A very British House of Cards

A pitch for a tv drama set in local government 

The narrator and central character speaks direct to camera.
The head hunter was in a gossipy mood. He rang me on the pretext of asking if I knew anyone who would be a suitable candidate for a senior post he had been hired to fill. This is how these management recruiters do business, use their contacts to get names then ring the names and say your name has come up.” Have you seen the advert would you be interested in the vacancy? “ He quickly moved on to the real reason he rang. “Didn’t you use to work in X Authority?” Of course he knows I did, he has my CV on file. Big changes at this authority the new leader wants an independent appraisal of where the authority sits in comparison to other authorities and an assessment of the quality of management with a view to a major inspections on the horizon. It would appear that the leader is not minded to take the assurances she has received from her senior managers at face value. What was my experience? As someone who has worked at a number of authorities how would I rate X Authority?

I know from the directors grapevine that there was some disquiet about resent senior appointments. This is one of those authorities where they have a tendency to appoint internal candidates to senior posts. The result of this inbreeding is not a lot of innovation and a tendency to think if it wasn’t invented here then it won’t work here. Having said that members have been happy for the authority to coast along in mid table, avoiding negative publicity and just getting on with it. If you were being critical you could say complacent, self satisfied and lacking ambition. Which presumable was where the new leader was coming from.

The management consultant would know all this, what they were after was insight into how business was traditionally done, relationships between members and officers and what I could tell him about the chief executive and the director both of whom were internal appointments by the previous leader. For instance how would I describe their style of leadership?

So hear’s what I could have said. The new chief executive was formerly the treasurer and did not not get on with a particular director when they were both in the same senior management team. The treasurer’s wife was a senior accountant within the directorate leading to this particular director to referring to her as the “spy in the camp”.
One of the directors had previously been the deputy director and had been instrumental in the former director being forced out when his affair with one of the assistant directors became know to members.
Within the authority there was a silo mentality exposed during a budget setting process full of special pleading and the use of smoke and mirrors to conceal a directorates true picture. One of the directors was known never to used up their full annual leave entitlement and never had more than a week away from the office because he feared the treasurer and chief executive would use his absence to, “stitch up a budget deal” with the members. Relationships were thus characterised by distrust and suspicion which spilled over into work with partner agencies.

I said non of this to the management consultant. It would have felt like gossiping, definitely not professional. Besides which he wouldn’t be very good at his job if he couldn’t pick up on all this by spending time in the place.

Blair Mcpherson former Director , author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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