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TEAMSPIRIT The internal magazine aimed at keeping staff up-to-date with important council news, staff stories, events and promotions. Send your article ideas, feedback or comments on Team Spirit to or call her on 01922 658426. September 2010

Message from Paul Sheehan Colleagues, Welcome to the September issue of Team Spirit. I am now delivering the council’s new Core Brief to the leadership forum each month. The first Core Brief was delivered on 9 September 2010. It replaces News and Views and will focus on Working Smarter, Pay and Grading and any other vital news you need to know to help us achieve our Working Smarter target. The Corporate Management Team is keen to get your views so we have instigated a message forum where you can ask questions or leave feedback. The message forum contains a Core Brief topic as well as a Working Smarter topic. You’ll find the link to the forum in this issue of Team Spirit. The next round of staff briefings on Pay and Grading are also featured in this issue as are the usual features on teams and staff individuals around the council. I hope you enjoy this issue of Team Spirit.

Paul Sheehan Chief Executive


Chief Executive’s Core Brief

The next core brief will be delivered to the leadership forum on Thursday 7 October 2010. Core Brief replaces News and Views and is also available on Inside Walsall. September’s Core Brief is now updated with directorate news and can be viewed online. A message forum for Core Brief is also online and all staff are welcome to post their questions and feedback. To access Core Brief and the message forum, use this link

-----------------------Are you smart on Working Smarter?

We conducted a snap poll on Inside Walsall earlier this month asking you if you had heard of the council’s Working Smarter programme followed by how well informed you felt about it. The results revealed that 76% of staff have heard of Working Smarter but only 40% feel very or fairly well informed about the programme. So, we’ve launched the Working Smarter web pages on Inside Walsall to keep you better informed. These pages will evolve over time as the programme develops and every time new information is uploaded we’ll advise you through an article on Inside Walsall and the Weekly Bulletin. The Corporate Management team welcomes comments and ideas from staff and so have instigated a message forum which can be accessed on these pages. To access the Working Smarter pages, use this link To join the forum, use this link If the links do not work, you can find Working Smarter under Council Information on Inside Walsall.


Pay and Grading staff briefings

Staff briefing sessions are now running weekly until 2 December 2010.

Managers will have access to the briefing document so if you have already been or are to be briefed by your manager, there is no need to attend one of these sessions. Alternatively, a copy of the briefing is available on the Pay and Grading pages on Inside Walsall. See link below. You can attend a briefing session as part of your working day as agreed with your manager. If the sessions fall outside your working day, you will be paid for attending with an additional flexi hour or payment of £20 (subject to tax) through the salary run. HRD Direct can confirm which payment applies to you, when you book your slot, or you can read the conditions on the Pay and Grading pages on Inside Walsall using this link The dates and venues are: 30 Sep 2010:

16:00-17:00, Conference Room 5 – fully booked

04 Oct 2010:

13:00-14:00, Council Chambers

13 Oct 2010:

08:00-09:00, Forest Arts Centre – sign interpreter available

18 Oct 2010:

16:00-17:00, Conference Room 1

28 Oct 2010:

18:00-19:00, Conference Room 3

03 Nov 2010:

17:00-18:00, Conference Room 3

09 Nov 2010:

08:00-09:00, Conference Room 3

18 Nov 2010:

12:00-13:00, Conference Room 1

22 Nov 2010:

16:00-17:00, Conference Room 1

02 Dec 2010:

13:00-14:00, Conference Room 4

Sessions will be limited to 20 places, with the exception of Council Chambers limited to 40 and Forest Arts Centre to just over 100, so It is recommended that you book your slot with HRD Direct on 01922 655656.

-----------------------A ‘khaotic’ day in the life of Peter Smith

By day Peter works at Willenhall Lawn Cemetery as a Principal Bereavement Services Officer in Bereavement and Registration Services, by night he composes music, produces musicals and occasionally treads the boards. Peter joined the council in 1985 starting as the organist at Streetly Crematorium moving up to cremator operator and then Senior Technician. Over the years, his role expanded into cemeteries and three years ago, he was promoted to Principal Officer at Willenhall Lawn Cemetery. Bereavement and Registration Services now sits within Leisure and Community Health in Neighbourhood Services. A typical day at Bereavement and Registration Services will include a number of burials and cremations delivered with minimum impact on bereaved families. As Peter observes,

