several factors allowed for, of course, in the YouGov polling data underpinning Peter Kellner’s recent pronouncement of January 19th as Brexit ‘Crossover Day’.  This Kellner calculated, was when, if not a single voter in the 2016 Referendum had changed their mind, enough older, mainly Leave voters would have died – at a net rate of about 1,350 a day – and enough mainly Remain voters reached voting age, to wipe out the Leave majority.

Fascinating as this is, this blog’s real purpose is to publicise the estimable and, I’d suggest, important Atlas of Democratic Variation produced not by the Electoral Commission, but, evidently having little else on their hands, by the Cabinet Office. And particularly its 25 choropleth maps – which, in case like me you’ve temporarily forgotten, are thematic maps in which areas are shaded in proportion to the measurement of the statistic displayed – in this case Registration Proportion (RP).

The Atlas’s main purpose, apart from amusing saddos like me, is obviously to inform and support the democratic engagement strategies of Electoral Registration Officers and others. There are cautions aplenty about the maps’ statistical limitations: how RP is a rough indicator, not a quality measure; that a low figure may simply reflect a large ‘ineligible’ population and should certainly not be used to evaluate or start sacking EROs, etc.  But they do convey significant information, as indicated in this small illustration of the range of apparent completeness and presumably practice across our own West Midlands metropolitan area.

graph 2 chris game.jpg

All qualifications accepted, it is hard not to be struck by our just seven metropolitan boroughs, covering not wildly differing socioeconomic areas and populations, managing to span all five of the Atlas’s percentage groupings.

None topped 100% – though it is possible and was achieved, albeit by the highly atypical City of London – but Dudley managed the highest grouping and Coventry the lowest, with Birmingham only just ahead.  A 15% spread over something as democratically vital as voter registration: you can question its statistical significance, but surely not its civic relevance.

chris gameChris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

This blog post was first published by The Chamberlain Files

The views in this blog represent those of the author and not those of INLOGOV or the University of Birmingham. 

Carry on Councillor

by Bryony Rudkin

December 26th. What else to do but slump on the sofa and watch a Carry On film? For those not well versed in 1970’s UK cultural history, these are some 30 odd films characterised by innuendo, slapstick and farce and not well known for referencing local government. Until it seems 1973 and Carry On Girls. I sat there, small sherry in hand, entranced to see the inner workings of Fircombe Council portrayed in technicolour, with Councillor Fidler and his plans for a beauty contest robustly argued against by ‘feminist’ Councillor Prodworthy. Suffice to say, the plot descends into chaos and civic dignity is in short supply. 1970’s comedy has enough to make us wince without poor representation of local governance but it did make me think what other role models I grew up with.

I’ve been a councillor for over 20 years but rarely see myself or my colleagues represented realistically on screens small or large or in print. I worked in local government before I was elected. In the early 90’s we avidly watched Alan Bleasdale’s GBH and gathered round the fax machine (no water coolers yet) to discuss dramatic representation of life in and outside a not so fictitious northern town hall. We recognised some of the extreme behaviours of councillors depicted, but not much of the daily slog of casework or policy deliberation. UK soap operas offered a few select examples. According to one internet fan site, in ITV’s Coronation Street , Alderman Alf Roberts served for over 30 years in the borough of Weatherfield and Sally Metcalfe was the directly elected Mayor for a year before resigning in a fraud scandal. She’s currently in prison. Hope Andy Burnham has visited over Christmas.

So not much inspiration thus far. The printed word offers better examples. Winifred Holtby’s South Riding is a wonderful evocation of 1930’s Yorkshire. Her mother, Alice, was the first Alderwoman on East Riding County Council. Sadly this book was published posthumously and Holtby’s work has arguably been eclipsed by that of her good friend Vera Brittain, despite screen adaptations. More recently, J K Rowling set her first work post Harry Potter in a rural community with a dysfunctional parish council. Plus ca change. If it’s local, it can’t work. Radio is no better. A colleague offers the view that “they never get planning right” in Radio 4’s long running drama (sic) The Archers.

So is there any cultural representation of civic life that rings true to someone who knows what it might be like? Peter Flannery’s 1996 epic Our Friends in the North is a magnificent thinly veiled account of local – and national – politics in the north east. The scenes set in the council chamber in the 1960’s were filmed in Islington Town Hall in the early 90’s (I took the call from the production company: “We’re doing a film about corruption in local government. Can we come round?”). But it’s not the shenanigans the big men of the city got up to that strikes a chord. It’s the quiet work of central character, Mary, dancing with the children at a party for striking miners’ families, sitting late at night with the paperwork. Not a Carry On. Just quietly carrying on.

bryony talkingBryony Rudkin is a PhD student at INLOGOV, Deputy Leader of Ipswich Borough Council and Portfolio Holder for Culture and Leisure. Bryony also works with councils around the country on behalf of the Local Government Association on sector-led improvement, carrying out peer reviews and delivering training and mentoring support.

