How do we hold our councils to account?

Sometimes we can’t vote for a solution, because a decision has already been made, by others that we must then learn to live with. I feel a little sick in my stomach when trying to type this blog post today, it’s one that I feel while trying to find my words and also what I should be saying and what I should not be saying. The council where I work has had its chief executive step down from their role and it looks like they have collectivly decided at the top of the orgnisation to have a seamless transition of power from the chief executive to the deputy chief executive.

This has been all legally able to happen and it was announced to staff today that the deputy chief executive is now been offered the role of chief executive. The person had an interview and was successful in their interview. The job was advertised to council internal candidates only and the successful candidate was likely the only person qualified to do the job.

What puzzled me though was who decided that this role should be only open to internal candidates when the normal recruitment method for the council is to nearly always advertise both internally and externally and the one job you think would be the most important one for them to recruit to outside the organisation as well as internally that of the chief executive goes to an internal candidate after external candidates were not allowed to apply.

It is likely that the people of the council specifically chose to advertise this job as internal only as they knew who they wanted to be granted the job to their chosen successor to enable the decision making process to remain consistent with what went before continue with what happens next.

If the council was run well then you would think that would be a great idea but you could argue there are many key areas in which the council is failing that really do matter. It no longer has the resource or ability to effectively interact with the most vulnerable within our society. It wants all interactions with the public to be via a computer screen not person to person and it wants payments to be made without the use of cash but by BACS or online payment transactions a so called cashless council. All modern working practices you might think, well done council.

But often those that need the councils support, help and advice and services are often the most vulnerable, deprived or poor with limited access to phones, computers or with a desperate need to speak to a real live human face to face in order to be assisted, or have a problem assessed for them and be supported with their problem. Such types of council practice is now out of place and old fashioned in the eyes of the executive and as they do more number crunching and cost cutting they forget or choose to ignore those that will suffer in the march for progress and cost efficiency measures.    

The council has won awards for a glossy ground breaking new leisure centre and construction projects, but as far as having the manpower to have an effective Financial Services Department or Human Resources Department or Face to face Customer Services delivery to residents then it is severely under-resourced and this lack of staff or ability to get the job done across departments will not change and is damaging to the council as a whole.

A lot of the decline of council services across the whole of the UK and not just in my city and is not just sometimes due to mismanagement of resources but is very much a consequence of Conservative leadership at the heart of UK government policy and power. With key resourcing decisions consistently made that result in less money and resources and having had them in power for over 12 years since May 2010 it has very much resulted in councils being treated like a dead piece of meat which is slowly being cut back year on year slice by slice to the bone until there is very little left.

There are other services across the public sector that are also damaged irreparably in this country, due to conservative ideology that cut backs are good and spending money on people and resources bad. We are in no way unique or worse off than the NHS, Police or Fire Service and having a Labour run council is also an advantage. There are many people that work tremendously hard for the council and local government in my city and I hope and look forward to seeing the new chief executive working hard for the city too, but the jury is still out.

Right now on the news in the UK today there is talk of our Conservative Government bringing laws to stop the sailing to Britain of immigrants and stopping them from being legally allowed to claim asylum once they arrive here. This is seen as a conservative righteous and necessary policy which is a true celebration of conservative law making and intelligent government standing up to foreigners that wish to live in Britain. We were probably all immigrants once.

The rights of foreigners and responsibilities of this nation to people that are not British are very easily forgotten though when people arrive in a jet plane or on a yacht, this country has consistently turned a blind eye to how that wealth was made for so long as it was spent here.

Where as if you turn up in a dingy clutching your only remaining possession which is your child then somehow what your doing is criminal and we will invent new laws to criminalise your desperate plea for shelter and an opportunity to contribute to our society by instead deporting you to a country that is poor enough to accept our money to take you in instead.

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