“We’re right at the front line ensuring a timely service delivery. Our clients are treated with respect and dignity at all times. We don’t want them hassled or stressed. Family members return to the graveside at regular intervals and may get upset. Little things can trigger their anger, from long grass to disturbed flowers at the grave. With funerals we only get one opportunity to get it right!” Peter works in a team consisting of registration officers, crematorium staff and a patrol team of five. Peter views the patrol team as the face of Walsall Council. They open and lock the cemeteries 365 days a year and are a presence in the cemeteries over the weekend to reassure visitors. In a typical year, Walsall will undertake around 1900 cremations, 580 full coffin burials and 400 cremated remains burials. Peter’s role is performance related and his objective is to increase efficiencies within the service. Peter deals with the public regularly when there’s a demand from a client. Peter explains further, “They sometimes request memorabilia around the graves that we cannot accommodate. As a lawn cemetery we offer a grass lawned section and allow a headstone, all uniform in height, together with a small garden. It’s easier to maintain. We’re more flexible with the baby section and allow more expressions of the parent’s feelings.” Across the borough, Walsall has eight sites in total. There are 75,000 plus grave spaces available which will provide sufficient space for a number of years at Willenhall, Streetly and North Walsall. In total, the council is responsible for 130 acres of cemetery land containing 2,000 trees and some 37,000 memorials. Peter started playing the piano at the age of 4 and took up amateur operatics when he was 16. Over the years, he’s been musical director, stage manager, and performer and helped out in lighting, sound and props. His wife is a coloratura soprano and performs in concerts, musicals and operettas. Together they have produced a CD and also toured old people’s homes. The next musical venture for Peter is the production of ‘Khaotic, The Fred Karno Story’. Fred Karno was a music hall impresario and his shows toured for thirty years all over the world. He discovered Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel who both first went to America touring with Karno. He also gave greats such as Sandy Powell, Will Hay, Flannagan and Allen and Fred Kitchen their first big breaks. Khaotic will be performed at Birmingham’s Old Rep from 6-9 October 2010. Peter wrote the original music with his friend David Crump, lyricist and author of The Fred Karno Story, over a 3 month period. He has written 13 original songs and the show includes a music hall medley and a World War One medley.

Earlier in the year, they met Warren Karno, Fred’s great nephew who lives in New Zealand. During Warren’s stay in Britain, David was able to help him find family he had never heard of. The show has attracted world wide attention from fans of Charlie Chaplin to Laurel and Hardy’s appreciation group, Sons of the Desert.

Peter, photographed with Warren Karno, centre, and his lyricist David Crumb There’ll be some interesting people in the audience in October; Fred Karno’s daughter, Fred Kitchen’s granddaughter, Birmingham comic, Malcolm Stent, members from the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) and a representative from Josef Weinberger Ltd, a huge professional music publishing company. Perhaps Khaotic is destined for great things… Peter is also the musical director of Bilston Operatic Company for their production of ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’ at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton in November, and he produced ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ for Tettenhall Operatic Company recently. ‘Khaotic’ is performed by From the Top Theatre Company with a cast of 30 strong. For more information, visit or to book tickets call the Old Rep on 0121 303 2323.

-----------------------Regenerating Walsall town centre

Your chance to win £250 worth of high street shopping vouchers Regeneration’s new Town Centre and District Management Team has launched a town centre survey, the largest of its kind for some years. Copies have been distributed to the shopping centres, high street retailers, Gala Bingo and large employers such as Homeserve, South Staffordshire Water and the Chamber of Commerce. The team also values the views of council employees and wants staff to take part in the survey. Regeneration Officer, Jon Burnett, explains, “Over 1,000 staff work in the town centre and they’ll have an opinion on the shopping and parking facilities and the overall ambience it has to offer. The survey is quite blunt and does ask if you’ve experienced negative behaviour such as rowdiness, swearing and vandalism. “It also asks what else you’d like to see in Walsall’s town centre. So, for example, if the survey revealed that a retailer such as Cargo was in high demand, then we would work with our colleagues in the Think Walsall Business Support team to support Cargo to open a store here. “We’re already aware of two distinct gaps in town. Walsall lacks family friendly dining venues and venue that’s attractive to the over 25s offering a quiet and relaxing environment to meet up with friends.” Helen Kindon, District Centre Team Leader, adds,

