March 2016

Welcome to March’s L & D blog…

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Hands up if you love L & D…

The Warriors…The Uber of HMGThe Insurgents

Just three of the titles bestowed upon the Cities and Local Growth team at last week’s L & D day.  Thanks to photographer extraordinaire Kamal Hussein for the images which feature in this edition of the blog, and I hope that the inspiration provided on that day motivates lots of us to take up at least a few of the many opportunities featured below.

In This Edition…

1. CLoG Activities
2. BIS and DCLG Opportunities

3. Across the Country…and Beyond
4. News and Reviews
5. Update from the CLoG L & D Google Community forum

1. CLoG Activites

The CLoG Career Charter

Formally launched at last week’s awayday, this charter sets out the responsibilities of each individual member of the team, their line managers, and our Leadership Team when it comes to career development. If you haven’t read it already you can access it via the link below.  The headline message concerns career conversations, mentoring and shadowing: let’s make them happen.

Cities and Local Growth Career Charter

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Karen having just read the CLoG Career Charter for the first time.

2. BIS and DCLG Opportunities

Introduction to project delivery

Wednesday 13 April

Programme and Project Management (PPM) and its associated management of risk – has been identified as one of the key skills every civil servant needs. Organised by the Programme and Project Management Centre of Excellence (PPMCoE), this workshop is designed to give colleagues a basic understanding of project management methods and managing risks. The workshop will include:

  • brainstorming techniques
  • how to scope a project
  • drafting a project plan
  • risk and issue logs

10:30 am – 12:30 pm, Room F3.29 North West

To book your place please email PPMCoE.

Introduction to Management of Risk

Thursday 14 April

Book your place at this introduction to Management of Risk workshop, which will help build your understanding of Risk Management. Organised by the Programme and Project Management Centre of Excellence (PPMCoE), each workshop is designed to give colleagues a basic understanding of managing risks. The workshop will include:

  • identifying risks and minimising consequences
  • understanding the principles of risk
  • the department’s risk appetite and how it informs risk management
  • differentiating the risk levels
  • utilising tools/techniques

10:30 am – 12:30 pm, Room F2.38, South East quadrant

To book your place please email PPMCoE.

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Greg Clark approves so much of L and D he came to our awayday!

Digital basics: Introducing Twitter & Safe Tweeting

Friday 15 April

How can you get started on Twitter and make sure that you’re tweeting safely and in line with government and departmental guidance?

10:00am to 11:00am, Conference Centre, London, 1 Victoria Street – Book your place.

Engaging the European Parliament

Monday 25 April

90% of EU legislation is co-decided by the European Parliament (EP). If the UK Government and BIS are to achieve our objectives for EU competiveness and growth which benefit both our businesses and consumers, as well as a successful UK presidency of the EU in July 2017, we need to be able to effectively influence and engage with the EP at all levels from Ministers down to officials. This BIS EU Skills Academy seminar will give you the know-how. We are pleased to welcome Kate Davenport, Head of European Parliament Section, UK Representation to the EU Brussels. In addition, Laura Simpson of BIS European Reform Directorate will explain the role of the BIS European Parliament Coordinator.

 14:00 – 16:00, Conference Centre, 1 Victoria Street

 For further information:

State Aid training – Tuesday, 22 March, 2-3pm 22nd March, St Paul’s Place, room 3.04.

The EU State aid rules are important to growth in the UK because they help ensure that UK firms compete on a level playing field, and that Government can invest effectively. But they can be tricky to navigate, attend this event to find out everything you need to know. Book here: State Aid Training

Devolution and Local Growth – Wednesday, 24 March, 10:30 – 13:30, Central London.

Government has engaged in the biggest shift in central and local government relations for decades by devolving powers and budgets to local authorities and combined authorities through recent City and Devolution deals. This Knowledge Series Event provides an overview of devolution to date and will give you an opportunity to explore how this agenda impacts upon policy areas from across Whitehall. Book here: Devolution and Local Growth

EU Single Market BIS Blog

BIS’ European Reform Directorate has been working to increase their digital engagement with businesses and consumers. Last year they worked closely with the Government Digital Service (GDS) to launch a blog focused on the EU Single Market on The team have had a number of early successes and are using Google Analytics to understand user interactions. The team are learning as they go and would welcome any feedback, thoughts or ideas for blog posts.

The blog can be found at: Please use the panel on the right-hand side of the blog page in order to subscribe to the blog – this is the only way to receive updates when new posts are published. Contact Jesse Williams for more information.

