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Time To Embrace The Darkness, Rugby

12 Mar

On 1st February 2013, Rugby along with Nuneaton and Bedworth, followed the lead of Warwick and implemented a Part-Night Lighting scheme with 39,000 street lights switched off between the hours of midnight and 5.30am (Stratford and North Warwickshire will begin their own part night lighting scheme in April 2013). It’s all part of a Warwickshire County Council Plan to save a lot of money, but it is fair to say that it is not without it’s critics.

The lobby against Part-Night Lighting hinge their objections on the suggestion that such an action will have a detrimental effect on overall public safety. They fear that there will be an increase in thefts and attacks in areas without lighting….

Of course, it is a well known fact that all that stands between the average person and a random act of violence and/or public disorder is the presence of street lighting between the hours of midnight and 5:30 am. The streets will be awash with violence as people’s carnal senses enjoy their freedom from the conservative restraint of street lighting…but probably not.

Other places that have implemented Part-Night Lighting Schemes have not seen dramatic increases in violent attacks, muggings or rapes. As one of the estates affected by the switch-off, I can honestly report that there does not appear to have been a dramatic increase in cannibalism or a breakdown of the basic sensibilities of society.

No, In my humble opinion, Part-Night Lighting is a good idea, here’s why:

It saves the local authority a lot of money by not having to pointlessly keep lit street lights that aren’t really benefiting anyone. Why should you care about saving the local authority any money? That’s rather simple, the local authority does lots of groovy things that you, if you sat and think about it, will probably want it to keep doing for the foreseeable future, things like providing social care, looking after roads etc. In order to keep doing these things and make the savings Eric Pickles expects, local authorities have to stop doing things that are arguably a bit pointless. Lighting 38 000 street lights between 12 am and 5:30 am is arguably a bit pointless.

Also great news for anyone with a telescope and a love of the stars. Light pollution, mainly from fluorescent street lighting, blocks out so much; it’s why when you’re out in the countryside there appear to be far more stars in the sky. We’re lucky in Rugby to have a decent view of the heavens that is relatively free from light pollution, but the difference when the lights go out is both noticeable lovely. Find out more about the campaign for dark sky reserves.

Still not enough? The vital services saved? The beautiful tableaux of a pollution free night sky? No? Well it will also reduce carbon emissions by 3000 tonnes. 3000 tonnes! That means there will be at least 13.6 Polar Bears that won’t die…possibly, I’m never totally sure on the exact Carbon to polar-bear-not-dying exchange rate.

Dear Mr & Mrs Outraged Middle Class, Do Be Brief.

Alas, there is already talk of a review into the part-night lighting and I, for one, think that’s a shame. All too often ‘a review’ is cunning code for ‘we’re going to cave in to the ill-thought of views of the irate letter-writing middle classes.’

Make no mistake, the letter-writers will ruin it for everyone! They find themselves at such a loss of anything even approximating a life that their only recourse is to send angry emails to their local newspaper editor, their local MP, in fact anyone who is paid enough to endure their misguided prattle. If democracy no longer works it’s because this lot killed it.

The huge irony is Mr and Mrs Rabidly Outraged Middle Class don’t actually have any vested interest in lighting after midnight. They don’t tend to be in professions where there is a requirement for night time working and they are certainly not out and about in the street after midnight. They probably broadly agree with the idea of local authorities saving money too, they’d just rather that savings be found somewhere else other than the street lighting that they get no benefit from or the libraries that they haven’t used for years. They’re nimby hypocrites of the highest order.

I hope they don’t win here and we continue to embrace the darkness in Rugby.

Disclosure

In the interest of disclosure, I am employed by Warwickshire County Council, but these views are my views as a private citizen of Warwickshire affected by part-night lighting. As such, all these views are totally my own and not endorsed in any way by my employer.

I choose my words carefully and stand by them, but you know the score, right? If you don’t like these thoughts, stick around, I have loads of others.

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Introducing Camp Camp (Or shit just got Meta, but I’d still like to see your ROI)

19 Oct

I suspect this post will alienate a big chunk of my regular readers. I’m not going to apologise for that. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, pre-packaged outrage in hand, I shall begin…

I’d like to formally introduce you all to ‘Camp Camp’. It’s the latest in a long-line of public sector events and aimed at people who want to best use social media to set-up and attend huge numbers of events in their spare time, where roughly the same topics will be covered by largely the same people…Meta, right?

For my non-public sector followers, ‘Camp’ is the commonly applied term used to describe an Unconference-style event. People, mainly in the spheres of IT and Communications, gather together to discuss how new technology and social media can be used to best benefit a particular service area. Unconferences are largely unstructured events, sans agendas and totally driven by the topics that participants want to cover.

