Suffolk’s New Strategic Direction is grinding to a halt, according to Patrick Butler, the Guardian’s cuts blogger. After a revolt by Tory county councillors the policy is in “tatters” but he says the jury is still out on whether changes amount to a U-turn or a “pause” in the NHS reforms sense.
Butler has one fact I had entirely missed — the choice of Andrea Hill as the the fifth most influential person in local government by the Local Government Chronicle last month. This is the citation:
Suffolk CC’s chief is driving one of local government’s most radical experiments on the Big Society concept with its vision of becoming a ‘commissioning council’. Suffolk has resolved to “withdraw as much as possible from its role as a service provider”.
Opponents have tried to label this as merely conventional outsourcing, but at the heart of Ms Hill’s vision is a council that signs service delivery contracts with mutuals led by its current staff and with voluntary sectors bodies.
Only a few of Suffolk CC’s services are expected to go to the private sector.
Such an upheaval has inevitably created enemies, and Ms Hill has shown fortitude and spirit in taking them on and putting across her case, not least in the face of a hostile media campaign that focused on her pay and even the price of her clothes.
Ms Hill is one of local government’s characters. She is an outspoken figure who attracts a lot of attention – both favourable and not.
This was controversial last year, but now, interestingly, other councils are beginning to consider the idea and run with it – albeit without Ms Hill’s high-profile panache.
As the year progresses, and Suffolk’s plans are realised, all eyes will be on Ms Hill as the sector seeks to learn from her valuable experience.
How things change in a month. I can’t imagine that final paragraph being written with such confidence now.
The six judges included Max Wilde, director of strategic development at BT Government. One of the factors in the current state of Suffolk CC is controversy over management of the huge Customer Services Direct joint-venture contract with BT.