“Top Tips” for Ministerial Submissions (BIS)

The drive for improved standards in the quality of advice that is put to Ministers continues. So we thought it would be useful to share some of the top tips which have emerged from the BIS Policy Profession Peer Review Group. This group has been set up to assess the quality of selected advice to Ministers and has formulated some feedback that will be of interest to anyone about to embark on a ministerial submission.

The group found that:

–   The shorter the submission / brief, the better. There was also a correlation between the time in which the sub had been pulled together and length. The more time the author had spent on it the shorter and more focused the sub.

–   Structure was very important. Not only the way in which the sub was presented but the use of highlighting, bullet points etc. made a big difference in the clarity of the message.

–   Meeting briefs, which are an important focus for SoS, were often insufficiently holistic and did not always show a full understanding of the full range of issues that either the Minister or the interlocutor might want to discuss.

–   A number of subs, in particular the meeting briefs, lacked sufficient depth on key issues. Some seemed very narrowly focused.

–   A positive tone led to a better more confident brief. A defensive tone often left more questions unanswered than answered.

If you would like to know more about the work of this Group or the wider work that the BIS Policy Profession is undertaking to drive up standards please contact Mike Purdom at

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Chocolate, wine and L & D – it doesn’t get much better than that.

3. Across the Country…And Beyond

Whitehall and Industry Group

Technical Visit to Unipart
Thursday 31 March
Free to Members. Apply Now

Breakfast Briefing: Infrastructure investment and productivity – Philip Graham, Chief Executive, National Infrastructure Commission
Tuesday 5 April
Free to Members. Apply Now

Breakfast Briefing: Skills and apprenticeships – David Hill, Director of Apprenticeships, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills / Department for Education
Wednesday 15 June
Free to Members. Apply Now

Non-Exec and Charity Trustee Roles
Click here for current opportunities.

EU Skills

Interested in improving your understanding of the EU institutions and processes? Visit the EU Skills and Knowledge Civil Service Learning hub, where you can find:

  • The EU Skills and Knowledge Framework and Self-Assessment to identify areas for development
  • Links to e-learning modules so you can get started today
  • Online guidance on a range of day-to-day challenges, such as ‘EU Law in Government’ and ‘A Practical Guide to EU Negotiations’.
  • Booking links to departmental seminars taking place across Government
  • Information on secondments to the European institutions
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Rachel wishing she’d been able to go to such fantastic awaydays before she became a DG.

Civil Service Learning

CSL is changing its provider so many courses are currently unavailable.  However details of transitional training opportunities are available here.

London School of Economics – What was the Impact of the Coalition Government on Social Policy Outcomes and Welfare Governance?

Wednesday 27 April 

This event will launch two new complementary publications analysing UK social policy from 2010 to 2015. The authors will introduce: Social Policy in a Cold Climate: policies and their consequences since the crisis and The Coalition Government and Social Policy: restructuring the welfare state.

Time: 3-6pm
Venue: Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House
Speakers: Professor Hugh Bochel, Professor Sir John Hills, Professor Ruth Lupton, Professor Martin Powell, Dr Polly Vizard

For further information: email or call 020 7955 6562.

London School of Economics: This House Believes We Should Leave the European Union

Wednesday 27 April

On June 23, voters in the will make a decision regarding their willingness to share or pool some of the UK’s sovereignty with the twenty-seven other member states of the European Union. This special event, held as part of the Forum’s 20th anniversary, will consider a motion to change the status quo. We will have two teams of speakers, one speaking for the proposition (Gerard Lyons and Ben Cobley), the other against (Hugo Dixon and Katrin Flikschuh).

Time: 6.30-8pm
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
Speakers: Ben Cobley, Hugo Dixon, Katrin Flikschuh, Dr Gerard Lyons

This event is free and open to all with no ticket or pre-registration required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For any queries see LSE Events FAQ or contact us at or 0207 955 6043.

Ministers Reflect

The Institute for Government have just launched a great new resource in Ministers Reflect. It’s a unique online archive that records – in former ministers’ own words – what it takes to be an effective government minister, the challenges they face, and what more officials can/could have done to support them.

Four Principles of Good Learning

John Stafford of Civil Service Learning blogs on the: Four principles of good learning

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Cake for a good cause.

4. News and Reviews

The L & D Awayday – Thursday 17 March (Douglas Leckie)

Baroness Williams spoke about her career to date, notably her experience as the only woman among a group of local authority councillors. Her advice to her female colleagues – “be yourself, don’t try to be a man”! She also shared her reflections on what it is that has given Greater Manchester something of an edge in terms of leading the devolution agenda, pointing to the length of time over which pan-regional relationships have been built up in the area, and also highlighting the far-sightedness of Richard Leese and Howard Bernstein who have stuck to the same broad vision over many years and not allowed themselves to be distracted by more minor and short-term concerns.

Martin Donnelly gave us some tips on career development, highlighting the importance of reflecting upon the “informal” reputation we build up and the image we project through our everyday behaviours and actions. He also spoke about the importance of truly listening. Martin identified the tendency many of us have to start thinking about how we are going to respond while the other person is still talking, and encouraged us to listen more intently to our colleagues and to wait until they have finished before thinking about our reply.

Simon Ridley and Rachel Sandby-Thomas described their careers to date. In both cases it was striking that their paths to becoming DGs were more about following their policy and professional interests and doing the next interesting job rather than any grand career master plan.

Greg Clark spoke warmly about his now long-standing relationship with our unit, commending the innovative and can-do approach we have come to embody, and praising many individuals with whom he has worked closely over the years. His main message was the importance of preserving the bottom-up, bespoke approach to devolution which has become its hallmark under his leadership. Systematisation and rigid frameworks are to be avoided at all costs. And permission was granted to continue our work as the “insurgents of Whitehall”, going boldly where civil servants have historically feared to go and driving ambitious change through a system which does not universally embrace it, but which has the potential to transform government works and to make a lasting difference to the health of our economy.

Gareth Bradford shared some of the lessons he learned during two and a half years in No 10 as the PM’s housing advisor. To highlight just one, Gareth challenged us not to limit ourselves to the particular policy area which we happen to be working on at any time, but to model the No 10 culture whereby all staff are encouraged to contribute across the whole policy landscape. If something interests you and you’ve got something to say about it, don’t hold back!

Tom Walker wrapped up the day with some (quite literal) cheerleading: “Delivery is …” echoed around the room as it has never done before. He also launched the CLoG Career Charter, details of which are in section 1 of this edition of the blog, and challenged the whole team to embrace its threefold focus, namely first on us as individuals to own our own learning and career development, second on line managers to provide targeted and tailored support, and third on the Leadership Team to model and drive a culture whereby everyone feels they can fulfil their potential and achieve to the very best of their abilities.

Beyond the main stage there was plenty of other activity around the edges, with information stalls on everything from the HCA to HMT, cakes galore (the £1,000 fundraising target for Mind reached), prizes for lots of people if not quite for all, and a specially extended lunch break which seems to have been widely appreciated. Congratulations and thanks to all involved in the organisation is, and now on to the next one. The question is – can it possibly be even better next time?

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PowerPoint says it all.

The Institue for Fiscal Studies Green Budget Launch – Monday 8 February (Jag Athwal)

Andy Paterson, Sean Mattson and I went to the annual IFS Green Budget launch on Monday 8 February. This is the IFS’s annual jaunt through the economic conditions and challenges facing the chancellor ahead of the actual budget. The exec summary of the report ( is worth reading, but some headline messages that we took away are  as follows.

