Proper Gander: Issue No. 29 (28/07/06) Features Barbecue send off for green fingered John Heading for the capital's square mile

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Proper Gander: Issue No. 29 (28/07/06)


Barbecue send off for green fingered John

Heading for the capital's square mile
Chris will be a great loss to the County Council.

An unmissable summer pleasure
Dillington House will be presenting five evening concerts devoted to the classical guitar.

Access for all is the key
Simple and clear guidance for everyone.

Volunteering is far from a SLAP in the face

SPRINT now to book a training course

Get ready for a 'lively' meeting
This year, the AGM is highlighting two areas that fit in with SCC's aspirations for excellence.

Mendip storytellers shortlisted as project of the year

Link change


Chief Exec's weekly news
Hot, hot, hot! Temperatures have reached new heights this week.

Further Information

Photo of the Week
Allium christophii.

About & Help
How to submit news, a story, comments or questions and previous issues.

Hot, Hot, Hot!

This time of year - and even more so at this juncture in the warming of the Planet and melting of the icecaps - every journalist has to go for a 'Phew! Wot a scorcher!' headline, a piece about how Giant Sunfish are cruising off the Cornish Coast or a photo of a an office worker wearing this year's city collection of Lycra shorts, Viv Westwood-esque printed suit-and-tie T-shirt, brogue-flip flops and knotted hanky (hey, there might be a market for that... think I'll sketch an outfit).

Too much for me to resist, given the temperatures this week and the level of discomfort that many of us have had to endure in the sweatshops of County Hall. In my lovely apple panelled office I have been throwing Glastonbury Spring Water at the walls all week to prevent spontaneous combustion but all that I have achieved is the raising of the humidity in the sauna.

One of my favourite comments came from Alok Jha's article Boiled Alive in the Guardian on Wednesday:

When the human body gets to 42C, it starts to cook.

The heat causes the proteins in each cell to irreversibly change, like an egg white as it boils.

Even before that, the brain shuts down because of a lack of blood coming from the overworked, overheated heart. Muscles stop working, the stomach cramps and the mind becomes delirious. Death is inevitable.

This is a close description of how many of us felt at the end of two and a half days, trapped alive in the SMB / Portfolio Holders budget meeting at the beginning of the week...

At a serious level the 2003 heatwave killed more than 30,000 people.

It was the biggest natural disaster in Europe on record, according to the government's chief scientific adviser.

As temperatures have reached new heights this week, there have been repeated warnings from official sources that have particular significance for many of our services.

Especially those which support older people.

It may seem like stating the obvious but some common sense advice can be helpful.

If you feel that you might benefit from some no nonsense advice, try this:

The only other news that I want to pass on this week comes from the Chief Executives' Crime and Disorder Briefing which took place yesterday at Portishead.

Two things are worth a special mention.

The first is that the Home Office proposals for Police reorganisation are officially cancelled. Most people around the room, particularly those of us from local government, felt that we should be writing jointly to the Home Office with an estimate of the abortive costs of this debacle and a request that the costs be reimbursed to defray the future costs of, say, the funding gap in supporting Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).

The second issue is that very point about the gap, beyond 2008, in the funding of PCSOs.

In Somerset, as opposed to CUBA (Councils that Used to Be Avon), we are working out a pragmatic solution that may share the costs - but given the pressures on our budgets this is by no means guaranteed.

One of the main themes in the public sector in recent years has been Government pressure on the partner agencies to be more joined up.

But the impact of a shortfall in this sort of cross-cutting budget has the potential to drive the partners apart.

Health Service cuts and their impact on social care is another case in point. There is an opportunity here to demonstrate how joined up we have become by combining our efforts in lobbying Government on these issues.

A partnership approach to tackling funding gaps such as this would be both novel and more effective. The third issue is that, nationally, the crime figures have, after a long period of decline, begun to level off and in most areas rise.

The South-West is at the back end of this trend but even here crime figures have begun to rise and in some areas and for particular offences the rise is steep.

Theft from cars (as opposed to car theft) has shown the highest increases, possibly because it is easier and less risky than many other 'acquisitive' crimes.