I’m joking about Camp Camp, of course, I have no intention of creating a Camp about the organising of Camps. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else was though.

I did help organise BlueLightCamp in April of this year and had great fun (on the whole) doing it, but it’s left me with a weird feeling ever since. You see, despite it’s lofty aims, you know what the camp I spent a massive amount of time organising actually achieved? Nothing at all! There is nothing that exists now that I can say came into being because I helped organise that camp. The level and standard of engagement by Blue Light Organisations is no better or worse than it was before we started. This makes me decidedly uncomfortable. Why? Because a lot of people gave up their time on a Sunday, a lot of Sponsors paid a lot of money and no one has anything really to show for it. Sure, we all made some new friends, but is that something that should be measured as a Return on Investment?

Return on Investment, ROI, now there’s a concept not regularly applied to Public Sector Unconferences, but it damn well should be! It should be, because I strongly suspect BlueLightCamp isn’t the only Camp that would struggle to demonstrate any form of Return on attendees Investment in terms of time and money.

The ‘Camp Scene’ is fast approaching critical mass, the bubble WILL eventually burst and, unless serious thought is given to things like Outcomes, a lot of great people will become disillusioned with the principles of Unconferences.

So…what am I asking?

To Organisers

It’s simple really, if you are organising a Camp I need to know you’re confident there is a need for that event. A real NEED, not just a spurious one that you can justify in your own mind. If you want me to attend your Camp, I don’t need an agenda, I do need to see something come about as a return on such a huge collective Investment. My time is very precious to me.

To Attendees

Don’t let my words put you off. If you are planning to attend your first Camp, I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. Broadly-speaking, I believe Unconferences are a valuable tool, I just don’t see them as an end in themselves. Always ask yourself this though: what has the event changed for me?

My top tip is: If you are are at a Camp with people like Dan Slee, Andy Mabbett, Mike Rawlins et al, spend time with them, they are truly lovely and brilliant people you can learn from. I have learnt a lot from them…but I could have done that without attending Umconferences as they are so generous with their time.

Finally…

To Sponsors

If you’re approached to sponsor an event like this, it’s reasonable and right to expect stated desired Outcomes that are a bit more robust than ‘sharing good practice’ and ‘meeting new people’. You would demand a damn-sight more if you were asked to invest in anything else.

**Update 21 October 2012**

Well this has certainly provoked some interesting responses from people, as the comments below give a flavour of. In the last few days I have been told that I am right, wrong, brave, a coward, short-sighted, insightful and, my personal favourite: that I have betrayed and annoyed a lot of people.   I am not sure that there is greater compliment as a writer than provoking such varied and intense responses from readers.

The thing that has surprised me most is this is nothing new, the issues that I raise, have been raised before. Here’s a post by Simon Gray that yoiu might find interesting: Challenge and groupthink amongst the #localgovweb community…

Interesting isn’t it? That was written over a year ago now and what’s changed? Really…What has changed? I’m sure when Simon wrote that it prompted the same sort of responses that this post did. A lot of people probably wrote some rather self-congratulatory posts about Camps and Uncons and nothing changed. The problem with cliques is that they will work hard, when needed, to maintain the status quo when it is threatened. Ask yourself this, who does the status quo is actually benefit?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and…

You know the drill, if you don’t like these thoughts, stick around, I have plenty of others.

America, vote Mitt Romney (if you want endless war and fiery death).

2 Sep

This week, I remembered that there is a wealth of difference between UK and US politics.

Picture the scene…

The leader of the main opposition party takes the stage for his keynote at the party conference and promises the party faithful that, if he is elected Prime Minister, there will be:

  • More war;
  • Less global stability;
  • Abortion will be made illegal; and
  • An isolationist approach to trade and imports/exports

There’s no way that would happen and, if it did, there is little hope that politician would ever be anything other than in opposition. Mitt Romney may be the next President of the United States and that’s the basis of his election campaign.

Watch Romney’s speech from the Republican Party Convention:

I found the moronic chanting of “U-S-A” an interesting touch.

Seriously America, you can’t honestly think this guy’s a viable alternative to Barack Obama. Mitt Romney strikes me as a rather venomous man, but here’s what his vague speech seemed to promise if he wins:

  • Romney will have America back to being seen as bully of the world in no time. Obama has said sorry once too often for Mitt’s liking, there’ll be no more apologising and Romney has a plan to create some awesome new situations to not be sorry for.
  • You’ll be going to war with Iran over their ‘nuclear weapons programme;’
  • You’ll be going to war with Syria…reason will be found at a later date;
  • Relations will be deliberately be soured with Russia by adopting a much less flexible approach with the Kremlin. Obama has been too soft there, apparently;
  • Not content with pissing off Russia, Romney also has a bone to pick with China whose loan of $1 Trillion now basically underpins the US economy;
  • He will save the State of Israel from the ‘wheels of the bus’ that he is certain President Obama has thrown them under; and
  • When not busy antagonising other superpowers and bombing small, Muslim countries back into the stone age, Mitt is committed to the criminalisation of abortion in the US, because all life is sacred…well all life except for the lives of those people in aforementioned countries that he will flatten.

It goes on, but it’s not all bad…in between all the war and infringements on basic human rights and freedoms, Uncle Mitt’s going to create a lot of jobs. He doesn’t really state how, exactly, these jobs will be created, but create them he will.

There was a single moment of praise for Obama, for the assassination of Osama Bin Laden…there is a cheer and chanting… Please. Don’t. Let. Them. Win

Political satire must be difficult in the US! I sat through a lot of the Republican Party speeches not entirely convinced that I wasn’t in fact watching a heavy-handed political satire. Mitt Romney strikes me as little more than a very sinister parody, but this is no joke, he might win in November’s US Election. That misguidedly dangerous fool might be the next President,

America doesn’t need Mitt Romney and the world certainly doesn’t need Mitt Romney.

Think of it like this, a vote for:

Probably leads to a future that looks like this:

So yeah, vote Mitt Romney: vote for the destruction of the environment, for religious intolerance, and for worldwide belligerence with massive helpings of war and death…

Alternatively, use your common sense, say no to the Republican morons. Vote for Barack Obama in the November 6th Elections. He’s not Mitt Romney!

That Friday Follow Thing: Social Care

25 May

For those not familiar Friday Follow (#ff) is a Twitter convention whereby on a Friday you recommend people to follow. This is considered, a fantastic way to make new connections via a trusted recommendation or one giant internet circle jerk where bored idiots stroke their egos, depending on your side of the argument.

Me?

I do it occasionally and it does end up taking a considerable amount of time up but, by the same account, I do follow a lot of people who I learn from on a daily basis. My preference is that if you’re going to do it then rather than just tweeting #ff and a list long list of names,  tweet a single username and the reason that you are recommending them, have to say I have personally founded quite a few new people to follow by such recommendations. Anyway enough of my personal Twitter etiquette, I will be doing posts like this from time-to-time on a Friday instead of doing it on Twitter, I’ll be doing the recommendations based on themes and today’s theme is Social Care. Even though our current Government seem to have forgotten about Social Care with the latest delay to the long awaiting and much needed White Paper, time and change wait for no one. Twitter is an exciting place to be for Social Care content at the moment, lots of connections are starting to form, debates are being had about the big issues affecting the practice and management of Social Care from people working in Local Authorities, Charities and from private sector providers of care. Without exception, all the social care Tweeters that I have met have been linked by desire to engage and that’s exciting for me, people are starting to share ideas and best practice in an open environment like Twitter and that can only be good for both the profession as a whole and to the public perception of it.

Call to Arms: Do You work in Health or Social Care?

We need you. We may need you to lead us, if you’re willing and your vision is strong enough, but we certainly need you. You might have the idea that makes it all work, we might have some ideas that work for you. I really want to see a lot more Social Care and Health tweeters and bloggers over the coming years, there’s a reason for this. Eddie Izzard does a sketch about bee-keepers:

You guys working front line Health and Social Care, you’re the bee keepers. I’ve met very few people working in Health and Social Care who told me they were ‘just doing a job’ or ‘just doing it for the money’ the thing that I have noticed is they share a genuine passion for helping people by offering the best services that they are able and that, in itself, is no easy task. So come on guys, let’s see you on Twitter, let’s hear your thoughts. We do not have to wait for a Government that has seemingly forgotten about us, we’re here, we’re talking; there is not a single movement in the history of civilisation that hasn’t started this way. Anyway, if you want to find the most interesting content on Twitter on UK Social Care here are the people I recommend you follow.

This list is by no means exhaustive, I have chosen the people I regard as the best curators of content, through these people you will find a lot more people to follow and engage with.

Shirley Ayres (@Shirley Ayres) – Shirley is a true leader and a bit of a heretic at times and quite right too, heretics have more fun! Shirley is responsible for well over half of the interesting content I read on Twitter around Social Care and Health, her skill at curating content and asking the right and difficult questions is legendary. I follow Shirley closely, she is always engaged in fascinating discussions on a variety of topics and I learn a lot. You should read her superb blog on Connecting Social Care and Social Media.

