I’m feeling really buoyed-up after today’s Socitm National Advisory Council.

There was ample challenge, but the discussion and debate was extremely constructive throughout. John Serle, the NAC Chair, and I met one-to-one for an hour, or so, ahead of the meeting, which was invaluable.

John helped me to clarify my own thoughts on some of the questions of how to build membership value now that we have turned our attention from reorganisation and sustainability to effectively engaging our membership. The first substantive agenda item was the President’s report, which I used the draft Position Statement to frame, introducing proposals on the way forward that John’s advice helped to formulate.

The essential points were to channel communications through the regions and, particularly, the regional Chairs, and that the Executive should develop propositions to the NAC on the ways in which issues, such as membership segmentation and special interest groups, should be organised, rather than the other way around. Sometimes, you can’t see the woods for the trees!

Some other key areas of guidance from the NAC were in agreeing regional themes, involving members in effective influence and lobbying through Expert Panels and in less communications “noise” and more discriminating use and moderation of discussion forums.

I’m not going to play-out the whole meeting, here; the minutes, as always, will be published to the membership as soon as they are ready.

I do expect, however, the board, tomorrow, will endorse a number of initiatives based on NAC members’ advice. The timing of this month’s board to immediately follow the NAC looks-like being the right approach, and we’re planning futures meetings to follow the same arrangement.

John, Glyn Evans – the Chair of Socitm Futures – and I previously agreed to meet to ensure the working relationship is clear and effective, and we’re now arranging this as soon as possible. Steve Palmer will join as to ensure continuity as we approach his Presidency.

After the NAC I went to meet with Natalie Smith, of PAConsulting, at their offices in Buckingham Palace Road. PA was recruited, by the DCSF, to provide programme management and support for the EAS (Employee Authentication Services) roll-out. The DCSF aims to recruit 50 Councils to “onboard”, as they call-it, EAS by April.

Socitm is generally supportive of the development and we were pleased to be consulted about the proposals early on, as I have previously reported. However, I’m now concerned that the project that’s developed is hugely ambitious; it appears to be making the same mistake as Government Connect in requiring Local Authorities to commit to activity that they’ve had no opportunity to budget for.

Councils are meeting, “as we speak” to agree 2009/10 budgets and set Council Tax rates, and it’s now too late for them to provide for the cost implications of implementing EAS.

EAS makes tremendous sense – provided it is integrated with Government Connect. Some of the biggest problems in the CoCo requirements are in supporting flexible working using mobile devices and personally owned equipment using technology such as terminal services. EAS should be able to provide an appropriate authentication solution to these problems.

I committed Socitm to help in the Communications programme by asking regions to provide presentation slots in their events programme early in the year, in including publicity material in our broadcasts, and in helping to recruit volunteers to be early adopters.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we are not attuned to the real concerns that are bound to materialise. The rollout of Contact Point, already long delayed, will be reliant on EAS. Again, this is clearly the right solution, but engagement plans must be practical.

There is an EAS Board meeting, next week, which I’m unable to attend, but hope to arrange Socitm representation at. There are also a number of Community of Interest Working Groups coming-up, which we’ll be represented in. Do, please, let me have your views on how we should proceed.