Life In The Week Of The STAR Director

Posted: Monday 29th March 2021

Here we go again! It’s Monday morning 29th March, the clocks went back at the weekend and it’s almost April. Following a relaxing weekend where my usual ‘can’t sit still’ approach meant house jobs ensued which resulted in cutting the grass for the first time this year, planting rhubarb, filling green bins with debris as well as completing the end of a really good book, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, gave me time to reflect on the roller coaster week that had just passed.

Each day always starts with the school drop-off, which after lockdown and schools closed for so long, it’s been great to be back on the school run! But before this happens the ‘early bird’ in me has a rigourous routine and with a big pot of coffee, I start my ‘mouse-wiggling’ to clear the email-deck before the day really commences.

Another routine I have been trying to maintain is to walk every day. Last week I managed three out of five daily walks as the leg-stretch and fresh air is good for the soul but also good for the body and keeps my chiropractor expenditure down to a minimum!!

People who know me, know my favourite phrase is ‘I don’t ‘do’ procurement’ but oh my goodness, focussing strategically on how we develop STAR Procurement and working with multi-audiences, I certainly got my ‘procurement hands dirty’ and also got very involved with the vast agenda that procurement reaches. So during this week here are my ten highlights:

  • We commenced another CAR (Collaboration Accreditation Review) with some public sector organisations. This certainly stretched my thinking, trying to explore the effectiveness and efficiency that a good shared service could/should bring
  • We had our full team ‘Team’ meeting where we had our colleagues, Keely (STAR Procurement Officer), present a fantastic new case study showing £1.7m savings over 5 years, £810k of social value secured, 100% local spend, and innovation from her recent procurement exercise.
  • Myself and Elizabeth (STAR Assistant Director - Delivery) joined the Assistant Directors group of Tameside Council to give them an update on the STAR Business Plan, and current activity as well as sharing the vision and future plans for STAR.
  • I joined the National Social Value Taskforce where discussions focussed on how Social Value can help with our Climate Emergency.  We also discussed the creation of regional SV Taskforces which will drive Social Value into organisations and more so, into a ‘place based’ approach to deliver targeted and regional community benefits. Exciting times ahead! So needless to say, my head was spinning and the flip charts and pens were ‘smoking’ as I sketched out ideas of how this could work for us in STAR the wider North West.
  • I finished Tuesday evening off at Trafford Accounts & Audit Committee where I presented an annual update on STAR.  This is a public meeting so you can check out exactly what I had to say.
  • Wednesday started with our STAR Joint Committee Meeting, where we presented papers on Quarter 3 performance management and new measures for the next financial year, our continuous improvement update and the Quarter 3 budget position.  After what has been a difficult years it was great to hear comments such as ‘Procurement is inspiring and interesting’ and praise for the impact and passion we deliver.
  • Before I knew it, it was Thursday 8AM and my day started with ‘This is Rochdale’ webinar on the case for innovation in Rochdale.  These events are always superb and real, Chris Maguire, the host, really brings out the best from the speakers.
  • As part of our well-being focus we had our inaugural STAR Book Club, which I really enjoyed.  I’ve missed general chats with the team like you used to get when in the office so this was a good chance to talk to a group of colleagues about things other than work.  Our first book wasn’t exactly popular but certainly gave us plenty to talk about! It proved I could be a ‘completer-finisher’ even when not particularly interested!!
  • I had a good meeting with a colleague at Trafford Council around the plans around future office space and potential part-reintegration back to the office. It made me reflect on not losing the good that has come from this challenging and sad year and making sure we support staff with their needs as well as business needs. Inequality has been exposed more so since the pandemic and we at STAR want to do what we can in our areas of influence to drive local improvement socially, economically and environmentally.
  • And finally……. ‘Thank Crunchie it’s Friday’! After an attempt to join a Zoom call but the technology failed? (Zoom are best at making lolly ices!) I had a good catch up with Darren, the Chair of Local Government Association (LGA) National Advisory Group and National Social Value Task Force. We explored placed-based Social Value, and the good work Darren is leading across Durham City.

So that concluded yet another diverse and busy week where progress was made, learning was gained, success was celebrated, and another ‘to do’ list and a few ‘mind maps’ were created for the next chapter ahead in the coming weeks and months. 

Lorraine Cox
STAR Director