Last night, I attended the annual Reward and Recognition Ceremony at the Council, where many of its High Achievers are acknowledged for what they do. It is the fourth one I have attended and I said a few words during the second half. I was keen to make the point that it was important to reflect on where we are and compare this to the baseline of May 2006 (when this current Council – run by the current administration – began). I gave a few highlights from each area of the Council:
- The Performance Improvement Programme (PIP). It was this Change Programme that has enabled the Council to freeze Council Tax throughout this period and at the same time improve so many services. No change programme is perfect but if there is a more successful one in Local Government, please let me know;
- Finance. It was the expertise from this area that kept us on track – in financial terms – during the PIP;
- Planning Enforcement. I do not think that this function has as high a profile anywhere in the country as it does in the London Borough of Hounslow;
- Community Environment Team. A perpetually difficult role and sometimes perpetually impossible job. They get a lot of casework from me and it is important that I acknowledge the great job that they do. I was thrilled that the Officer responsible for the West Area in the Borough was nominated for the Members Award for Excellence award. A very nice man who genuinely gives his all;
- Leisure. Again, the turnaround with the local parks has been astonishing. I am quick to point out on my blog where I do not think standards are good enough so no one should really question my objectivity. But overall the turnaround in areas such as this has been massive;
- Adult Social Care. One of the best examples of an area that has managed to constantly deliver better value for money whilst not impacting front line services;
- Housing. Hounslow leads London in raising the profile of Houses in Multiple Occupation. We now have an Additional Licensing Scheme that will deliver better standards in some wards that would have been seen otherwise;
- Children’s Services and Lifelong Learning. Brilliant news about the recent Ofsted Inspection. And, superb news about the massive improvements at Feltham Community College;
- Corporate Services. We have seen a massive turnaround in the area of Complaints Management and have been very successful in resolving complaints earlier – Officers in Committee Services, Customer Services and Legal Services have all played a massive part;
- IT. The Council, thanks to a brilliantly run project that was recently closed, now has a purpose built Data Centre and this matters because it has removed a large amount of risk from the Council – a risk that could impact on all service areas and the clients they serve. Again, I was thrilled to see someone I have got to know very well receive the Individual Award for Outstanding Performance – really well deserved and I am so happy about it. The word ‘Extra Mile’ was used frequently last night and it applies to him as much as anyone else.
Of course, the danger with highlighting areas is that there is a real danger of missing people out. There are lots of other areas that do vital work – Highways, Registration Service, Democratic Services, Trading Standards and others who have some brilliant people.
This is certainly not a case of believing my own hype as I acknowledge that there is a long way to go (there always will be and there always should be) but I certainly was pleased to celebrate last night (and to have a couple of drinks in Feltham with my father afterwards). I bat for my constituents and never hesitate to complain when I feel a constituent is let down but at the same time, I am objective. I would certainly have taken where we are had that been offered to me in May 2009. The Officers present last night have made such a positive difference.
The turnaround over the past three and a half years has been massive. Value for Money, Pride, Civic Pride, Best Practice, Tough Decisions, Meaning Business. No longer is Hounslow London’s Forgotten Borough.