I have a list of people I intend to go out of my way to meet and learn from, Shirley is on there, we keep missing each other, but we’ll get there soon.

Ermintrude2 – Anonymous Blogger Ermintrude2 is another superb creator and curator of thought provoking content around Social Care. She is someone I would hold up as a superb ambassador for the profession, always sharing best practice and experience and always eager to engage in important discussions. Ermintrude is the antidote to the often skewed picture of  Social Care that is in the media, we need more people like her! She is involved in The Not So Big Society Blog, which I highly recommend.

GndSocialCare – Sometimes working in Social Care you’d be forgiven for thinking the national media an enemy. Unfortunately bad news sells more papers than good news, so a lot of the stories that end up running about Social Care are about the times it goes wrong or we get it wrong. The Guardian are on a wonderful mission to present a bit more balanced perspective on Social Care issues and their content just gets better and better. Check out the Guardian Social Care Network.

Claudia Megele – Her Twitter Profile States: There is little I’m not curious about & even less I’m not interested in… and that about sums up the content she creates and curates, always fascinating. Claudia is a Senior Lecturer, MSc Module Leader, Author and Researcher.

LearningSHaCK – This account is close to my heart as run  by friends and colleagues in the Learning and Development Service at Warwickshire, I helped them to get started on Twitter and am pleased to say they have become fantastic curators and creators of content.

And last, but no means least, a recent one, but immediately brilliant:

WhoCaresWalsall – Provides information about care services in Walsall and began with the live-tweeting of the morning in the life of Sheila who cares for her husband Ron who has Vascular Dementia. You can read the full story and you should, it was a superb piece of storytelling in real time and perfectly highlighted a lot of the issues of caring for someone who has dementia and also someone living with dementia. On every level I am in awe and certainly one to watch; there don’t have to be flashy unicorns, it just needs to be real and this is. Check out the blog and huge Kudos to Tina and Becky from Walsall Council for Tweeting such a powerful story. Also credit to Dan Slee for being awesome.

Are you working in Local Government Communication?

You need to be following Comms2Point0 and check out their awesome blog .

Social Care in Warwickshire

Social Care and Health

Adult Social Care

Children’s Social Care

Warwickshire Resource Directory

Recognise and Report Abuse

A message from a public sector worker

24 Nov

I’m tired of reading unfair criticism of the public sector; it’s in my timeline on Twitter, it riddles the national press like Cancer and even some of my friends seem to think it’s okay to do. They are wrong, they are all wrong!

I’m sick to death of reading some of the Public Sector workers that I look up to talking, almost apologetically, about working in the sector they do. I work in the public sector and I’m proud of this fact! Collectively, the work We do is amazing, We make a difference every single day; We are a diverse and multi-talented workforce dedicated to serving our communities. You would miss us if we are not there and I sincerely hope you never have to experience this.

You need to understand that We are angry, You need to understand where that anger comes from. We are angry because we have a Government that is striking at our very heart, willfully eroding our ability to deliver outstanding public services; We are angry that colleagues have lost their jobs to redundancy and that the loss of their skills and experience makes us collectively weaker; We are angry that our pensions are under attack; and We are angry that there is so little understanding that the Sector many like criticising most is paradoxically the Sector they rely on most.

On 30th November the public sector unions have declared a day of strike action and rightly so. Industrial action is never something we relish doing, We’d all rather be doing our jobs, the jobs we love. Striking is a last resort, but what other options do we have to make our voices heard than standing together in protest?

I’m serious here, show me another way, convince me we can show our opposition to this Government’s erosion of our services in some other way and I’ll recant all this in a heartbeat.

I suspect a lot of the criticism is bourne of ignorance of exactly what it is that we do, I encounter this all the time when I talk to people. Channeling the immortal voice of Tyler Durden allow me to explain:

Here it is, We collect your bins; We plan, build and maintain your roads; We make sure company’s maintain certain compliances; We make sure restaurants don’t poison you; We run your libraries; We care for the children no one else can or will; We safeguard vulnerable adults and children; We manage the residential care homes that you put your relatives in when you can no longer cope; We heal and care for you when you are sick; We fight your fires; We police your streets; We strive to communicate with communities in the best way we can; and We do all this on lower-than-average salaries, ever-decreasing funds and expectations of savings to be delivered.

Think about this, I mean really think about this, read it again if you need to…now think about this: Do. Not. Fuck. With. Us.

Support the public sector, we’re fighting to best deliver the services you rely on!

 

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