A conversation yesterday about the Stoke bye-election was the prompt for today's heading, taking me back to my Kirkby-in-Ashfield roots, but I do need to say thank you - to Ruth and Lesley in the Council's Customer Services Centre for giving me a tour of the facility this morning. As this was preceded by an opening session speaking slot at the Northern Powerhouse Conference (not on an all male panel I hasten to add) at Manchester Central and followed by welcoming the Japanese Ambassador to a Japan-Manchester Business lunch in Central Library, it was definitely a morning of contrasts!
We have now done fourteen Listening in Action sessions for Council staff, and in the current round I've been inviting staff to invite me to see what they're doing,to talk about it and their ideas for improvement, and tell me what gets in the way of them doing their job. Lesley and Ruth were the first to take me up on the offer and they showed me the whole operation starting from the self-select taking a number in the magnificently restored Rates Hall. I talked to people from Citizens Advice, Job Centre Plus, the Homeless team, the Facilities Management Team, all based in the Customer Services Centre, as well as some of their own team, and saw the range of services on offer.
Lesley and Ruth also talked about the staff survey, Bheard, and were rightly proud of scoring 'one to watch'. They talked about improvements that had already been made to the queueing system that had reduced problems caused by the previous " triage" system. And they had more ideas about how they could reduce waiting and improve services through the use of mobile technology, and introduced me to a colleague who had ideas that could help people, not just in Manchester but nationwide, to navigate the benefits system. Their pride in working for Manchester shone through, and Manchester should be proud of them too.