So far there are no clear indications of what the causes are but as always, drugs are the most common element.

Speaking of drugs but on a different tack, only a week ago, Floyd Landis produced a heroic ride on the last stage in the Alps of the Tour de France.

It was one of those legendary and epic stories, first dropping from first place to a seemingly unrecoverable eleventh and then on the next day miraculously riding up to third place - within striking distance of the overall lead.

He re-established the lead on Saturday and held it into Paris to become the first winner of the Tour in the post-Lance Armstrong era.

In this amazing solo performance he had apparently re-established the great legends of the Tour.

It was particularly poignant as it produced an ecstatic ending to a Tour which began with a number of top riders having to be withdrawn because of allegations about performance enhancing drugs. One week on, Landis now faces suspicion about doping.

Sadly, the International governing body have found an anabolic steroid in his test results.

If you are wondering why I thought you might need to swot up on Pro Cycling, it is to get you ready for next year's Tour of Britain, in which Somerset is sponsoring a key stage.

If you don't know your cranks from your bottom bracket or if you thought that a 'Domestique' was a char-lady you need to get up to speed - literally! This event will blow you away!

Bananas, by the way, contain a natural form of anabolic steroids.

They also look great with Lycra and, if carried appropriately, are also legal.



Barbecue send off for green fingered John

John Baker, Resources Coordinator at the Youth Equipment Store, retires from his post on July 31st, after eight years of dedicated service. To John, his work at the store has been more than just a job.

He has enhanced and expanded the ethos of the Youth Equipment Store, which is to make good quality equipment available for young people at affordable prices.

He has given particular support to local schools, Duke of Edinburgh's Award groups and the Prince's Trust, and his positive and helpful attitude has been very much appreciated by the ever-increasing number of customers using the store.

His support to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award was recently recognised when he was given a special presentation at the Civic Reception held at Hestercombe Gardens to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Award.

Somerset County Youth Service staff said goodbye to John at a surprise barbecue held in the grounds of Weir Lodge when Elisabeth Piecha, Group Manager for Youth Services, presented him with some garden centre vouchers from his colleagues.

As well as working in his garden, his retirement promises to be an exceptionally busy one as he is also planning to build a two-storey extension on his house.

Submitted By Louise Walker

Heading for the capital's square mile

Chris Bilsland, Corporate Director of Resources at Somerset County Council, has been appointed as Chamberlain to the City of London Corporation, the authority that looks after London's "Square Mile" business district.

Chief Executive of Somerset County Council, Alan Jones said: "Chris has been a chief officer with the County Council since 1991 when he was appointed County Treasurer. More recently he has been the Corporate Director: Resources and has been a great support to me personally by leading many important projects."

"This is an opportunity to join the City of London at a time of exciting change and help lead a unique organisation that has ancient roots but a modern role right at the heart of the UK and Europe's business success."

"Chris will be a great loss to the County Council but his appointment to this prestigious post is well deserved."

Submitted by Deborah Porter

An unmissable summer pleasure

Dillington House will be presenting five evening concerts devoted to the classical guitar in various ensemble combinations from Sunday, July 30th until Thursday, August 3rd.

The concerts get off to a lively start on Sunday evening with a varied programme of Spanish music entitled Viva España, ranging from the 16th century to the present day. On Monday the Arctic Guitar Trio will present a programme which includes music from their native Norway. Tuesday's concert features some fiery Argentinean dances from the Groningen Guitar Duo, and on Wednesday, The De Casas Duo will play Spanish Flamenco music.

The Festival closes on Thursday with the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet playing an exhilarating selection of music including works by, among others, Rossini and Moussorgsky.

The balmy evenings and the beauty of Dillington's setting, together with the sound of classical guitars making music of the highest standards really does guarantee a pleasurable summer experience.

The concerts all take place at Dillington House near Ilminster and start at 8pm except for Sunday, July 30th, which begins at 6.30pm. Tickets for individual concerts cost £12 (under 18s £6). Each ticket bought entitles you to a 'free' ticket for a concert on another evening of your choice. A season ticket giving admission to all five concerts costs £30.

Pre-booked suppers are available at £15.50 per head before all concerts except on Sunday, July 30th.

For more information and to reserve tickets or book pre-concert suppers call Dillington House on 01460 52427.

Submitted by Barbara Shaw

Access for all is the key

Somerset County Council is committed to excellent customer care and it is becoming more important that we ensure that our services are accessible and inclusive.

Over the next few months, the Customer Access & Equalities Team will be producing simple and clear guidance for everyone to follow.

It will form part of our Corporate Customer Access Standards and will set minimum standards for all County Council staff to follow.

Our first set of Corporate Standards relate to the written information we produce (for example, email, Word documents, publications and posters):

* Use Arial 12 minimum as your font type and size. We recommend this if you are unsure of your audience. You may need to be flexible if you know the needs of your audience and they prefer a different font or font size. Set your Word 'default' to Arial 12. (See Proper Gander issue for information on how to do this).

* Don't use capital letters exclusively and avoid italics.

* Avoid using 'justified' paragraphs ('justifying' makes the text evenly spaced out between your left and right hand margins).

* Don't lay text over images.

* If you are making hard copies, use paper that gives the highest contrast but does not have a high gloss. For example black text on off-white or pale yellow or light blue paper. Avoid red text on paper.

* Make sure that any PowerPoint presentations are accessible - there needs to be high contrast between the text and background (for example, you could use black text on a pale yellow background or yellow text on a dark blue background).

* Include the equalities statement and symbols on all public documentation and information produced for staff.

* Use Plain English and be jargon free. Also think about including a short summary of your document in 'Easy Words'.

For more advice on producing information visit:, call 01823 356728 or email

Submitted by Jane Harris

Volunteering is far from a SLAP in the face

"Last September, I left a city-centre office in Leicester for the clean air and countryside of Somerset. I'd been making slow progress on problems to do with global warming and when my contract ended it was a good time for a complete change."

"After two weeks at West Huntspill, Enterprise Resource Centre Bridgwater and Six Acres, I began to meet individual service users for their chosen activities. Somerset Leisure Access Partnership (SLAP) volunteering benefits so many people: volunteers, service users, parents and staff. With sixteen different people to visit every fortnight, I have a lot of fun, receive a lost of thanks and feel satisfied like never before."

"Some of the things I've learnt so far are that horses sleep standing, pool isn't the same as snooker, the fast slide at Sedgemoor Splash takes your breath away, you don't need legs to be a good swimmer and you don't have to talk to enjoy someone's company."

"Of particular interest to me are the many classical concerts in Taunton: fortunately, one service user specifically requested such events so I don't have to go alone. We have heard the Somerset County Youth Orchestra at the Tacci Morris Arts Centre and the English Mozart Ensemble at St Mary's Church - both brilliant performances."

"I'm now looking forward to visiting schools in Mendip to recruit new volunteers, and also have new services users to support in the area. Will I return to computer programming when my voluntary year ends? No - I've seven months to find something at least as rewarding as SLAP."

Submitted by John Greenhough

SPRINT now to book a training course

The Chief Executive's Office has been working with Dillington IT Training to produce a range of corporate training courses to build capacity in Project Management, Process Mapping and Business Process Re-engineering.

To build technical knowledge within a project team Microsoft Project training is also available.

Somerset County Council is embarking on an ambitious programme of Business Process Engineering (BPR), designed to transform and modernise the way we deliver our services.

The methodology we have chosen is called SPRINT, which is specifically designed for use in the public sector as a tool for achieving smooth change.

The first step to understanding and measuring what we do as an organisation is to draw a diagram of your daily tasks. This will be done through the use of process mapping.

By amalgamating service level process maps upwards to create the corporate level map, we will build the bigger picture of the organisation. But how do you build a process map?

Quite easy really, you just need to attend the one day training session using Corporate Process Mapping software, Triaster.

For those people who will be involved in analysing Service level maps to ensure they connect to form the corporate level map, there is a half-day analyst edition training session.

Having identified projects, in the form of changes that need to be implemented, these should then be managed through the use of the SCC Corporate Project Management Standard.

Further training courses for SPRINT and Triaster will be available in the autumn.

