The theme for this year’s event was ‘Unleashing the Potential of Counties’, designed to showcase the great work county authorities are doing in driving economic and place-based growth agendas, and to position member councils for the all-important post-general election period.
Click here to read our new chairman Cllr David Williams’ opening speech, where he touched on many of the key themes of the campaign, as well as setting out CCN’s key immediate priorities for the new administration when it comes into power next month.
The event begun on Sunday evening with an informal drinks reception, where the network paid tribute to its former chairman Cllr Paul Carter, who stood down from his role in September after four years at the helm.
The Monday morning begun with an local economy, growth, and devolution session. Delegates heard from Grant Thornton on their forthcoming report for CCN, exploring the county role in place-based growth – featuring the good practice already being done across the country, but also arguments for empowering county authorities to do more. To illustrate the strong work being done by our member councils, Cornwall Council’s chief executive Kate Kennally presented on her authority’s devolution deal, and Kevin Bentley, the deputy leader of Essex County Council on their infrastructure and ‘garden communities’ agenda.
You can download the slides from the session below.
The second session of the conference featured an informative presentation from Stuart Carlton, the corporate director of children’s services in North Yorkshire County Council and Debbie Barnes head of paid at Lincolnshire County Council outlining the positive trajectory in children’s services that they helped introduce at their respective councils.
Download the slides from this session below.
Keeping on the same topic, delegates then heard from Dez Holmes, the director of Research In Practice, on the service and safeguarding issues around young people transitioning from childhood into adulthood – which was a very informative session where she was not afraid to challenge delegates in the room. The slides to her session are available below.
After a lunch break, we heard from Richard Lum from Newton on the social care integration agenda, alongside Peter Fairley from Essex County Council’s experiences of implementing a sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) in Essex, and Andy Lumb, who spoke about frontline service transformation in Birmingham.
Delegates then heard from the chairman of the Local Government Association James Jamieson, who commended CCN’s work over the summer to secure a better deal for local government in the then-government’s Spending Review. Cllr Jamieson, who is leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, outlined why he finds the conference valuable below.
Looking ahead to next year, the conference’s next session explored the short to long-term financial outlook for councils, and looked at next year’s Spending Review, with expert insight from Pixel Financial Management and the Institute For Fiscal Studies (IFS) on how councils could be funded in the future, based on current projections and trajectories. The session also heard from the Society of County Treasurers (SCT) on the work they are carrying out ahead of the Spending Round. Download slides from the IFS and SCT below.
In what was a conference first, delegates then had their chance to shape CCN’s new ‘priorities for the incoming government’ document, designed to set out the network’s advocacy for whoever forms a new government next month. This session allowed delegates to make recommendations on the document’s current content, as well as suggesting new advocacy and priority areas – such as climate change.
The star of the evening at the conference was the indomitable TV presenter Andrew Neil, who entertained guests with anecdotes and shrewd political analysis as the after-dinner speaker.
The opening session of Tuesday morning gave delegates a chance to hear what makes a compelling news story from two contrasting speakers – one from the point of view of BBC politics correspondent Alex Forsyth, who has written up several stories on CCN research this year, and Oxfordshire County Council’s director of adult social care Stephen Chandler. Mr Chandler worked with BBC Panorama on a two-part documentary when he was in Somerset which aired in the summer.
In the penultimate session of the conference, delegates heard from Simon Ford, from the Violence and Vulnerability Unit, and Lucy Belcher, from the Children’s Society on county lines and knife crime; two emerging issues for county authorities.
The final session of the conference was a well-received plenary from Paul Streets from the Lloyds Bank Foundation Trust on voluntary sector partnership working with county authorities.