 

All views in this blog are those of the author and not INLOGOV or the University of Birmingham.

How the City of Aalborg in Denmark reduces social isolation of people with learning disabilities

When Peter turned 18, he got approval from his local Social Services Department to draw a disability pension. Like others with learning disabilities, Peter lived in a residential care home, not in work and spending his days in a community activity centre (all of which involve high costs for the taxpayer). Peter felt socially isolated, bored and with low expectations of what his life could entail.

However, Peter’s life took a turn for the better. He has the good fortune to live in the municipality of Aalborg (213,589 inhabitants) in Denmark. Aalborg promotes the vision that everyone should feel that they are important to others. To this end the municipality has launched a new service to help people with a disability pension to find what they consider to be meaningful work – called Aalborg AKTIV. The service is non-statutory but people with disabilities are encouraged to call, e-mail or simply drop by the Aalborg AKTIV house to learn more about the programme – users only join Aalborg AKTIV if the user gives their permission. Service users are helped to locate and contact relevant communities, employers and support organisations.

Peter contacted the service and is now working at a construction firm on a subsidised salary. He reports that each morning he goes to work with a bounce in his step and greets his work colleagues with a smile – he feels that he is doing a good job and that his work makes a difference. And in Aalborg Peter is typical, not an exception.

What a difference to the UK! Prof. Sir Michael Marmot argued, as reported by BBC news, that people with learning disabilities in the UK are ‘failed by society’. He said that society needs to take action and points to the need to improve social integration and provide work programmes for people with learning disabilities. Prof. Marmot also identifies social isolation as one of the main reasons why people with learning disabilities die 15-20 years earlier than the general population.

As Peter’s story shows, Aalborg Municipality appears to have found a sustainable way to do what Prof. Marmot suggests. It interacts with its service users as co-producers and builds on their skills and assets to develop their self-confidence. In particular, it helps them realize that they have a place in society and an important contribution to make.

The Aalborg service is part of the municipality’s broader strategic vision for improving the quality of life of people with disabilities. Since the service opened in March 2017 it has helped approximately 250 people with different disabilities to find ‘meaningful work’, such as volunteering at an animal shelter or working a few hours at a café, rather than doing fabricated ‘activities’ in community centres, which for some can feel trivial and demeaning.

Moreover, Aalborg Municipality believes its approach will not only help overcome the social stigma experienced by those with learning disabilities but also contribute to their integration into society, overcoming their social isolation and adding quality years to their lives. Peter’s story is based on a real person, but his name and details has been changed for purpose of this article.

The Aalborg project is being closely monitored in research at Aalborg University, the results of which are expected to be published in 2020. Ph.D. Student Nanna Møller Mortensen from Aalborg University investigates how complex outcomes of co-production initiatives can be evaluated. She is undertaking action research with staff, managers and people with learning disabilities from the aforementioned service as well as other co-production cases in Aalborg Municipality. The aim of her study is to develop a tool to monitor co-production processes and outcomes at a local governance level. Nanna has been visiting INLOGOV since September to exchange findings and research. During her stay she has started working on a comparative study with researchers from INLOGOV, as well as contributed to INLOGOV teaching modules concerning co-production.

nannaNanna Møller Mortensen is a PhD student at the research group Capacity Building and Evaluation, at The Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University. You can get in touch with her via email: nannamm@learning.aau.dk

Her doctoral dissertation is part of the Industrial PhD program funded by the Innovation Fund Denmark and the project host, Aalborg Municipality.

World Forum for Democracy: “Gender Equality: Whose Battle?”

Bryony Rudkin

Strasbourg, November 2018

Arriving in Strasbourg on a Sunday evening in November I was surprised to learn the power of the Academie Francaise is not what it used to be, with every shop window declaring both ‘Black Friday” and “le Christmas shopping” alive and kicking. I was there for neither. Instead I was there for the World Forum for Democracy, hosted annually in the city since 2012 by the Council of Europe (C0E), bringing together politicians from all tiers of government, civil society practitioners, academics, media and business representatives. I’m a member of the local government arm of the Council (known as the Congress), nominated by the Local Government Association as part of the UK delegation. The invitation to attend the Forum had interested me as the theme this year was “Gender Equality: Whose Battle?” and the format was that of an academic conference rather than the political bunfights that are my daily fare. The reality was somewhere between the two however…

world democracy forum flyerDay one was given over mostly to introductory speeches from ministers (France and Spain), the Secretary General of the CoE, regional and local dignitaries and a cultural offer which baffled as much as it entertained. In amongst the usual pleasantries some markers were laid. The Secretary General spoke of how the introduction of gender quotas had changed the culture and behaviour of politics in his native Norway. Personal testimony from a Japanese journalist about rape and violence brought the packed hemicycle to total silence. A Canadian academic spoke of her personal experience of LGBTI, faith and politics. Powerful stuff which set the scene for the debate to come but, in the reaction from some, demonstrated a lack of universal agreement on what issues mattered most and what language to use in explanation and dialogue.

