It’s events like this that keep me sane!

I’ve been to two really cracking events in the last two weeks both connected to the housing association, Plus Dane, that I am pleased to chair.

The first we called our Graduation Day. At this event staff at all levels and tenants were congratulated on the awards they had received throughout the year for education and training activity.

Leading the way was Helen who had started with CDS about 20 years ago with few formal qualifications. We congratulated her on getting an MA! Then we acknowledged the work of some of our tenants who are now qualified tenant inspectors. I won’t mention the age of one lady as she is a bit scary but let me put it this way – I couldn’t pass a test at her age or have the courage to go for a diploma. For one of our tenants it was the first qualification he had in his life and he was very proud and yet regretful that he hadn’t tried to do more earlier on in his life. Alongside the two extremes were more than 100 people from our staff of 550 who had got an appropriate qualification that we had helped them with. All we did, however, was provide the cash and opportunity. It was they themselves who did the work; who studied at night; and did all this alongside the day job.

The second event was last night and it was our youth champion awards. Well what a stunner it was. Seven prizes awarded by the young people that we help with a range of programmes across the arrears in which we work. They had decided for themselves who should win what award and in between awards they performed with singing and dancing to an incredibly high standard. The awards were not just to young people but to people the young people recognised had gone the extra mile on their behalf.

The most hotly contested category was, “Plus Dane department that goes the extra mile for young people”. The winners were our income maximisation department who recognise that young people are perhaps not as organised as we would like and really try to help them increase their income. The award that I had presented was to FACT, a local Arts Centre, who the young people recognised as providing a good programme.

As I chatted to people before and after both events it was evident to me that people were very proud to be associated with our organisation. A modern Apprentice who lives on one of our estates who is now gaining experience in our HQ told me how she loved getting up in the morning to her first real job where she ‘helps people all day in a great team”. One of the young people last night spoke of how she loved working with us because she was treated as an equal and listened to with respect.

To my mind there are two links between these projects:

  1. Look at the potential of everyone we work with and everyone who works for us. Almost everyone can do more and wants to do more if they just have that opportunity. By recognising that potential we release a massive burst of energy in our organisations that we cannot write into a job description or put into performance related pay proposals. How can you do anything for self motivated, confident people who ‘go the extra mile’ other than support them in their endeavours and say thank you when they achieve.
  2. We really need to get councillors and officials of all sorts of organisations out more to events like this. It really encourages me to do more when I see events like this. I was pleased that 2 Labour councillors came along last night band joined the festivities. But for too many councillors, Board Members and bureaucrats the real action is the committee meeting, the agenda discussions, and the arm waving across the chamber.

On Tuesday night I had to endure the Annual Meeting of the Council. Although Labour was on their best behaviour the rancour, the nastiness exuded from them. Most of our council meetings (and I suspect those of other councils) are dreadful. The intellectual level is low, the exchange of ideas minimal and the exchange of insults maximised!

If every MP, councillor, official spent one night a week at events like the two that I describe here our political life would be better conducted and better rooted in the realities of what local people can and should achieve.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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