Gemma Rogers reviews the recent ALARM conference

The theme for this year's ALARM conference was 'pushing back the frontiers', and the event certainly kept its promise to do just that.

The programme was developed in recognition of the rapid development necessary for risk practitioners.

The conference provided a plethora of workshops and sessions exploring the risks and opportunities of many topics. These were as diverse as reputation risk, corporate manslaughter, business continuity management, giving evidence and personal safety.

These topics represent just a small portion of the knowledge base that has become a part of everyday life for public sector risk managers. The conference also provided the chance to meet with other like-minded professionals and share information and advice. This was invaluable, and many came away with a fresh sense of enthusiasm.

Keynote speaker, John Greenway MP, praised organisations such as ALARM for their campaign to raise the profile of risk management in the public sector, and vowed that the Government would show equal commitment. Such comments were tremendously encouraging, proving that central government is among those waking up to the importance of managing risk within our public services.

Greenway also questioned whether any one really knows the full cost of the so-called compensation culture, and described the awareness of this issue at Westminster as "at best patchy". ALARM was encouraged to collect information about the compensation issue from all areas of public life and use real facts to back up existing assertions. ALARM has committed itself to this request, and the promise that progress will be made in this area at Westminster was welcomed, adding to the sense that, as risk management creeps up the corporate agenda in public sector organisations, this progress is being mirrored within central government.

Conference 2004 returned to Manchester for the third year. The useful suggestions following last year's conference helped the organisers to further improve the facilities, workshops, lectures and social events.

This year, delegates had high levels of praise for the three day event.

The mix of sessions allowed a lively, interactive, factual, yet enjoyable event, which organisers feel was a situation highly conducive to learning.

Praise for educational sessions was particularly high, and delegates provided ample suggestions for future conference material.

The range of attendees at this year's event helped confirm that risk management has arrived at its proper position at the heart of corporate thinking. Delegates represented all aspects of public services: councils, police, fire and rescue crews, universities, housing associations and social services. A large number of international delegates was also welcomed, providing an opportunity to share ideas with those working in other countries.

ALARM appreciates that in 'pushing back the frontiers' there is a danger that these frontiers will get further away and harder to recognise, but this is all part of the challenge.

Civil Contingencies Bill

Given the impending introduction of the Government's Civil Contingencies Bill, it was relevant that a special panel discussion was held to debate the implications of what this will mean for risk practitioners.

The press has described the bill as 'the biggest threat to civil liberty we have ever seen'. However, the panel confirmed that it cannot be ignored; that the new legislation does highlight how outdated the current civil contingency arrangements are, and that its introduction is inevitable.

Delegates used the session as a prime opportunity to discuss some of the grey areas which have been concerning them, and gain a greater understanding of what exactly they will have to do to meet the Bill's requirements.

New Chairman

The conference also marked the beginning of the one-year term of the Association's new chairman, Carolyn Halpin. Carolyn, risk manager at Middlesbrough Council, has been supporting the Association for many years at regional and national level. Her past roles within the council have included secretary, newsletter editor, member of the education and training committee, and, as last year's chair-elect, a lead on governance and policy. Her main manifesto commitment is engaging with the membership.

- Gemma Rogers writes on behalf of ALARM, Tel: 01395 223399,