Friday, 28 August 2009

Management Issues

For the second meeting in a row, the Appointments and Conditions of Service Committee is considering a review of senior salary levels at NCC.

So what can I tell you about their thoughts? Bugger all, pretty much. It's all going on behind closed doors, as decided under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972. This provision allows councils to vote to consider an item of business without the public being present if it involves 'exempt information'.

Exempt Information is defined by Schedule 12A of the Act and includes any labour relations matter and this will of course include senior posts. However, there is a proviso in most cases which requires a public interest consideration and discussions should only be kept private if the public interest of doing so outweighs any public interest of it being public.

Interestingly, at the 7 July meeting, the committee was also discussing a report about discretionary compensation which, from context appears to concern the payment of higher than statutory severence payments. However, again I don't know for sure as it's all exempt so the minutes only contain the barest bones of what was discussed. But apparently it was option (d) that won them over...

There appears to be some wider interest in such matters. The Beeb recently reported that the Audit Commission is about to look into the issue of big pay-offs to council Chief Execs, in particular ater a fallout with the political leadership. They don't actually mention Jon Collins and Michael Frater but I reckon that, bearing in mind JoCo's, ah, 'temperament', NCC should be watching this one very carefully, it stands to save us £100ks in the long run.

So, back to my original point. If NCC is conducting a review of senior salaries can they really justify doing it in private? After all, they quite happily disclosed Jane Todd's temporary salary before she got the permanent job. Senior managers accept that there is an element of public scrutiny of how much they get paid. So is this a 'public interest' question or a 'political embarrassment' question? Not that NCC seems to see any difference between the two.

In other news, which doesn't reflect too well on NCC's senior management, the 'Post' is reporting on the last staff survey at NCC. There's a summary here, it doesn't make pretty reading.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Kerchingagain (again)

Nearly forgot to mention, old friends PricewaterhouseCooper have just trousered another £60k for financial advice. This time it's for the planned Joint Service Centre at Bulwell.

They're not the only ones though, local legal bods Browne Jacobson have got a similar amount for legal advice.

They're old City Council favourites as well and have been noted trawling this very website. They also spent quite a lot of time looking at my photo website a few months back when I was in a dispute with NCC which was a bit odd. Whoever set their IT up must be barely literate because their network name is spelt Browne Jacobsen...

Friends and family etc.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Lord Mayor in 'Bit of a Fishwife' Horror

At long last there's a sex scandal to write about, I can finally put in my first bid for a lucrative career in tabloid journalism. It's not an opportunity I expect to turn up often.

You've probably seen it already but the 'Post' is reporting that Norman Packer, Lord Mayor Jeannie Packer's husband and 'consort', has allegedly been up to a bit of slap and tickle behind his wife's back with a 38 year old 'lovely' (not bad so far, got an 'allegedly' and a patronising term for a female third party in early on, I can smell that tabloid cash cow already).

Apparently he took the woman off to a hotel Ibis in Chesterfield which shows that he really knows how to show a girl a good time. However, as is usual in these things, the accounts start to differ at this stage.

The woman, according to the Post, has asked not to be named. So you'll have to go and read its national sister title the Daily Mail to find out that she's called Karen Trevis, a fellow Labour Party member. She claims that they did the beast with two backs thang, saying she didn't want to but decided to lie back and think of The Party.

"It lasted a couple of hours" she said.

Now to be honest, I'd want that detail left in but Mr Packer says it's all 'codswallop'. He says that he had a guilt trip and couldn't go through with the evil deed. I suppose we'll never know the real truth, not unless there's some Clinton stylee 'DNA' on a dress somewhere anyway.

And to be honest, if it had ended there, neither would I really care beyond a bit of pointing and staring. But it's claimed that Packer later proposed a vote to have Ms Trevis removed from her (unspecified) party position. The vote went against her but the decision was later overturned. Sounds somewhat less than gentlemanly you might say and I, for one, might well agree with you.

