I have been on holiday for the last week, which has proved to be a wonderful and illuminating break. It could hardly have been greener, for as with recent previous years we have spent the week at home in London, making use of this fantastic city. This time it was with a twist as we signed up for what have become known immediately as ‘Boris Bikes’ or more simply ‘Borises’; the new hire scheme for central London. They are a huge success, with unintended consequences, I have never known so many complete strangers to strike up a conversation, it’s better than being a dog walker.
The bikes themselves have been a wonderful way of getting round town, journey out for heavy shopping and back by taxi. Four or five short hops in a day punctuating visit to zoo with daughter and grandchildren, early evening drink in St James’ Park and then dinner in a rooftop bar in Hackney. Fantastic, good exercise, virtually free, improving the way people relate to each other and developing the urban landscape for the future. Today it was a trip to Columbia Road and then to the Whitechapel Gallery for a most wonderful exhibition of the work of Alice Neel. Our day to day bikes could be heard grumbling in the car park, but they will see their moment on hills and outside Zone 1.
All of this is a roundabout way of concluding that even with the budget settlement looking tough, and with the public sector landscape changing by the day, it’s important to remember that it’s these policy changes that shape the places we live in; it’s this place shaping that is the purpose of local public service and leadership.
So with the week off drawing to a close it’s time to take stock and look to the next few weeks ahead:
A week, even in August, is a long time in local government, especially right now as the new government continues to settle in and set its agenda. Not least the news this weekend of the abolition of the Audit Commission and the proposed self regulatory framework being developed by the Local Government Association. I’ll be writing on the question of right shape for the regulatory framework or what’s sometimes called the ‘authorising environment’ for the public sector in the near future.
Also in the next week or so I will be writing on the importance of spatial planning, on the back of a much more immediate article on place shaping and why it’s important. I’m intending also to spend some time considering the relationship of personal services, such as children’s services and adult social care, to the place shaping question. How does the way they are delivered have an impact on place? These together with a piece on the linkage of policy priorities to budget planning will form the focus for the next month or so.