Democracy maintained - by Clive Mason

Standing against conspiracy, corruption and politcial skullduggery - public servants are forced to take high risk action. Great story - thanks Clive.


Democracy Maintained... Clive Mason

David sat in the full council meeting. He gave a cursory nod to George, the councils solicitor, and Jan, the chief executive, and went back to reviewing the paper that would recommend members made the biggest political decision of their lives; a decision that would change local government for ever; a political earthquake would affect a generation. To oversee the takeover – wasn’t that why he was here? Even Whitehall was looking in.

Middletown DC was a relatively small district council in sleepy East Anglia. David’s predecessors had struggled for years to balance the books and members had pressed for ever more vicious externalisation of services – ‘strip out this, strip out that – it’s all waste’ had been the mantra. Now the chickens had come home to roost. Costs were spiralling, but the finance team itself had been cut to the bone, left powerless against the outsourcing behemoths, and the council was facing bankruptcy.

Members were clearly complicit in the imminent acquisition. They had insisted on signing the contracts. They had disregarded the crippling terms and conditions. David knew the smell of conspiracy was like a rotting banana skin and this one had been rotting for years.

David had been parachuted in three weeks ago to replace the outgoing chief financial officer. Outgoing’? Poor fella. Shafted more like. He’d given 30 yearsloyal service to these members, but continual underinvestment had meant he hadn’t been able to keep pace. His departure had removed the final obstacle and only two days later a fully costed and legaleased merger report had been circulated. It had clearly been prepared by the county, which was funny, really, given that three-quarters of the Middletown members were also county members.

David, George and Jan stood up. David boomed for attention and started the PowerPoint. There, in full technicolour, was a picture of the leader counting cash with the director of the refuse contractor. The room was stunned into silence. David didn’t need to look at George and Jan, he could feel their relief. All three knew democracy had been maintained. Even Whitehall might be pleased. On cue, the police walked in!

A district council chief finance officer and member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), Clive Mason has worked in local government for 27 years, mostly within either accountancy or internal audit. Unusually, he has also worked for a private sector consultancy, helping councils through tough financial times. 

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