It’s tough running something like PAS. We spend public money and certainly sound like a quango (even if we’re not). Most of the things we do are delivered free at the point of delivery, so we don’t have the most perfect of feedback loops – people buying from elsewhere. Accordingly, we do our best to understand whether or not we’re doing the right thing and one of the methods is to have a steering board.
One of the clear messages we got from our steering board was the level of pain anticipated for next year. On a practical level we have therefore made changes to our programme, all based on what we anticipate will be the needs of LPAs who are cash-strapped and in a tough environment. But there were two related things that I took away from the event.
Our steering board is a genuinely interesting bunch of people and I really love them for their generous and well-meant help. However, the idea that probably has given me the most thought in the days afterwards was made as an aside.
If we couldn’t make the LDF system work in times of plenty, how on earth are we going to make progress now ?
Written down, it looks a bit gloomy, but I think it was meant in a more energising way. This is the time to actually ‘get real’, time for planning to embrace “satisficing”.
The other is shamelessly stolen from AlicePalace, my partner at PAS. She very shrewdly observed that the popular mantra “doing more with less” is misleading, and actually not particularly helpful when planning services. Far more appropriate for next financial year is “doing less with less” – let’s challenge everything and make sure that it is actually going to make our place better.
Yes, it’s very natual for people like me sitting in “improvement services” to talk enthusiastically about “transformation” and “efficiency gains” maybe even “cashable savings”. However, when pondering what I heard described as “ten lean years” it feels to me that AlicePalace has it just right. The starting point is not to attempt to keep all the plates spinning on slightly less money – rather it is to beat an orderly retreat and focus on a sound core of necessity. Welcome to the age of austerity. Doing less with less. Merry Christmas.