The following day brought academic presentations and debate in a series of labs. The one in which I was a discussant posed the question “What if she runs? Better representation through higher participation in elections”, with representations from a project in India supporting women in engaging in local decision making and one in Albania seeking to tackle the issue of family voting in rural areas. The level of debate and questioning was rigorous, although not entirely academic in focus, and the breadth of experience on the panel and in the room was refreshing. Twelve labs in total throughout the day showcased a great deal of work and it was a little disappointing there wasn’t more feedback other than a vote on the last day for a democracy innovation award, although everything was webcast so opportunities for catching up later. What was good however was the interaction with presenters and fellow panelists…not least over mispronunciation of our names!

So was it worth it? You bet. Some great discussions and contacts made – a joint German/Israeli project supporting refugees in Berlin, meeting up with an old friend from Prague attending the Forum with fellow political studies students, a British/Polish colleague running an integration project in Italy. Just a few of the connections made. And as for academic dialogue versus political debate? The closing session was enlivened by a protests over the operation of local government in Georgia and demand for a debate on the situation in Ukraine. An apparently infuriated chair reminded the chamber the theme of the Forum was gender equality not national sovereignty. It seems even posing the question is still a work in progress.

bryony talkingBryony Rudkin is a PhD student at INLOGOV, Deputy Leader of Ipswich Borough Council and Portfolio Holder for Culture and Leisure. Bryony also works with councils around the country on behalf of the Local Government Association on sector-led improvement, carrying out peer reviews and delivering training and mentoring support.

 

All views in this blog are those of the author and not INLOGOV or the University of Birmingham.

 

Scrutinising Diabetes: It’s more than just about the numbers!

By Cllr Ketan Sheth

This month we will be celebrating World Diabetes Day. We are all familiar with some of the frightening numbers around diabetes: more people than ever have diabetes and are at risk of type 2 diabetes. If nothing changes, warns Diabetes UK, more than five million people will have the condition in the UK by 2025. Also, the costs to the NHS of treatment and care are rising.

So, how do elected members on overview and scrutiny committees get to grips with understanding the situation which in many areas is daunting in scale and complex? Well, recently my committee did just that and I want to share with you what I learned.

Firstly, I found out that Brent is at the sharp end of the problem. Prevalence of diabetes is higher than the national average: recent estimates suggest that about 8.5% of the population, or 25,000 people, have type 2 diabetes in Brent, with the national average being around 5.82% of the population. Public Health England estimates that there are approximately 7,500 undiagnosed patients in Brent, who do not even know they have the condition. Part of the underlying reason for the high numbers is that there are many people in the borough who are in high-risk groups. So, the situation in Brent is frankly very challenging.

When we discussed the situation at committee I wanted to bring together everyone involved in treating, diagnosing and preventing diabetes. That included clinicians from the CCG, the Director of Public Health, and general practitioners. We also had input from Brent’s cabinet member for public health. The clinicians and director of public health were excellent and I think we were able to have a discussion in which everyone could be frank about the scale of the problem and allow the members to unpick how different parts of the ‘system’ work together around prevention and treatment. The discussion was wide-ranging from food and exercise to Brent’s prevention programmes such as Slash Sugar, which raises awareness of hidden sugar in food. It was clear to me that diabetes is an area of collaboration between the local authority and the NHS. So, my next learning point was that at committee there has to be input from the local authority and the NHS when discussing this complex topic.

However, I also wanted to widen the discussion to hear from those directly affected by the condition. Some members may have their own personal experience of diabetes or have been made aware by friends and family who have the condition, but many do not have firsthand experience. In Brent there is a project called Diabetes Community Champions, run by the council’s Public Health team, which works to promote awareness about diabetes at the grassroots. The community champions go out and about, talking to people, and giving out information, and Brent now has 40 community champions from a wide range of backgrounds. So, I invited two of them to the committee meeting. I have to say that it worked extremely well.

Everyone is aware of the numbers, but as a member there’s nothing like being able to take on board firsthand testimony alongside the data. It was absorbing to hear one of them describe her personal experience of being diagnosed with borderline type 2 diabetes and how she works to share her knowledge of the condition. We also heard from Charlotte Summers, the chief operating officer of diabetes.co.uk, a website which supports people with the condition. Again, it was interesting to hear what they are doing. So, my third learning point is that for this type of scrutiny topic, I think that if it is being discussed at committee you need that firsthand testimony to help the members make sense of it all.

At scrutiny, members are often told about ‘triangulation’ or to put it simply, comparing and weighing up different pieces of evidence as a whole rather than separately. So, I would say that what I learned above all is that triangulation is more than just weighing different datasets, as important as they are. It is also about listening to people whose firsthand experiences make our understanding of a condition like diabetes real and tangible.

ketanCllr Ketan Sheth is Brent Council’s Chair of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee and an Ambassador for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes.