I was delighted to be invited to today's Civil Service Local North West Steering Group meeting. It was a chance for me to see how our departmental senior leaders support our work and to get an insight into the careful strategic planning that drives forward the opportunities, events and activities that form our regional programme. I was also keen to learn more about the national outlook from Leo Castledine, Head of Civil Service Local. And finally, I was looking forward to hearing what another guest to the meeting had to say - Olly Robbins - Home Office Second Permanent Secretary and Permanent Secretary Champion for Civil Service Local in the north west.
Olly was up first and talked about his own career path in the civil service and the challenges and rewards of his current role. He explained how his present field of work is a fascinating microcosm where he sees UK civil servants perform an extraordinary range of activities to deliver services for people with great competency, professionalism and care. He said it's reignited his enthusiasm for the Civil Service. Moving on to Civil Service Local, Olly said it was an honour and a privilege to be asked to be our champion. He went on to explain that he sees his role as being a friend, a contact and an ambassador. He hopes to help move things along and to promote Civil Service Local across government, including his own department.
He then spoke about the challenges we face in the Civil Service and how we need to maintain the good will of our civil servants. One of the biggest changes to our society which has an impact on how we all need to deliver public services is that within a lifetime, we have moved from having one and a half as many children as older people in our population, to the other way around. The population is changing but what does that mean for us? Olly was keen to point out that we mustn't assume that older citizens aren't up to speed with technology, citing his own technically savvy parents as a prime example. In fact, we need to follow their lead and really become more digital, reacting to the needs of the people we serve.
Civil Service Local is genuinely one of the most exciting things that's happened to the Civil Service. It harnesses the creativity needed to solve problems and brings together expertise in an unique way across government departments.
After a discussion about service delivery and the need to build digital capability, Leo outlined the future plans for Civil Service Local on a national level. She explained how connectivity is still very relevant to a Civil Service reducing in size. The focus is still to support vulnerable citizens with social mobility being a key objective. We need to incorporate more socio-economic diversity into our activities.
Leo went on to talk about the on-going success of the Academy programme and how crucial it is to continue to support those colleagues as well as helping everyone through difficult leadership challenges to develop their careers. She stated that we are committed to fostering a culture of innovation and encouraging new, creative thinking. She closed by thanking the north west team for enabling the region to be used as a test bed for trying out new things.
After a forward look from our project leads - and sorry, but there won't be any spoilers here - keep checking the blog for details, we were joined by two Middle Manager Academy delegates who shared their experiences with great passion. The pilot event had clearly had an impact and it was inspiring to hear how they'd already applied much of their learning back at the office.
I certainly learned a lot today and am looking forward to seeing the plans transform into actions over the next couple of years.