  • The UK grew at 2.2% last year which was disappointing given the boost provided by falling oil prices. In 2016, they expect similar growth of 2.2%. 80% of growth was coming from household consumption, and this is expected to continue to be the main driver of growth, though weaker than in last year. They expect business investment to pick up the slack in a favourable environment, provided risks of Brexit do not materialise. However, significant tightening of fiscal policy and problems in the international environment will continue to hold growth back over the medium term, even though UK exporters’ focus on other advanced economies/inability to penetrate emerging markets will offer some insulation from problems in these economies. They believe that these factors will result in a relatively substantial output gap continuing until 2020, which is contrary to the OBR view.
  • High levels of migration have boosted the labour force, and contributed to significant jobs growth in recent years. Net migration reached 336,000 in the year to June 2015. This is more than double the net migration number in June 2012. This is expected to continue.
  • The IFS majored on the fact that the Chancellor is facing some risks which are partly of his own making, as a result of his fiscal mandate. This requires the government to run a surplus every year from 2019–20 “in normal times”. This is radically different from the UK’s previous fiscal rules and, like most big economies, the UK has only rarely run a surplus – just 8 times in the last 60 years. He is currently forecasting a £10bn surplus by 2020, but this is subject to a great many assumptions around growth, stamp duty, oil revenues and the success of measures to reduce spending on public services (excepting health) to their lowest levels since 1948.
  • The IFS indicated that there was probably no need for a surplus if the aim is to bring down the debt ratio. A balanced budget, or even a smallish deficit, will do that over time so long as the economy keeps growing, and they pointed out Mr Osborne could be forced into additional spending cuts or tax rises if economic and fiscal forecasts again turn out unfavourably.
  • The fiscal mandate also rules out borrowing to invest even where low interest rates mean such investment would be economically beneficial. The ICAEW argued that the fiscal rules should be adjusted to allow borrowing for infrastructure investment where it can be demonstrated that the investment will provide a financial return to government in the form of revenues – from additional taxes or charges – that more than offset the cost of the investment.
  • As last year, the ICAEW provided a detailed analysis of Whole of Government Accounts (WGA), which illustrates the importance of taking a wider view of government finances than the traditional National Accounts – particularly to include pension liabilities and the public asset base. On a WGA measure, the accounting deficit fell by just 20% between 2009–10 and 2013–14 compared with a fall of 35% in the traditional National Accounts measure.
  • In relation to the above points, the ICAEW’s view is that government decision-making needs to change to protect and grow public assets through infrastructure investment. Current accounting measures and the desire to reach a surplus on a relatively narrow measure of government borrowing will favour public–private finance partnerships over simply borrowing to invest. Favourable treatment of these arrangements in the National Accounts is no good reason to favour funding infrastructure spending in that way. PFI and PF2 should be brought on balance sheet to avoid decisions being driven by accounting rules.
  • The Green Budget also contains chapters on universal credit and tackling tax avoidance by multinational companies.
  • “I wanted to find out more about tax avoidance so I Googled it!”… (see what he did there?!) An interesting point to note on the issue of tax avoidance, coming off the back of significantly piqued public interest – with the likes of Amazon, Google and Starbucks all making headlines recently; it’s no silver bullet! The IFS view is that there may not be significant net revenue gains from clamping down on multinational tax avoidance in the UK. It needs a multinational solution which would resolve complex underlying issues and much will depend on the specific nature of the reforms. One issue that was particularly interesting was around the issue of offsetting debt interest payments against profits – the UK is quite generous with this, which encourages businesses to locate their debt here to offset profits.
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More cake for a good cause…and a particular favourite.

Visit to Liverpool City Region – Thursday 18 February (Jag Athwal)

On this visit Andy Paterson, Charlotte Fleetwood, Sam Evans and I met various stakeholders across the Liverpool City Region LEP, where we discussed a range of issues from the State of Liverpool City Region report to some specific issues around the LEPs Enterprise Zone.

Professor Michael Parkinson (Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice)

Professor Parkinson is Adviser to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool.  Our main motivation for meeting him was to discuss his latest report on the ‘State of Liverpool City Region: Making the Most of Devolution’ (2016), a report which highlights both the progress Liverpool has made economically and the scale of the challenges it continues to face. In particular highlighting the wealth, jobs, skills and productivity gaps and the high-levels of long-term sickness.

The report is fascinating (a signed copy is available in our library!) and the suggested responses to Liverpool’s challenges fit well will the policy pillars highlighted in our own strategy work. Namely, Liverpool City Region leaders will need to help create, attract and retain better jobs; raise skill levels and retain skilled people; increase connectivity; encourage more innovation; improve place quality and in particular address the problems faced by people and places excluded from the economic success it has had.

In addition we also discussed some work Michael currently has underway which aims to review the city mayor’s achievements in the city region over the last four years – this is due to be published ahead of the city mayoral election in May.

There were initially low expectations of the Mayoral office, given the lack of executive power that went with the role. This report is expected to say that the mayor has achieved his quantitative targets, and focus on the ‘softer’ values of the mayoral office (increasing visibility, profile raising nationally and internationally, increase collaborative working etc.) and discuss implications for the future, in view of the metro-mayor that the city region will soon have.

There was lots of discussion about the ‘messy’ collection of partnerships and strategies that exist in the area (LEP, local authorities, the Mayoral office, and now a metro-mayor and a combined authority), and some of the deep cultural and political divides at play in the area. This is of course not unique to LCR – Michael pointed out that once upon time relationships in Bristol weren’t great either – and that they’re getting past the ‘shenanigans’, with a degree of will for the new mayoral office to be a success story. But 2017 will be an opportunity to move away from these, by clearly defining how the area will be governed. It will be important to seize this opportunity to clarify the roles of the different players.

Having made progress on developing the political relationships, Michael’s view was that it will be imperative to get good people in to make the whole process a success. At the moment there isn’t the capacity and this needs to change.

