A critical audit report. A new chief executive. A confidential
management consultant’s report. All three coming to the same
conclusion. Those running the organisation and many who work within it
,” think they are too good to slip into special measures “ . The
organisation has been coasting for a number of years and is about to
be found out. The leadership were surprised at the criticism and in
truth thought it unduly harsh, failing to take due account of local
circumstances and ignoring some recent progress.
Partly due to their size, partly their history members and
officers considered the organisation to be the natural leader
regionally. A view not shared by their neighbours. A stable authority,
traditionally managed on a broad political consensus, now having to
come to terms with internal divisions.
The story here is not that the chief executive failed to turn
things round but that having improved performance and got the budget
under control the leadership decided they didn’t like the new
management style. Told they were standing on a burning platform they
felt forced into a series of decisions and a way of carrying them out
that was not to their liking. They wanted success but they didn’t like
their new image characterised by their negative relationship with the
voluntary and community sector. Many members held posts on the boards
of voluntary groups and had long standing close relations with
community groups in their wards. They didn’t like the bad publicity
around closing local libraries, mothballing museums and selling off
council land popular with dog walkers and ramblers. They definitely
didn’t like with drawing funding from voluntary groups. They didn’t
like the new “positive” relationship with their NHS trusts,
“negotiated” by the LA’s chief executive, which made it clear they
were a junior partner, with little or no influence, but committed to
funding anything that reduced bed blocking.
In summary they didn’t like way the chief executive did things.
They didn’t like feeling they were being bounced into decisions
characterised by the chief executive’s frequent description of the
authority standing on a burning platform.
They didn’t like the pragmatic management style even though it proved
effective. They didn’t like the brutal and unpopular budget cuts
though they recognised spending had to be reduced.
So now that the risk of sliding into special measures had been
removed, now that the unpleasant stuff had been executed they wanted
rid of the chief executive.
A new senior management team would be appointed one that was more
creative about with the emphasis on generating income rather than
defending cuts, with more attractive strategies which would be popular
with constituents. A chief executive who was more astute with the
media and who could mount a charm offensive capable of regaining
public confidence and winning back the support of the voluntary sector
and generally making members feel better about the council and excited
about its future.
We have of course been here before.
Blair McPherson former director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk