Friday, 8 January 2010

North East Local Government Summit

To The Sage, Gateshead (or Newcastle, as the Conservative Shadow Spokesman for Local Government, Bob Neill, called it, bless him) today for the first North East Local Government Summit. Sadly, numbers were much depleted by the weather. Of the 12 or so Darlington councillors who had signed up to go, only me and Ian Hazeldine managed it. The trains were running fine, which is how I and most of the Council's CMT travelled.

The main hall was perhaps less than a quarter full, which was a shame because the speakers included Nick Brown, Jeremy Beecham, Margaret Eaton, Dave Prentis, Barry Quirk and Phyllis Starkey. By far the best speaker of the day, however, was former Olympic Champion, Chancellor of Sunderland University and "all round good thing" as the Chair called him, Steve Cram. He was amusing, witty, forceful, thoughtful and spoke with barely a glance at his notes for 20 minutes.

The day really consisted of sitting in the hall, a magnificent modern concert arena I'd not been in before, listening to a succession of speakers telling us about the challenges facing local government and about how great the north east is. There was very little time for questions and no chance for debate. Probably the main attraction for the movers and shakers, of which I am neither, was the chance to get together away from the office and to network with other local council leaders.

I didn't find it terribly useful. I do find these events which continually talk up the region a bit tedious. It's as if they're trying to convince themselves and us how wonderful the region is. I love the north east, but if I was told once I must be confident and proud of the region I was told a dozen times today. I got the message the first time, thanks.

Still, it made a change from work and I did get the chance to catch up with an old friend of mine who, unknown to me, has just landed the job of Head of Performance at Durham County Council.

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