Going Native

Henry_M_Stanley_-I often hesitate to pick on another politician based upon a single article in a newspaper, but the Daily Telegraph of 20th November reported on an interview given by Lord Porter of Spalding wherein he stated that whilst he is not happy with the six figure salaries enjoyed by council chief executives there is little that can be done…because that is the way the world is! Gary Porter is Baron Porter of Spalding CBE, a British Conservative politician, local government leader and member of the House of Lords.
He is also a South Holland District Councillor and most importantly Chairman of the Local Government Association. He was created Baron Porter of Spalding, of Spalding in the County of Lincolnshire on 15th October 2015.
In the article he draws the comparison with top footballers with whom he is also “not happy” about their being paid a lot of money. But as a person in a leadership position he does have choices. He can choose not to support a football team if he thinks they are over promising and under delivering. A top footballer is expected to thrill millions across the globe and has a limited performing lifetime. And for many people the purpose of top footballers is to be the recipient of gratuitous abuse whether it is appropriate or otherwise. A top footballer is always at risk of career terminating injury. I have yet to see a Council Executive whose brain was overworked in the performance of their duties.
The real test of a Council Executive’s pay is whether the recipient provides added value. I have known a few Council Executives directly and I have yet to discern added value. For the most part they are administrators who do not provide leadership but manage to convince senior elected officials that they have to pay the most to get the best. But we do not always need the best. I would like a Rolls or a Bentley but I happily settle for a VW.
When Babergh was enjoying its executive leadership challenges I suggested that we could emulate the Roman Empire and split the job between the three (at most) next senior executives. They would have to work together towards common goals. They would not need a fourth person to coordinate their actions and give them direction as if they were teenagers. They would however need political direction.
Equally I suggested that they should advertise the post at £80,000 instead of  £100,000+ and see what they got. They might have got ambitious candidates with acceptable capabilities, qualifications, experience and vision. Instead the senior councillors (i.e. the political leadership) outsourced their problems to an Executive Search Consultant and the rest is history. There was no challenge and consequently I feel that they ended up overpaying.
And what of Lord Porter? Where is his challenge and leadership? What happened to the man I once met and admired? Has he succumbed to the Sir Humphreys of the Local Government Association?
The evidence is clear enough. One does not need to be in the Third World in order to go native!

Pay Policy at Babergh

Flag by BaberghMeanwhile on Planet Babergh, the District Councillors are being asked on Tuesday 25th June to approve the Collective Agreement on Employment Terms, Conditions and Policies.
The statement about financial implications of the new agreement is weak and flabby. Not for the first time do we have a lack of detail in this area. I have previously expressed my reluctance to sign blank cheques or to trust bland opinions.
It should be case of running the spreadsheets to get the opinion that that new arrangements will either mean more money in the staff pockets or not. Telling us that the savings targets as set out in the Business Case will be met, has nothing to do with salaries. Meeting the business case is a sine qua non. We expect nothing less!
What we do expect is hard robust opinions from the officers. How else can we have confidence in their assessments.
Towards the end of the summary of staff benefits we find that parking available to staff at the Council office car parks will be free of charge. The residents and visitors to Hadleigh pay for their parking, whether they are in employment or not. The same should apply to the employees at Babergh.
Free parking is not a perquisite to be enshrined in the Collective Agreement!
It would seem that the staff anticipate further charging for car parking and wish to be exempt from the realities of the people who pay their wages.
The full paper may be read on http://bdcdocuments.onesuffolk.net/council/ see paper N26.

Pay Policy Statement 2013/2014

 Flag bTuesday’s  Babergh District Council Meeting was a quiet affair being mainly concerned with formalities of approving matters already agreed upon elsewhere. For example who sits on and who leads the various sub committees.
However at the back of the morning we got around to looking at paper “N9 Pay Policy Statement 2013/14”. It was introduced in a gentle way. We were reminded that our approval was required in accordance with Section 38(1) of the Localism Act 2011.
However, under Financial Implications, we were informed that “The pay policy has been produced within existing resources and there are no financial implications”
I interpreted this statement to mean that Babergh produced the policy without chopping down any more trees than had already been killed in manufacturing the paper and that (perhaps) more importantly we had not used any external consultants.
This was not the information I would have liked. As always the key to analysis is not only to examine what is in front of you but what you are not seeing and what I was not seeing was an indication of how much this policy was costing us on a year on year basis.
After much standing up and sitting down the Chief Executive affirmed that there would  be no increase in the payroll as a result of the policy. I was grateful for the unequivocal statement along these lines and thanked the Chairman, the Chief Executive and the Head of Corporate Organisation.
It was like pulling teeth without anaesthetic .
Whilst I was congratulating myself of achieving unexpected reactions it did occur to me that perhaps there will be increases in the overall payroll but they won’t be due to the policy but to something else.
I’ll ponder on this when the time comes, probably in the small hours of a morning.