Somewhat more amusingly (and the reason for this piece's title) Mrs Packer apparently went round to Ms Trevis' house to 'berate' her over the matter, to the extent that the police were called. That's something you'd want to see isn't it, the Lord Mayor banging on the door screaming blue murder at the scarlet woman? Good to see that the dignity of this ancient office is being preserved.

In time, a complaint against Mr P was made to party bigwigs who launched an investigation. Packer has since resigned from the party for unconnected reasons, he says. The Packers are currently on their hols 'out of the County' (presumably not wanting to waste that 2 for 1 offer with Ibis) and aren't contactable.

I wonder if that will be the end of the story? There are hints that the whole matter came about due to jealousy and infighting in the local Labour party which I'd like to hear more about. I suppose I could ask Mr Packer, it seems he's planning on continuing with his role leading tours of the Council House so he's easy to reach. For any ladies thinking of going on one of these tours, can I suggest that you go in twos?

Update - More on this from the 'Post' at 6.50pm. Looks like they've now been given clearance by head office to name Ms Trevis. And they're allowing comments on this one now, let loose the dogs of crass war...

Updateagain - They've changed it now, comments no longer allowed. I love the 'Post's' comments policy, race hate is fine but upset the Lord Mayor? Oh no...

Update 26 August - He's gone.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A Reminder...

A while back I set up a petition in the following terms -

"We believe that Nottingham City Council should publish all Freedom of Information requests it receives along with the responses on its website. We therefore call on Nottingham City Council to implement this simple act in the interests of openness and accountability."

Just a little reminder to please, please sign it here, I really do think it would be a positive step towards greater openness in local government.

Please be aware that, being a free petition site it tries to get you to donate money. It's not compulsory, the way through is to sign as requested, click 'sign', and then you get taken to a 'please donate' screen with no apparent bypass route. However, if you click the 'next' button you get taken to a Paypal site but instead of putting any of your details in, look down the bottom left where there is a small link giving you the possibility of 'going back to ipetitions'. Pick this one, your signature will still work and it won't have cost you a penny.

Please tell me of any problems you have signing the petition, including if you don't feel able to sign it due to the admittedly stupid arrangements.

Friday, 7 August 2009


There's nothing like helping out old buddies eh? That warm feeling of familiarity, mutual backscratching etc and NCC is no different.

Old pals Invigor8, whose name is more reminiscent of a boy band than a management consultancy, have got the job training human resources about competence. And believe me, someone needs to.

If you're a regular reader you'll remember that we last heard from Invigor8 when they were named as NCC's latest 'culture' consultants and we made one or two snide remarks about their apparent obedience and ability to provide the right answers. Purely in the spirit of satire obv.

This time they've got the job under special procedures allowing the normal financial regulations to be bypassed, following the portfolio decision made by Cllr Chapman. They'll be getting another £15k for this. Hmmm...

In another blast from the past. PricewaterhouseCoopers make a welcome return to conduct a review of the NCC's internal audit procedures.

I last mentioned Internal Audit when they confirmed many of my criticisms of the Housing Benefits service, albeit a bit late. Housing Benefits are one of NCC's bright shining stars because they are the most successful at hiding how shit they are from the Audit Commission, so its perhaps not so surprising that the spotlight has fallen on anybody who blows the gaff on them.

This decision appears to have been made under a 'framework agreement' agreed by the Executive Board in November 2008. I'd like to have a look at what that entails but unfortunately I can't find the minutes anywhere so if anybody can help...?

Whatever it involves it appears that individual projects are subject to the normal decision making rules, this time via yet another portfolio decision from Cllr Chapman.

Anyway the costs. PwC Partner Richard Bacon charges £2,142 per day for his time, Principal Consultant Chris Dickens gets £1,533 per day and the two Senior Consultants get £1,350 per day. Bringing up the rear is the Junior Consultant (special responsibilities, fetching sandwiches from Pret, coffee from Starbucks) on £315 per day. Nice work if you can get it.

In all PwC expect to be paid £14,217 for a total of 11.5 person days work, not including expenses which are capped at 10% or £1,422. As well as the coffee and sarnies that should cover them for a couple of Easyrider passes and a box of biros.