To Coventry this week for the SOLACE Conference, or, to give it its proper title, the SOLACE ‘Summit’.
Have you noticed how we tend not to have as many ‘Conferences’ these days? I’m sure this is a direct result of the media scrutiny, and in many cases uninformed media attacks, on local government officers’ expenses. Staff are made to feel extremely uncomfortable taking time out, and incurring costs, to attend such events, and at the extreme, some authorities have put a complete block on them being able to do so.
My dictionary (well, at least the one supplied via Google) defines a conference as a ‘meeting for consultation or discussion on an important or serious matter’. Heaven help us if the matters which local government officers are having to deal with at the moment are not important or serious enough to warrant getting together to discuss. I do find it ironic that our Government Ministers believe that it is so important for them to get together for three or four days at a party ‘conference’, but if local government officials do so it is a glorified junket. It is even more ironic that, at least on the evidence of my visit to one last week, the main event has precisely zero ‘consultation’ or ‘discussion’.
So, the ‘Summit’ it is, and, looking at the agenda for the next couple of days, no-one who is attending should be worried about getting real value for their authorities from that time out of the office.