Wednesday, 13 May 2009

More Thoughts on the Leaked Report

At the full council meeting on 9 March 2009 Cllr Jon Collins said this of the (linked below) draft report -

" No, I don’t think a three year old draft that simply records unevidenced opinions, prejudices and tittle tattle says anything telling about the way Nottingham City Council is run."

Well, I've now read the whole document and in my opinion the only thing JoCo has got right in that paragraph is the fact that the report is 3 years old. But you'd be justified in checking your calendar.

As far as the 'unevidenced' jibe goes, throughout the report the authors provide supporting evidence in the form of quotes from interviewees in a sidebar. They provide examples of processes that don't work, such as the fact that service plans were supposed to draw from the Corporate Plan but were in fact required to be completed before the Corporate Plan was available. They repeatedly state when their opinions are drawn from interviewees' accounts, such as when they disclose that four members of the Strategic Management Team said that it was-

"not corporate, not strategic, doesn't manage and isn't a team"

thus backing up a similar account from other workers. Further discussion of the SMT begins with -

"An examination of the agendas..."

thus explicitly setting out the evidence they used to draw their conclusions.

It goes on. Sorry JoCo but 'unevidenced' is not a sustainable claim that you can make about this report.

Secondly, JoCo's claim that the report cannot cast any useful information about how the Council is now run, when so much of the report concerns his style of working and 'micromanagement' which has the potential to undermine the Chief Executive, holds no water (it seems that the Evening Post was really rather kind to JoCo in its report on the leaked document). Especially when another Chief Exec was bundled expensively out of the door not long after following a fallout with Cllr C. This tells us a LOT about how the top end of the Council is run, how it is clear that any Chief Exec has to be prepared to be undermined by the Leader and how much effort must be spent on not offending him. Sometimes the head of the administrative side has to challenge the head of the political side and if a Chief Exec doesn't feel able to to do so then they can't do their job.

In its final recommendations the authors say -

"A line in the sand needs to be drawn and a new member/officer protocol produced so that respective roles are clearly defined and communicated to all."

This is not too dissimilar to one of the recommendations of the Audit Commission in its report on the Housing Allocations fiasco, which included new protocols for Councillors when advocating on behalf of constituents. The Council voted to accept these recommendations only for its Standards Committee and Executive Board to set about watering them down.

Essentially NCC is being told time and time again that its procedures on member/officer relations are inadequate yet are pulling every trick in the book to stop any change to tighten those procedures up. One of those tricks, it is now clear, included throwing a report away and hoping nobody would get to see it. Different times, different tricks, same ends. Still want to argue the Hardmoor report can give no clue about how the Council is run JoCo? Jane Todd? Anyone?


Anonymous said...

As John Acton said: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Although Coun. Collins shouldn't have absolute power in a democratic council, it does seem that the rarified atmosphere of his seat atop the Council House has gone to his head. I could have sworn I saw him the other day walking across the Market Square water feature...

Andy said...

Thats very true (not sure about the walking on water bit).

But it goes further than JoCo, many other councillors do it as well. This issue was the major cause of the housing allocations disaster.

And like I say, a positive step would be to introduce a bit more accountability into the officer/elected member relationship but NCC is resisting that tooth and nail. You have to ask yourself why...