Last month I received a clock and a lapel badge in recognition of 25 years local government service. I’ll fess up; I was just a bit proud as I was called to receive them at our staff achievement awards. And yes, it was a clock, only a small one but quite heavy, which is my standard measure of quality, mostly used when assessing cakes and puddings!

It’s never been about milestones or glory for me though; it’s been about the difference that can be made. So this isn’t a post about the last 25 years, more my reflection on what next; where my public role and public sector service provision is probably heading….what’s on and over that horizon.

I’m grateful to Leeds City Council, not just for the items, but for what it has given me over those years….training, experience, support etc. In return I’ve done what was needed… and then some, and will continue to do so. The best bit is that I’m enjoying what I do now more than ever, and I reckon there’s about another 20 years in the tank. And yes I’m in communications so you would expect me to say nice things about my employer, but true all the same. In my job, I’m also expected to look ahead and see what’s on the horizon.

And therein lays the story… what the public, voluntary and private sector ‘needs to be’ to support the city is up for discussion and will no doubt change. It has to change; especially to continue to support those who really need access to services that will support them.

Cue analogy and here’s one I prepared earlier; football (sorry it’s how I roll!)

Local authorities are perhaps like the big football teams that once had big bucks to spend on players and grounds and whose season was all about going for multiple silverware; the domestic and European leagues and a couple of cups too. Perhaps we are nearing the stage where one organisation can’t afford to enter all competitions and in order to secure some success will need to concentrate on the league and not enter the cup competitions. The cups are still important, but perhaps others will bring a fresh offering and purpose to them. There’s probably a similar analogy with TV revenue and government funding. The big boys actually need to support the minnows if the minnows are to make the cup competitions a thing of value. And it is actually the perceived minnows who make the cup competitions special anyway.

What is becoming clear to me is that an increasing number of successful achievements are delivered through a partnership approach. I’m talking about service delivery here and not the award winning. At the council awards, it was good to see this representation; there were uniformed officers from our community safety teams and there were awards for community partners. Next year we will have former NHS public health staff and in future years who knows what will be celebrated. One thing is sure, joined up working is increasingly how it will be, perhaps even passing the service baton completely.

What then for me? and why the journeyman reference?

Well, when I researched my family history some 18 years ago, the profession ‘journeyman’ kept cropping up, (fortunately many more times than the reference to horse thief did!)

A journeyman is someone who has completed an apprenticeship and is fully educated in a trade or craft, but not yet a master. Do I consider myself a journeyman? Hell yeah, in my own way! I’ve never bothered with flashy job titles; as long as I explain what I do and how I can help, and then actually deliver…that’s what is important. I’ll never be ‘fully’ educated either as there’s always stuff to learn, especially at present now I’m covering the health and wellbeing agenda and getting to grips with all the changes and organisations involved.

And that’s my current challenge; working out what‘s what and how things fit, and meeting colleagues in other organisations who are also attempting to make it fit together so that residents actually get the quality service that all the changes are meant to provide. There have been a few Venn diagrams drawn recently, and re drawn in an attempt to help understand who does what. The public health agenda is a big change and challenge, just imagine the organisation that empties bins, and grits the roads also responsible for improving and maintaining people’s health and wellbeing. But what a great opportunity to make a difference too.

So, getting back to the journeyman explanation; ‘not yet a master’ and my next 20 year stint….

Q: Do I want to be a master?

A: In the sense that I want to know my trade so I can be of most use then course I do, in the sense of being top dog…actually not really.

Perhaps that was the part where I naively dropped a professional clanger. So here’s the explanation why it isn’t. In those 25 years I’ve sussed what I’m good at; I’m good at supporting, challenging and creating opportunities for those who have the bits I don’t to take further. I suppose I’m the Peter Taylor to the Brian Clough’s of this world. Together it works, apart not so well.  For those who I’ve just confused…watch the film The Damned United.

I’m totally comfortable being a journeyman.

So, 25 years in with 20 to go (gulp)…. I think there is plenty of room in the public, voluntary and other sectors for journeymen and women, wherever they end up, irrespective of league fixture or cup competition.

To use a couple of football cliches ‘At the end of the day’, it’s about ‘Marching on Together’.