BUDGET CUTS: Council chief in 'terrorist' gaffe

By Phil Turner | 13/08/2010 0 comments

BUDGET CUTS: Council chief in  'terrorist' gaffe

OUTRAGED union officials have won an apology from Rotherham’s Borough Council’s chief executive after he described opponents of budget cuts as “terrorists.”

Martin Kimber, the authority’s highest paid official, has written a letter of apology to town hall union UNISON, whose members fear 1,000 job cuts in the next two years.

Mr Kimber made the controversial comments in a talk to charity leaders about the impact of 30 per cent cuts over three years, which became a website podcast picked up by national newspapers.

In the podcast he is asked whether his staff were prepared for the changes and he pointed out that there were employees who embrace change, those who accept it passively and those who reject it.

Mr Kimber, who took over the top job last year, referred to the third group as: “The terrorists, the resisters.”

Afterwards Mr Kimber apologised and claimed it was a “change management term” which had been taken out of context.

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Carole Maleham, UNISON branch secretary representing 5,000 council workers, said: “I was shocked and absolutely outraged and I said so in a letter to him.
“Nelson Mandela was once called a terrorist and here he is in a podcast saying this.

“I was very surprised because he is usually very measured. It’s just a word he picked up on.

“He has sent us a letter of apology and we have accepted it. We have got to work together and put it behind us.

We have agreed to work together in the best interests of our members.”

Mr Kimber issued a statement saying that he would not wish to cause offence to any member of staff, either wittingly or unwittingly and apologised unreservedly if this had been the case.

He said: “The trade union has written privately to me about the issue and I have sent a private reply, which I believe is the correct way to do business.

“I find it very disappointing that union colleagues reacted in the way they have.

“The comments were made in a meeting with representatives of Rotherham’s voluntary and community sector several weeks ago and are now being taken out of context.
“The focus has been turned onto a single phrase used as a change management term and which does not have the meaning used in everyday language.

“Fortunately, I believe that staff who work with me on a day-to-day basis would find the suggestion that I view them as dangerous enemies as absurd and would regard me as a supportive colleague and not the portrayal of me that is now being put forward.

“The meeting being referred to was attended by a significant number of people and took place several weeks ago. The fact that the discussions themselves did not prompt criticism within or immediately afterwards, but rather it is the reporting of them weeks later, suggests the tone and context has since been lost.

“However, I accept that there are some people who will always wish to seize on individual statements and give them an interpretation that was not intended.”

During the talk, Mr Kimber revealed that by 2014, the council’s spending power will be just 70 per cent of the current £250 million, excluding its schools budget.

He also hinted that the council will provide less services in-house, contract out more and employ fewer people.

Mr Kimber said that the authority’s “culture of paternalism” towards its employees was coming to an end and that it would stop providing some “non-core” services.


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