“We work with Neighbourhood’s licensing team on the ‘Best Bar None’ awards which are funded through the Empty Shop fund from the government. We hope it encourages more licensed businesses to fill the empty shops and premises we have. Look at Hogs Head; it’s a perfect location yet still remains empty.” The survey results will also help produce a charter in conjunction with West Midlands Police. Jon sees it as another example of ‘we asked, you said, we did’ delivering the council’s priorities for building pride in Walsall. To enter the survey online, go to walsalltowncentresurvey2010.htm or if you’d like to download the PDF file go to The team are also busy conducting 1-2-1 business audits with the 300 businesses based in the town centre. These face-to-face interviews last just over an hour and give managers the opportunity to tell the council what’s bothering them and what they want and expect from the town centre. A business and shopping guide is being produced by the team as well as a town centre map which will plot all these businesses for the benefit of visitors. The map will go on display by Christmas on information boards and outside the bus station on St. Paul’s Street. Within Regeneration, Jon and Helen work with the Think Walsall Business Support team to support the local businesses across a range of issues. Danny Edwards, team leader, explains Think Walsall’s mission, “We seek to engage and support Walsall-based businesses, working with them to identify their issues, aspirations for growth and linking them with support including help with finance, relocation, staff training and much more. “We also maximise opportunities through the regeneration and physical developments taking place in the town, such as Walsall Waterfront, to maximise opportunities for local people and businesses. As an example, we work with key developers such as Jessup and Wilmot-Dixon to host Meet the Buyer events and provide opportunities for local businesses to secure contracts.” To read more about the team at Think Walsall visit


A new face has been added to our Area Partnership team Nicola Holmes has been appointed as area manager for Willenhall and Short Heath and joins the five area managers who are engaging with residents to resolve issues and concerns in the local community. Nicola has taken over the reins from Olivia Clymer, who held the position on a temporary basis during the summer. As a Willenhall resident and former Wolverhampton Grammar pupil, she will be a familiar face to many in the community and has already begun meeting with key partners and community groups to identify issues in the area. The former Birmingham City Council employee has enjoyed a very similar role to her new position. She was a neighbourhood manager for the Firs and Bromford areas in Birmingham and helped to establish the Community Association for the area. The organisation has now progressed into becoming an independent group and organises events for the local community. She was also involved with the launch of a park Friends' group for a green space known by residents as Comet Park and has helped set up a scheme which trains locals to become Youth Workers to support young people. She has previously worked as an external funding coordinator for BeBirmingham, the local strategic partnership and is also a director for a youth centre in Handsworth and Lozells. "I'm really looking forward to meeting with councillors, our partners such as Walsall police and community groups and especially with residents to solve problems in their local area," said the twenty-eight year old. "It promises to be a bigger challenge than my time at BeBirmingham. But I've always believed in encouraging local people to get involved in the community. It helps them to become part of the solution." Clive Wright, director at Walsall Partnership added: "We're delighted Nicola has joined our team. She joins an enthusiastic bunch who have already made in-roads in

meeting with members of the local community and have enjoyed a number of success stories so far." If you live in the Willenhall and Short Heath area and would like to contact Nicola as a resident, call her on 01922 653312 or email at

-----------------------Area Partnership team now complete

Congratulations to Donovan Bailey who has been appointed on a permanent basis as Area Manager for Bloxwich, Blakenall, Birchills and Leamore. Donovan, who has a strong background in IT and has been a council employee for over 20 years, joined the team on a secondment basis in June this year. He brings invaluable experience of working and engaging with communities. In 2002, he set up a ‘not for profit’ organisation that worked in partnership with other agencies at a local level in a deprived area of Wolverhampton. Donovan is one of six Area Managers who are working with the Area Partnerships scheme which looks at engaging with residents and working with partners including the police, NHS, WHG and the voluntary sector to improve our communities.

To find out more about the Area Partnership’s role in Working Smarter, visit

-----------------------Key Worker Housing Scheme

Pete Green from Strategic Recruitment If you are a first time buyer, or are unable to afford to buy a property that meets your household’s needs without help, or are a homeowner who needs to buy a larger property to meet household needs, then read on. The HomeBuy scheme could potentially help you afford a home of your own if you have a household income of £60,000 or less per year. Pete Green works in Human Resources and Developments’ Strategic Recruitment Team and part of his role is to secure benefits for council employees and this is just one of many important schemes that he wishes to promote. Pete explains, “The Key Worker Housing scheme is a great way to help eligible members of staff within the council get themselves on the property ladder. It’s a

national government programme aimed at key workers in local government, such as Social Workers, Planners and Occupational Therapists. “The scheme has a number of options depending on your situation, that offers an affordable alternative for key workers, whose earnings would be unlikely to qualify them for the size of mortgage necessary to buy in the traditional way, in their chosen location.�

