Staffordshire Council Candidate Open Day

A couple of weeks ago, in preparation for my candidacy, I attended the Candidate Open Day at Staffordshire County Council.

In short: it was a fantastic experience and I’m very grateful for the officers who stood around all day answering mine and others questions, helping me to better understand what the county council does and how county councillors work with them.

There were three sessions of 2 hours, and I was booked on the first one, which had a fair few attendees. There were two rooms with displays staffed by council officers representing the different areas of responsibility, and we after being welcome we were free to walk around and talk to folks as we pleased. There was then a demo of the council chamber microphone system and a historical tour of the county buildings.

While the historical tour was interesting, I perhaps should have forgone that. I ended up spending a long time talking to all the different council officers learning all I could and ended up being there for nearly three hours (and I still didn’t get round to all of them)! I’m grateful for their patience with me :)

I learned tons about things I didn’t know, and added to my existing knowledge about what the council does.

One thing I was impressed by was how much support is given to councillors. I left feeling more comfortable about the prospect knowing that there’s a bunch of people there to support me should I get the chance to be a councillor.

It surprised me to learn just how intertwined Amey Plc is with the council. It was a little unsettling, to be honest, to hear that Amey is so embedded within the council. There is, of course, going to be some outsourcing but this level of integration made me uncomfortable because I worry about how hard it would be to break that relationship should that become necessary. There are no doubt benefits, though, and it’s something I want to look into more to see exactly what the arrangement is.

Health and social care is quite the beast, and the display showed a monolithic diagram showing how different pieces of the system relate to each other. It was eye-opening and made me realise just how complex health and social care is with all it’s areas and the many different organisations all working together. I left feeling there has to be a better way.

The impact of cuts was clear too — more than once I ended up in a conversation about having to do less. That was sad to hear. Government, and especially local government, has a duty to support people, and it was in social care especially that I was uncomfortable that the council is having to try to do as much as it can to not spend money helping people. This is partly why I want to challenge the ideological cuts being forced on local councils by Westminster.

All in all a great, informative day, and then I enjoyed a lovely big burger across the road at The Market Vaults!