Sunday, 26 December 2010

I'm too busy updating my Facebook status to get any work done!

I go online most days. How anyone survives without e-mail is a mystery to me! I do research look up information, events or activities. I can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema, theater or out for a meal without checking times and reviews and often booking on-line before I leave home.

However, I know how addictive aimlessly cruising the information super highway can be. Facebook, Blogging, E-bay, Discussion boards, etc all take up hours and hours without even noticing how much time is passing. So, I always try to be aware of how much time I waste. Wasted time is easy for me to measure; it’s time I’m not doing anything productive; it’s time when I’m not generating income. As a self employed person I get paid for what I produce and not just for turning up and sitting at a desk. No-one pays me for what I look like I’m doing. I get paid for achievements, not just looking busy.

I was therefore interested by reports of a “secret” audit of internet use at Waverley Council. This revealed Facebook was the most popular site visited by Council employees during working hours! Not far behind were E-bay and a gaming website. One unnamed worker averaged 90 hours a month on the internet!

Waverley Council now hope to save £100,000’s by restricting inappropriate website access from Council owned computers. I wonder what savings a similar “audit” at Hartlepool Council would produce? Staff on Facebook or close a Library? What would you chose?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

£2 Million Pounds at risk of being lost!

Hartlepool Borough Council, with funding from the Environment Agency, is carrying out a study to develop a scheme to improve the existing coastal protection provided by the Town Wall. The Town Wall provides protection from coastal erosion and coastal flooding to the highway, residential and business properties behind the wall, but is itself at risk of significant damage due to coastal erosion.

The first stage of the study was to determine the existing condition of the wall, and the ability of the wall to withstand future storms. The results of this first stage of the study were presented in a public consultation event held in the Borough Hall in July 2009.

The second stage of the study looked at a range of options to deal with the risk of flooding and coastal erosion at the Town Wall. Each option was evaluated on the basis of the storm protection provided, the environmental (including historic nature of the wall) and visual impacts and cost. As a result of this option appraisal process a preferred option was then selected.

A consultation event was held on 24th August 2010 in the Borough Hall to provide local residents and other interested parties with information regarding how the preferred option for the scheme was selected and to obtain feedback from local residents with regard to the acceptability of the preferred solution.

Over 200 invitations to the consultation event were sent to interested parties by post, and 300 invitations were distributed by hand to local residents in the area considered to be at risk from flooding in the future. These invitations were supported by press releases and public notices.

Only twenty-five members of the public attended the consultation event. Those attending were asked to complete feedback forms to enable Hartlepool Borough Council to gauge the level of support for the proposed solution, and seventeen forms were returned. Of the seventeen members of the public who returned the forms, eight were broadly in favour of the preferred solution, while nine were not in favour of the preferred solution.

A description of the proposed solution and timetable for future events is attached for your information. This solution was selected as the most advantageous scheme and has the highest chance of receiving funding from the Government. There are other possible solutions but analysis has shown that it is extremely unlikely that they would be funded. Copies of the presentation and posters provided at the August 2010 consultation event can be downloaded from or viewed at Bryan Hanson House.

The benefits of the scheme are that erosion / deterioration of the wall is dealt with in a manner acceptable to English Heritage and the standard of flood protection to the properties is significantly increased. This will secure the future for residential and business properties in the current flood risk zone.

The limited feedback from the consultation event shows a fairly even balance between support for and opposition to, the proposed solution. Unless further support for the scheme can be demonstrated from the local community, there is a real danger that the £2m funds currently allocated to the construction works will be redistributed nationally and the opportunity to implement improvement works lost.

In order to determine whether further support for the scheme exists within the local community, the Council are therefore asking the residents of the Headland to complete the Feedback Form by the 31st December 2010.

The Town Wall is an important part of the history of Hartlepool, particularly the Headland area and plays a key role in the every day lives of the residents of the Headland. It is therefore essential that the Council are able to gauge local opinion with regard to any decisions relating to the future of the Town Wall and that local views are expressed and taken into consideration in the decision making process. We would therefore urge you to complete the Feedback Form.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Hartlepool Council Crisis Response

I read an interesting article in the Public Service News ( this week that was based on the premise that crisis-situations appear to have become the norm in today’s society as opposed to the exception.

The list is fairly impressive, from mad cows, avian flu, fuel blockades, climate change, predatory paedophiles, feral hoodies, economic collapse, terrorist plots, volcanic eruptions, etc, etc. and it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that politicians and their officials are generally ill-equipped for dealing with the non-routine challenges, threats (and even opportunities) provided by crises.

Beyond the UK there are a host of centers of excellence, like the European crisis management agency and the Australian and New Zealand School of Government, that specialises in preparing politicians and officials from all levels of government for the challenges of governing under pressure.

Participants are placed in a central control room and fed snippets of information from a variety of sources using live video streams, email, faxes and a variety of other real-time tools. As the pressure builds and the information becomes more complex the group is instructed to prepare a number of briefings for the council leader. As the information coming into the control room changes so do the demands placed upon the teams.

Scenarios often include appearing in front of the media at very short notice in a full press conference in which they feel the full force of a media feeding frenzy. The most significant and valuable element of this exercise is the manner in which it provides a fairly raw but incredibly valuable insight into how crisis leadership demands a quite different set of skills and assumptions than are commonly honed in day-to-day 'normal' politics.

There's a paradox here the frequency of major emergencies is set to increase because public services are under greater pressures, but we still fail to train decision-makers in the art of governing in a crisis. There is a huge difference between 'coping behaviour' and 'crisis leadership' and it is exactly this fact that makes this kind of project so important.

I wonder how Hartlepool Council would perform in a major emergency? Something really significant like the pies running out at Victoria Park or Drummond getting stuck in the WC? I would have thought the first response weapon in Drummond’s Crisis kit is give Paul Walker another pay rise, no doubt followed by another council re-organisation and a press release urging calm but re-assuring the people of Hartlepool that the Tall Ships will be returning soon!