Barratt Homes development, Fordbrook Court, Rushall There are several options available via the HomeBuy scheme, which could suit your needs, but Orbit HomeBuy Agents, which administers the HomeBuy scheme for the Walsall area, will be able to advise you on your eligibility and which scheme could be right for your circumstances. Although there are a range of products available, most people go for one of the following options. For those wishing to buy their own home, there is the popular New Build HomeBuy scheme under which you would generally take out a mortgage for a share of the property and rent the remaining share at a discounted rate. You can then purchase additional shares in the future until you own the property outright. Alternatively, many developers are now offering brand new homes for purchase through the HomeBuy Direct scheme. Those eligible can take advantage of equity loans provided jointly by the developer and the government of up to 30 per cent of the property value, with no interest to be paid on the loan for the first five years. If you prefer to rent, the Rent to HomeBuy and Intermediate Rent schemes allow you to rent your home at a discounted rate while saving up for a deposit to purchase at a later date, and both of these are helping many people find an affordable home.

Pete adds, “The options available through HomeBuy allow you to choose the one that fits your own circumstances, but the key is really to talk to the team at Orbit, who will be able to talk you through the HomeBuy process, advise you on your options and help you to apply if you decide to do so. “There’s an opportunity to speak to a representative from Orbit direct as they will be in attendance at the next Support into Jobs event on Thursday 30 September 2010 at the Town Hall between 10am and 4pm.” For further information on the HomeBuy scheme visit To find out more about employee benefits go to or visit using the login details below Username: Walsall Password: benefits

-----------------------Bloxwich goes wild about new library

The library’s main room There was fun, excitement and entertainment in the air as visitors attended the fun day at the new library in Bloxwich this weekend.

Around 2,000 people turned up throughout the day to check out the new facility, dubbed Bookmark Bloxwich, which opened for business on Tuesday 8 September 2010 following a £1.2m overhaul. The Elmore Row venue has undergone a complete transformation since contractors E Manton Ltd from Birmingham began its rejuvenation last November. Traditional memories of dull and gloomy libraries have been thrown out by the careful use of a variety of colours, whilst maintaining a welcoming environment for all. The new facility now includes a cafe, new computer desks, known as 'pods', a local access point for council information, exhibition, display and performance areas, meeting rooms and a children's reading garden.

The new children’s reading garden The library’s performance and meeting venue now contains retractable seating, which can be folded back towards the rear wall, opening up a multi-purpose space to accommodate all kinds of activities and performances. Saturday’s event certainly made use of all its facilities. The day was dubbed 'Go Wild at Bloxwich Library' and it wasn't hard to see why. Jill Reynolds, an educational animal entertainment known as 'The Animal Lady' wowed children with her wild and furry friends, with her Meerkat, Aleksandr being the star of the occasion.

A Mad Hatters Tea Party was laid for young ones as they got the chance to take in the new reading garden. Dance, courtesy of the talented youngsters from the Russon Dance Academy and a singing session involving library staff graced the stage of the new community theatre. In the afternoon audiences were treated to an illustrated talk from Stuart Williams who introduced Bert, the Bloxwich Lion and local historian Ian Bott rounded off the occasion with beastly tales of grisly murders in The Black Country.

Glen Buglass, from the Creative Development team, introduces Wild Irish to the audience Folk band Wild Irish toe-tapped their way through a delightful evening show and kept audiences on their feet throughout the two-hour set and brought the curtain down on a truly wonderful day. Glen Buglass, principal creative development officer, said: “Wild Irish was just the job for the Bookmark’s debut gig and everyone let their hair down at a fantastic Saturday night at the borough’s newest live music venue. “Here’s to many more nights like it.” Dina Teppin from Bloxwich Library said: "We were so pleased with the turnout and it was a fantastic occasion to mark the opening of the new library."

-----------------------Framework Funnies

Captions inspired by the Management Competency Framework Competition! Think you can match the caption to the correct competency?

“Listen lads, I know we are bottom of the league and out of both cups. Missing training doesn’t help. Sorry I forgot to remind you about the game last week, but missing one won’t matter. If we try hard we will still have a successful season, even though there are only two matches left.”

“Huston, we’ve got a problem!” “What do you mean? It was your turn to fill up with fuel before we set out! Submit your entry to Jennifer Blake at or ring 01922 655713 by 1 October 2010. This month’s caption contributors are Geoff Giblin and the OD Management & Leadership Team, HRD.

Team Spirit September 2010  

Team Spirit September 2010