Weekly message from Peter Savage, ADSO Company Secretary

The LGA has published the draft Members’ Code of Conduct. This has been posted on the home page of the ADSO website. The LGA will be issuing a series of questions next week as part of its revised consultation exercise. We will circulate a link to these questions once they are available. Please ensure that your authority takes part in the consultation and responds accordingly. ADSO will be submitting comments so feel free to join in the discussion that will begin next week on the members’ forum to inform that response.

News and advice on what to do on the Coronavirus is everywhere and many things are becoming on hold or deferred so I thought I’d share some thoughts that came to me about the prospects of “working from home” in a different era. This is not intended to be dismissive or frivolous but a minor distraction from what is clearly a major event of our time, when there is plenty of serious advice to be found. So please don’t be offended, at worst you can say it’s just the ramblings of another old g*t!

What I’m driving at is the fact that working from home for extended periods is now a serious option and one which everyone who possibly can should avail themselves of. Of course, there are downsides, but for now the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages.  However, for the first 35 years of my career working from home, apart from the occasional opportunity to read a complex report or White Paper, was impossible.  The technological advances are so huge as to be unimaginable for anyone under the age of 40.  The work of DSOs and other governance officers has been largely the same over that period but the methods and implementation are so different. Most of you will have heard the stories I’m about to tell, or have been part of them, but I’m going to tell them briefly nevertheless.

Firstly imagine trying to put an agenda together in 1975 at home.  You couldn’t do it.  Reports were typed (and I mean typed and not word processed) in a typing pool or by secretaries.  Every draft was retyped and circulated by hand as feint photocopies until a final version was agreed.  At this stage it would need to be prepared for printing in one of two different ways: one involved flimsy plastic sheets and excessive use of dangerous solvents for corrections, whereas the more advance version involved physically cutting and pasting paper sheets over each other, often using a spray waxy adhesive with all the sticking power of soap. Proof reading took ages – with two people reading tedious things to each other without the aid of any spell/grammar checker!  Twenty trips to the intimidating typing pool later you had all of your reports ready for the print room who then had to do various mysterious things to create “plates” for final printing, which hopefully came back in the right order.  Manual collating of agendas for despatch involved coercing the whole committee team to walk round tables putting hundreds of copies of hundreds of pages together.  All of this was of course quite good fun at times, if stressful when deadlines loomed and someone put the proverbial spanner in the works, but clearly could not be achieved at home or through social isolation.

Basically nearly all tasks would be impossible.  The only technology we had at our disposal was a telephone and a miniature tape recorder for dictation.  Everything we do today had to have a manual and physical interaction.  That included the social side.  It was the era (even up to the mid 1980s) where lunchtime trips to the local pub were the norm and for Friday afternoons, especially after a stressful week, to be a write off.  Please do not try this element when “working from home”.

That’s probably enough of the pointless reminiscing for now, so to bring you back to the 21st century I have been asked to draw the attention Members to the fact that not only are they Members of ADSO but are affiliated to IIMC. Predominantly the IIMC has a large membership from North America but there is also a significant number of Members in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and South Africa. The European connection is gathering pace and we hope to be able to give you opportunities of exchange visits and more joint events with the Netherlands and Belgium in the coming 12 months or so.  Collectively in the IIMC we are known as Region 11 IIMC Members outside of North America. Please take the time to clink on the link below to see Region 11s latest newsletter which includes an article from our own Paul Wickenden:

https://www.iimc.com/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/635

We are still waiting for a response from Central Government to our joint letter ( with LLG) to clarify arrangements for democracy and decision making during this period of uncertainty. Our statement and letter can be found here:

I have as usual been keeping tabs on the all important members’ forum on the website.  Needless to say corona virus is up there including reviewing options for digital meetings (that idea probably featured on the popular TV programme Tomorrow’s World back in 1975!! – sorry I’m reminiscing again).  However I was rather shocked to see an old chestnut raising its head (if that’s not a mixed metaphor) in the shape of members wanting to see your handwritten notes.  As the Chair, John Austin, stated on line this is strictly wrong in my view. Handwritten notes are your private property and should be destroyed once they are no longer needed by you – i.e. after the minutes of the relevant meeting have been approved and signed as a correct record. It can be hard to stand up to some members (and our ongoing debates and discussions about elected member behaviour, codes of conduct and bullying are relevant) but your managers should be firmly behind you and if in doubt you can always fall back on the support of your professional association, ADSO.

Yours in democracy

Peter Savage
ADSO Company Secretary

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