A couple of weeks ago I helped make up the judging panel for the COSLA Excellence Awards. This is the third year I’ve taken part in this process and once again I came away with a sense of just how far our local authorities are going to improve things for their citizens.
Excellence is a term bandied about in the public sector too freely. Far too often the services provided by councils, the NHS and others are far from excellent. The media is there to hold them to account and to uncover these failings, however, while this is hugely important, it is sometimes easy to forget the success stories.
Politicians at Holyrood and in council chambers might spend their lives arguing about the bigger picture and the so-called important issues, but there are hundreds, if not thousands of people working away in the background of our public sector, quietly making a difference.
The Excellence Awards are a great opportunity to see up close some of the projects and initiatives which are taking place across the country. And it is reassuring to think that this is just a drop in the ocean. For every project which has made it to the judging room, there are hundreds more who don’t put themselves forward or make their voices heard.
The passion we saw among the people who came to present their projects was moving and in my mind, each and every one of them is a winner. To hear the impact these projects have on the lives of the people they are designed to help was something to behold. Local government might call them ‘service users’ – it does love its jargon – but to me, they are just people who need some help.
At a time when local government might be feeling oppressed by dwindling budgets and overwhelmed by the demands of Westminster-imposed welfare changes, it’s good to take a step back and look to the grassroots. Thinking outside the box is not easy, especially within a huge organisation, but if these awards tell us something, it is that our local government, for all its failings, is still hugely innovative and its people can be passionate and thoughtful. I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly how I’d want it to be.
Since last time… bought a shredder and then shredded seven-years worth of old bank statementes…enjoyed a family-tastic trip to Aberfoyle to celebrate my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday