Inside the council: Hoping to improve co-operation

Halifax Town Hall
Halifax Town Hall

A new council year brings the same - taking stock just like every other new year.

Six years into having the privilege of serving Rastrick and Calderdale, I believe that one of the keys to improving how we serve the borough better is to improve communication and cooperative working across the council.

We can look at policy, procedures and projects all we like, but unless we get the underlying values and behaviours right, we’re not in a position to affect them anywhere near as efficiently as we could.

Partnership working between the council and its partners such as the police, social housing landlords and the National Health Service (NHS), etc, is invariably heralded as crucial to effective working and successful outcomes.

Yet there is so much that can be done within the council to improve how we interact between councillors, officers, directorates and departments.

Experience shows that good communication, effective joint working and, above all, a culture of caring about giving the very best in public service is of course possible and can move proverbial mountains.

Are there examples of this at the council? Of course. Can it get better? Absolutely. There are times when making headway in getting things done is like trying to push the Calder uphill.

If we don’t put enough emphasis on getting communication and collaboration right within council, how on earth can we expect to get the communication and customer service right to the people we serve?

Yet it’s very easy to dismiss focusing on behaviours and values as “unnecessary niceties”, “neither important, nor urgent” or even “idealistic nonsense”.

Neglecting such aspects though in my view is like saying you’re too busy sawing to stop and sharpen your saw.

Politics of course plays a significant part in colouring everyone’s views on how achievable such improvements are, or indeed whether it can be done at all. My answer is that it can be done to the extent that there’s a will to do it.

If the focus is continually put on political difference, then division and conflict will always be the dominant force.

If we focus first and foremost on the fact that we’re all there to all serve the people of Calderdale, then we can see ourselves as a team of varying and complementing roles, views and skills who can succeed in getting things done better together.

I sincerely hope that this new council year will see significant improvements to how we all work together.

It underlays every other aspect of council which people hold important, from how we deliver services to controlling budgets to effective scrutiny.

That’s why my personal council new year resolution, alongside my other duties, is to do my utmost to help positive changes happen in how effectively we all interact – idealistic or not.