School children at the Love Bradford World Record Attempt

Chief Executive’s blog – October 2016

Our chief executive Kersten England has been writing a regular blog for staff. We thought you might like to read it too, so here is Kersten’s October blog.

This month’s blog takes a closer look at the workings of a Full Council meeting, celebrates some inspiring successes and shares a few things on the agenda for the coming weeks.

Full Council meeting, 18 October

Last week’s Full Council, on Tuesday, 18 October, was hectic! There was a huge breadth of topics covered and thoughtful debates about much of our work and what matters to people in the district.

There were petitions from residents about speeding cars in busy neighbourhoods, the proposed closure of a library and the introduction of parking charges at the St Ives estate. Councillors asked executive members questions about mental health services, parent governorship, care services, flooding, alternate week bin collections, and high speed rail services – to name but a few of the topics covered.

Motions were debated about unaccompanied asylum seeking children, smoking cessation, safer driving, proposed changes to parliamentary constituency boundaries and education priorities.

Bradford Council plan front pageCouncil also approved its priorities for the next four years, as described in the Bradford Council Plan. This is a must read! This plan will be the starting point for individual staff work plans, service delivery plans and crucially for development of our budget proposals for the next four years. The plan will direct our work.

The final item of the night saw Council approve the implementation of the changes to senior management. An elected member panel will be set up to appoint to the posts of Strategic Director – Corporate Services and Strategic Director – Place. Officer panels will be set up to appoint to the Assistant Director (AD) posts. I want to reiterate my appreciation for the sustained commitment and professionalism of staff who are directly affected by the changes we are making.

There’s been some great news since my last blog

Bingley Music Live scooped an award at the Yorkshire Gig Guide Grassroots Awards for outstanding established music festival. Congratulations team BML!

On Thursday, 15 September thousands of people, young and old, from across all the communities and organisations of the district stood in the sweltering late summer sun – and smashed the world record for the longest continuous chain of people making a heart shaped hand gesture (picture above). We are world record holders and that’s official!

The inspiration of participants on our future leaders programme, and billed as #LoveBradford, it was moving to hear the whole crowd chanting ‘we love Bradford’. For the thousand young people who took part and received a world record medal I hope it will become an ‘I was there’ moment. Our future leaders did a cracking job and learnt a huge amount about project management. Result!

The next day Bradford trended once more on social media – this time in support of our bid to host the Great Exhibition of the North. Each Friday the government department of culture media and sport (DCMS) threw the spotlight on one of the bidders to host the exhibition. The range and diversity of voices from within and outside Bradford speaking of their love of and support of Bradford was fantastic and humbling. We know we topped the popular poll! Of course we now know that Newcastle-Gateshead will be the host for the main events of the exhibition. We wish them well. We will take the energy, creativity and confidence of our bid and people’s support for it to deliver a great programme of events in Bradford in 2018.

We have just heard the fantastic news that in April 2017 Bradford will be one of the key hosts for the Tour de Yorkshire. It’s very exciting to know that we will be either a start or finish city for this prestigious three-day cycle race. The full route will be announced in December. After the warm welcome our district gave to the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014, and the superb backdrop our Cow and Calf Rocks provided for the 2015 Tour de Yorkshire, 2017 looks set to be another vintage year for cycling in the Bradford District. I can’t wait!

National Rugby Museum launch eventCome 2018 we will be well underway with development of a new national museum to be housed in City Hall. On 20 September, Rugby League Cares announced that Bradford was the successful bidder to host the National Rugby League Museum. Rugby League can claim to be the sport of the northern powerhouse and its history is intertwined with that of the industrial north, and significantly with Bradford. The intention of the museum is to tell and celebrate that story and to engage with and inspire young people of the north to become involved in the sport in the future. Well done to Phil Barker and his teamwho pulled together the winning bid with partners from across the city.

We have of course learnt that Bradford once again won the coveted title of Curry Capital of Britain – for an unprecedented six times in a row. Well done to Tricia Tillotson and the team (pictured below) for a compelling bid and thank you to everyone who voted! The bid, which included curry Olympics and an indoor garden party, is put together working with four restaurants around our district.  It’s another example of how we are working creatively with communities and businesses to do great things for Bradford.

Bradford has been crowned Curry Capital for the sixth year in a row
Bradford has been crowned Curry Capital for the sixth year in a row

Just last week we heard that Bradford had won a national award for its brilliant work to support people in mental health crisis. The ‘Crisis Care Concordat‘ is a partnership between ourselves, the care trust, the Police and the voluntary sector. It makes sure appropriate support is available around the clock and that people receive support close to home. It’s exemplary and I want to single Mark Trewin out for particular praise because his passionate commitment and leadership has been pivotal. Akhlak Rauf is another person doing great work in mental health. Early in November he will make a very special trip – to Buckingham Palace – to collect his MBE for his work to build appropriate services for people with dementia within the BME community. Congratulations Akhlak!

Within the next few weeks we are planning to be visited by colleagues from across local government as we take part in a Local Government Association ‘peer review’ of our work. The team will be led by Donna Hall who is the Chief Executive of Wigan and Cllr Nick Forbes, the Leader of Newcastle City Council. The visit was planned for 8 to 11 November, however due to unforeseen personal circumstance for one of the peer reviewers, the visit is being postponed and will hopefully happen in December instead. The team will spend the best part of a week with us meeting staff, elected members, community groups and our partners to answer the following questions:

  • Do we understand the communities we serve, their needs and aspirations for their lives?
  • Do we have clear prioritised credible plans to tackle the district’s challenges?
  • Do we manage finances well and align our resources to deliver our priorities?
  • Do we have strong governance arrangements?
  • Do we work well with partners and communities?

This is an opportunity for us all to learn, yes to get some recognition of what we do well, but also to identify ways in which we can strengthen our work.

In November we will also come together for our annual Remembrance Day commemoration of those who lost their lives in two world wars. This year will have particular poignancy as 18 November marks the 100th anniversary of the last day of the Battle of the Somme, at which so many young Bradfordians lost their lives. Children from Farnham and Cullingworth Village primary schools have been working with Radio Leeds on a set of programmes recalling the events and their impact on Bradford.

The leaves are coming down and the first ground frosts are with us. With that comes a season of festivals. At the end of this week we will see the Hindu, Sikh and Jain Festival of Lights, Diwali, which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Halloween and Bonfire Night follow in quick succession which I hope will be fun for families and communities and not too challenging for the fire service, police and ourselves! Enjoy.

Kersten England, Chief Executive

PS, as always, for more regular updates, you can follow me on Twitter: @kersten_england

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