A waiting list for the Corporate Project Management training is in place with dates available in 2007. Places for any of the above training can be booked through Tom Main on extension 5442.

Submitted by Pam Pursley

Get ready for a 'lively' meeting

The Black and Minority Ethnic Employee Network (BMEEN) is holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on September 7th and it is set to be a lively event.

I am writing in the hope that more employees will come to this meeting and consider joining the Network.

BMEEN is supported by corporate management and is a positive platform for embracing equalities, and black and minority ethnic staff are encouraged to participate in its activities.

Those of you who know me may be surprised to hear that I am a member of BMEEN.

I am Canadian, but I am also Croatian which I believe gives me a perspective that is useful in discussing issues with other BMEEN members.

BMEEN is a group that meets every first Thursday of the month to discuss a range of topics from the Staff Charter and fair treatment, to the experiences members have working for SCC and how we can help shape policies to ensure improved inclusion.

This year, the AGM is highlighting two areas that fit in with SCC's aspirations for excellence. Roger McKenzie, the only Black Regional Secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), will be talking about diversity issues related to public/private partnerships.

As the Improving Services In Somerset (ISIS) plans move forward, the experiences that Roger will share with us will be timely and relevant.

We have also invited a senior officer from Leicester City Council who will talk about how they gained Beacon Status in two equalities-related areas: Culture and Sport for Hard to Reach Groups and Community Cohesion.

Leicester has a strong reputation for promoting positive community relations through people of different cultures and faiths coming together with key agencies to address problems.

This educational discussion will be of particular interest to us as SCC consolidates achievements to date and works towards Level 4 of the nationally-recognised Equalities Standard for local government.

Directors, senior managers and Sam Crabb, portfolio holder for Resources, including HR, will be in attendance. The AGM is taking place at Dillington House at 12.30pm (including lunch) and will finish at 4.30pm.

You will feel welcome, as I did, and your views will help influence change which I'm sure you will agree is an important outcome.

Please call either Jamshid Ahmadi on 01823 356131 or Kate Allen on 01823 355502 for further information or if you wish to attend the AGM.

Submitted by Anne Brayley

Mendip storytellers shortlisted as project of the year

'Storytellers', a Somerset County Council supported course in storytelling for people with learning disabilities, has reached the final of the South West and West area's The National Lottery Awards 2006.

The course is the first of its kind in the country and is one of four projects in the South West and West area chosen to go head-to-head in a public vote to become the area's National Lottery Project of the Year.

The winner will earn a place in the UK final, which will be broadcast on national television.

The project has been developed to offer adults with learning difficulties the chance to explore the world of storytelling.

Everyone has a story to tell about themselves, and everyone enjoys stories, but many people lack the support, confidence and communication skills to share anecdotes with each other.

Through the project, people have learned the power of creating and sharing stories.

Representatives from the winning South West and West project will attend the UK awards ceremony where the overall winners will be announced.

The BBC will showcase this during The National Lottery Draw programme on National Lottery Day in Autumn. To register your vote for 'The Unlimited Company - Storytellers in Mendips' call 0845 434 9071 or log on to and click on National Lottery Awards.

Voting lines are open now and close on August 11th.

Submitted by Steven Welsby

Link change

The link to the ISiS intranet shown under Corporate Projects has changed.

Submitted by John Greenhalgh

Please note that the link to ISiS in Further Information needs to be updated:

Further Information

Awards and Accolades

The County Council strives towards excellence in everything we do. See how we are achieving this here. Go to Awards & Accolades

Corporate Diary

Forward plan your diary with details of forthcoming corporate events here. Go to Corporate Diary

Corporate Projects

Feel you’re in the dark? Switch on the light on the major projects the County Council is currently undertaking here. Go to ISiS Go to Local Area Agreement

Job Opportunities

Want a new challenge or a new career? You can find out more with a few clicks here! Go to Job Opportunities


Our partnerships are fundamental to delivering excellent services. Go to Somerset Waste Partnership

Press Releases

Keep up to date with how the County Council is getting its ‘Good News’ in the media here. Go to Press Releases

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