On some of the drivers behind Liverpool’s progress in improving its relative performance, Michael pointed to three key factors: European money, City Challenge and Capital of Culture and Liverpool ONE. €2 billion of European money lies behind most of the major projects that have taken place across the region in the past decade and a half. The City Challenge has focussed on the city’s assets and developing a ring around the city centre, including the knowledge quarter. Capital of Culture, and the development of Liverpool ONE, a retail development linking the city centre to the redeveloped docks was imperative for developing greater national and international recognition for the city’s cultural offer.

Overall there was a sense from Michael that ‘place matters’, and the role of place-making has been a key feature for Liverpool in improving its economic standing, notwithstanding the fact the city region still contains some of the country’s most economically and socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Liverpool Visit
Local Growthing in Liverpool

Graham Russell (Partner Director, AMION Consulting)

AMION Consulting is an economic and financial advisory business providing independent strategic advice to its clients, in order to help achieve economic growth. Graham is a qualified economist and leads AMION’s Economic and Evaluation services. Graham specialises in economic analyses, economic impact assessments, feasibility and funding project appraisals and policy evaluation and development. He has substantial experience in professional advisory services and has contributed to official Government economic guidance, and has also led various major national research studies and evaluations. Graham has provided national expert advice to government on regions, cities and neighbourhoods.

The first part of our discussion with Graham focussed on his view of DCLG’s proposed new appraisal framework. We focussed on Graham’s concerns that an undue reliance on the land value uplift approach will not fully capture the benefits of regeneration, including external and distributional benefits that were the main aims of policy. As a result, there was a risk that it would tip the distributional pattern of expenditure further towards London and the South East where the scope of land value uplift is higher.

Andy made clear we were alive to the various (thorny) appraisal issues inherent in the DCLG refresh of the guidance, and that the guide will continue to be developed even after publication. Graham was encouraged to contribute his thoughts formally, particularly on the issue of how to interpret and quantify externalities. Andy suggested it might even be worth AMION collaborating with other academic institutions to submit their collective views on the guide once published, as they did for the NAO’s evaluation report.

Graham also discussed his work with local partners, and highlighted some interesting and novel financial instruments that are being explored within the area, including a new TIF model in the EZ supported by future rate retention, and housing instruments combining public land, housing association funding and prudential borrowing which Gareth Bradford’s team would find of particular interest.

Heather Jago (Programme Manager, Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone, Liverpool City Region LEP)

Our final meeting of the day got under the skin of the some of the issues of the Mersey Waters EZ which straddles the Mersey estuary, with Liverpool Waters on one side and Wirral Waters on the other.

In terms of land area, this is the largest EZ covering some 125 hectares. The aim is for the EZ to foster transformational developments on both sides of the estuary, most of which consists of redundant docklands.

There are significant challenges with the site, which has had no investment for 50+ years. There is a focus on site remediation and decontamination. There is a single landowner (Peel) so there is no public sector land involved. This creates (state aid) issues of putting public money into the site and currently there is not sufficient value in the site to justify private development. i.e. the market is not viable at the moment.

There has been some progress to get the site moving, including early designs for the site being developed and a green light for planning, the (significant) challenge is to attract the market. One of the proposed solutions is to create an investment fund based on projected future revenues, against which the council can borrow to put in some upfront investment. This approach has recently been approved by Wirral council and it is hoped it will help fund the viability gaps in projects there. Indeed the strategic priority for the EZ over the next 5 years is to access funding opportunities to accelerate development.

Sectorally there is focus on attracting activity linked to the port – rather than freight and logistics specifically, much of which currently comes into Southampton and has to be driven across the country. As such there is a focus on promoting Liverpool’s accessibility to market, using the proximity to the new deepwater terminal at Liverpool2 as a factor to attract investment.

5. Update from the CLoG L & D Google Community Forum

We’ve got 33 people signed up now as members of this community forum, and approximately 10 posts on the community page sharing a range of thoughts and questions about L & D from Natasha Barras flagging an excellent documentary about the Skye Bridge PFI to Toni Wooton asking for information about project/programme management training (see section 2 of the blog above Toni!).

If you haven’t checked out this resource yet, or if you have but haven’t posted anything yet, do go ahead and give it a go.  All you need is a Google account which you can set up in 1 minute if you don’t have one already (if you have a gmail account then you do already have a Google account).  If you need me to resend you the invitation to join just let me know ( and I will do so ASAP.

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Sir Humphrey Appleby: Bernard, if the right people don’t have power, do you know what happens? The wrong people get it: politicians, councillors, ordinary voters!

Bernard Woolley: But aren’t they supposed to, in a democracy?

Sir Humphrey: This is a British democracy, Bernard!