Francis Maude: Redesigning the future of communities

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

Another packed Horsham Friday last week. After a rural visit to constituents concerned about a potentially serious local environmental issue, I had a useful session with the senior managers and directors at Horsham District Council.

I meet regularly with councillors, but this was my first meeting with officers for some time. We shared plenty of experiences of how we actually get government done at local and national level.

One of my points was that we should not be afraid to try new ways of doing things in delivering public services. The best organisations learn more from the things that are tried that don’t work than they do from the things that do work. No one likes failure - but there’s a lot in the Silicon Valley mantra: “fail small, fail fast”. The most important thing is to stop doing the new thing quickly if it doesn’t work and ensure that we learn from it.

We also talked about the New Homes Bonus, which deserves to be much more widely discussed. This is central government money which transforms our local government budget, and it is the upside of the housing development for which local authorities are obliged to plan.

Some of our primary schools here in Horsham were invited to Tanbridge School to have a go at redesigning part of Horsham using the Minecraft computer programme on Friday. It was fascinating to see the children’s ideas, and how well they presented what they had thought about. Much of what we decide today will have a greater influence on our children than it does on us, and it is encouraging to see how well they engage when given the chance to think about how our environment is shaped. I hope there will be some budding architects, planning officers and maybe even politicians emerging from the project.

Talking of our local future, I was cautiously pleased to see that West Sussex County Council voted on Monday night not to support a second runway at Gatwick on the grounds that the case put forward by the airport raises more questions than it answers. It is an important message for Howard Davies’ Airports Commission.

Next, a visit to the Cancer Research shop in West Street to meet staff and hear the local story about how money is raised and spent on vital research and care.

Next up was my regular surgery session, full as usual, then a quick dash to Barnham for Any Questions on Radio 4.

No matter how often we do these things, there is always plenty of adrenaline before the countdown to the red light, but usually a very good night’s sleep afterwards!