Thursday, 5 March 2009

Executive Assistants - Who They?

Nope, I hadn't heard of them either but I stumbled across them when reading the minutes of the last full City Council meeting.

You might remember from reading the 'Post' or maybe seeing my previous post on this meeting that it was more famous for the friendly discussions over the highly complementary Audit Commission report about Nottingham City Homes and the light hearted joshing between JoCo and Cllr Sutton, who was accused of being a 'prat' by the Great Leader. All good stuff. Of course the latter quotette didn't make it into the minutes, merely being summarised as

"After discussion..."

Come on NCC minute takers, sort it out. We want everything warts and all, times of toilet breaks, the lot. After all we pay for them.

Sorry, went a bit 'Daily Mail' there, lets get back on track. It seems the 'prat' jibe wasn't the only excruciating attempt at informality at that meeting, more on that in a bit.

So what is an 'Executive Assistant' then? Its another office of the Council Executive and as such is filled by a councillor of the ruling group normally. All is revealed in the 'Roles and Responsibilities' appendix of NCC's constitution. Para 26 lists their duties as the following;

"1 Executive Assistants will provide general political support to the Executive and will, mainly, achieve this by supporting particular Executive Members’ portfolios and areas of executive work. Their roles will include the following:-

(1) development of policy in areas allocated by the Executive;

(2) assisting Executive Members in all elements of work within their portfolios, including:-

(a) carrying out research and providing advice on executive functions, including briefings to support portfolio decisions;
(b) supporting liaison between the Executive Members and other Councillors, Corporate Directors and Overview and Scrutiny function, and external organisations;
(c) representing the Executive Members at internal and external meetings and events;

(3) development of knowledge, experience and expertise in the portfolio of the Executive Member;

2 Executive Assistants do not have delegated authority to take executive decisions in relation to any executive functions."

In effect a kind of Portfolio Holder's 'supersub' if you will.

Anyway, it seems that at this same Council meeting some of the opposition councillors decided to ask what they had ACTUALLY been doing in recent months. The resultant responses were obviously meant to be seen as high handed cutting sarcasm, Swiftian bons mots sure to belittle the questioners and make them slink away with tails between legs. Unfortunately this didn't work out because the responses appear to have been drafted by the same wag who crafted Jane Todd's jibe about the Evening Post's ipod being stuck on shuffle. What I'm saying here is that they weren't very funny.

Take it away then Councillor Mellen.

"It is great to see the Liberal Democrats are fully behind our desire to increase our recycling rate in the City. Indeed they have managed a 100 per cent recycling rate in the questions that have been brought before Council today."

Rrrrrrrrrip. Oh dear, there go my sides. Councillor Mellen is available for children's birthday parties (as Nobby the Clown), weddings and bahmitzvahs. Book early.

And now, Councillooooorrrrrr Liversidge!

"I thank Councillor Oldham for his question two days after the most momentous event in almost a century."

Er wtf you on about man? Has anybody got any idea? Is this some sort of councillor in-joke? If anyone can explain this please do so in the comments. I must have missed something.

Finally, Councillor Chapman's answer.

"I rather welcome this question because it gives me an opportunity to find out, well it stimulates me talking to Hassan about what the hell he has been up to..."

LOLZ!!!11!! Yeah, what 'the hell' have you been up to Hassan? Its so wild and zany round here that I've got no idea whats going on!!!! You get the feeling that Councillor Chapman has one of those signs in his office saying 'you don't have to be mad to work here but it helps' and what's more, points it out to people when they visit.

Jesus fucking H Christ. Is this the best they can do? Is this what we pay our elected representatives to do all day, making cringe-worthily unsuccessful attempts at dissing the opposition? Somebody had to type all that shit out you know and they don't do it for free.

Anyway, once you've got your breath back we can have a little wonder as to what has caused this outbreak of wackiness and put-downy behaviour. Not surprisingly, it seems to come down to money.

You see Executive Assistants qualify for a special responsibility allowance of £5579.89 per year. This is the same as, say the Chairs of Regulatory Committees or the Chief Whip but more than the Chair of the Appointments and Conditions of Service Committee. Its not entirely a consensus that they're worth that much, hence the spate of questions about what they do with their time from the opposition and the rather snide responses from portfolio holders.

Now the next full Council meeting is due on 9 March and the agenda has an item to discuss the latest report from the Independent Remuneration Committee. This is the bunch charged with the task of making recommendations about the level of the various Councillors' and special responsibilities allowances that are available.

Anyway, it seems that the IRC initially recommended that Executive Assistants should receive an allowance of £2710 initially whereas JoCo wanted them to get the full fat £5579. In the interests of democracy and accountability JoCo ignored the IRC's recommendation and went with the higher amount.

Anyway its review time and the IRC appears to have been bombarded with evidence about the Executive Assistants' worth but have yet to be convinced and still recommend the lower amount. Clearly the opposition smell a rat/opportunity to take the piss.

Of course all this will be swallowed up in the discussions of the budget which is being discussed at the same meeting and the 350 odd redundancies this involves is currently being spun into a £16m in vestment into children and the disabled.

There are currently 4 executive assistants so the total expenditure at issue is about £11.5k pa which would barely get you a half time admin assistant at today's prices. So there's not a lot of political capital for the opposition here. Mind you, if you're the part time admin assistant being made redundant its probably pretty significant.

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