Hello PPMA members and friends

Joanna Ruffle, PPMA East of England Regional Chair and Director of HR and OD at Southend Council writes our blog post this week. Joanna believes that if future generations are to reap the benefits, it is important to embrace and continue practising the values that make for good public services.

“In Shakespeare’s The Tempest the young Miranda’s eyes and mind are opened to the possibilities ahead of her:
“O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here
How beauteous mankind is
O brave new world
That has such people in it”
Her father responds swiftly and some might say cynically:
“Tis new to thee”

2016 continues to herald more doom and gloom as the public sector continues to face ‘unprecedented financial challenge’, increased demand from service users and residents who are living longer with the complexity of need that old age can bring. Set against the backdrop of a hostile media who seem determined to pillory the public sector at every opportunity and a newly invigorated ‘talent war’, some of us more seasoned local government officers could be forgiven for slipping into the ‘slough of despond’.

However for a cohort of 17 years old (my own daughter included) 2016 is the year that will see them learn to drive, leave school, leave home, learn to live and study independently and embrace the excitement and stimulation of a university education.

As parents we fear for their future: for the debts that they will carry when they graduate, for their employment prospects, for their ability to get on the housing ladder. This list is endless but interestingly our offspring do not share our fears. We talk constantly of our ‘new normal’, of how we need to think and behave differently and to do different things. It is an obsession. But our point of reference continues to be what went before, those golden halcyon days that now seem so long ago.

For our children there is no ‘new normal’. There is simply the present. Student loans, house sharing, changing jobs/careers at the drop of a hat – this is their normal; and they look at us with thinly disguised incredulity when we talk of free education and 100% mortgages. It reminds me of the look I probably had when my own parents spoke of dried eggs and their first banana!

So we can, and must, continue to talk about the challenges and how we need to be different. We can, and must, continue to look for innovative and creative solutions to our current predicament. But until we can fully embrace the mindset of our children and truly accept the world as it is now, rather than how we remember it, the changes are unlikely to be enough or indeed sustainable.

If the ethos and values of public service are to thrive and grow for the benefit of future generations, we must lose Prospero’s cynicism and become more like Miranda, determined to embrace the brave new world.

And for me – my personal resolution for the rest of 2016 is to take a moment every day to reflect on what I have got, rather than what I haven’t.”

Joanna Ruffle is PPMA East of England Regional Chair and Director of HR and OD at Southend Council