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Don't juggle with stress balls - use bean bags instead

Having started conference by addressing a couple of fringe meetings. The first was on an issue that will be very vexed over the next year or so as to where the boundary should lie between public sector directly managed services and private sector contracted services.

The NHS, of course, has now basically put out to tender all 64bn of the PCTs' budgets (potentially). Where this goes will only be seen in January, but it is interesting that there was no debate in the house on this.

The second meeting was about Core Cities and City Regions an issue about which there is much uninformed comment. The idea of the City Region is a simple system to coordinate policy between 8 local authorities, the LSC and RDA (AWM) with representation from the business sector and regional assembly.

It is not an ideal system as ideally we would link in the true economic city region of Birmingham including the travel to work area. Coventry logically could be a separate city region.

Areas such as Bristol are more complex with a multi centred nature. The point about this is that boundaries need to be worked out locally not tidily by someone in Whitehall.

There was the interesting comparison between Southampton and Pluto. Southampton is not a Core city, nor now is Pluto a planet. There are eight core cities and eight planets.

The core city links are there to argue on behalf of the big conurbations outside London. Of the 8 (Birmingham, Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle) three have lib dems in control, 2 have lib dem tory arrangements and 3 are Labour. This has been going on for some time and has had its merits in arguing the case in whitehall.

Where I have featured most in the blogsphere it appears is from juggling with the stress balls provited by the ATL. As Frank Chalk would confirm stress is an issue in Education. I have noted a photograph on Jamie's blog and Will Howells actually managed to film me with a video film somehow without me dropping the balls (Which I did on numerous occasions). I was also interviewed by alex foster after that.

The real problem for juggling with three balls is catching them. This may sound simplistic, but you need to throw them accurately enough so that you can catch them. That is why stress balls which are quite springy are not very good. Juggling balls tend to be tight bags of beans, and don't bounce out of your hand. The trick is to throw them high enough so that you have time to catch them. As you get more accurate then you can throw them a shorter distance.

It will be interesting to see what Iain Dale comes up with. He did an interview for his new narrowcasting tv site 18 Doughty Street which launches at midnight tonight.

I also discussed this issue with both the BBC and ITV who are launching their own localised narrowcasting video on demand type TV channels. BBC Local has been running for some time. The print media are quite worried about the BBC using license fee money to dominate online activity. The BBC say not to worry, but they would say that wouldn't they.

There was some bug going round that really knocked me out so I was out of circulation for much of Tuesday, but managed to recover to provide the accompaniment and sound system for the Glee Club on Weds night. Playing the piano almost continually for 3 1/2 hours is quite tiring on the hands. There were, however, a number of turns of which Paddy Ashdown's was very well received. Evan Harris did a very good Woody Allen sketch as well. In fact I think maybe a score of MPs, MEPs and Peers performed something at some stage - on the stage. The old traditional Skye Boat Song was, of course, performed.

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