Chief exec’s town of ivory towers

THERE are those in any western free-market democracy (that’s a grand opening isn’t it, but stick with me) who believe that personal income and personal worth are linked. The higher your income the greater your importance. Sadly, this truism probably appli

THERE are those in any western free-market democracy (that’s a grand opening isn’t it, but stick with me) who believe that personal income and personal worth are linked.  The higher your income the greater your importance. Sadly, this truism probably applies to public servants more than it does to entrepreneurs.

Town Hall officials who think that their income is proof that they have become so important that the concerns of ordinary citizens are beneath them. J’accuse, among others, Martin Kimber and (recently departed but unlamented) Sean Wright and Joyce Thacker. Such blatant self-interest as displayed by them belongs not in the public sector but in private enterprise. However, I do not believe, and I do not think the Rotherham public believes that they were the only people who fell down on the job and were still in post on September 3.

The Jay Report refers to a culture of bullying in Rotherham Council which attracted a good deal of attention. And so it should. There are also suggestions of something more sinister at work which have now been highlighted by the Home Office Select Committee. No doubt we will hear more on this shortly. However, equally significant but not getting much attention, Prof Jay also refers repeatedly to layers of middle and senior management at Rotherham Council whose focus and energies are directed toward the production of strategy and policy statements at the expense of doing anything practical to combat the problems (particularly of CSE)

For example, ‘...it (was) implied that preparation of the plan had been absorbing a disproportionate amount of management time...’ (from section 3.51). That sort of thing usually leads to policies which are heavily over-engineered and difficult or impossible to implement. There is little thought given to their introduction and little if any attention paid to effectiveness or outcomes. And while managers carry on the work of refining their policy statements under the guise of ‘continuous improvement’ or some such affectation, the problems multiply. The upshot of which is confused, de-motivated and even demoralised staff and dissatisfied (at the very least) clientele.

Suffice it here to say that the ambitious and sometimes even the merely aspirational can all too easily be drawn to the tasks which (they feel will) show off their suitability for a place higher up the ladder. Without proper leadership and supervision mundane (but vital ) tasks are neglected and disaster becomes inevitable. All the while the alpha group, habituees of the management suite and executive dining room, are busy congratulating themselves on the user-friendly post-modernist eclecticism of their revised mission statement.

There is no intention here to tell anyone at Rotherham Council how to do their jobs. Rather, as I am compelled to help in footing the bill, to insist that they do them.  After all, as Edmund Burke pointed out; all that is needed for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.

It was also perfectly clear from the Jay Report that the problems were still current and not entirely historic as Mr Kimber and others would have us believe. Risk assessment, prosecution of offenders and victim support, all quite important issues I would have though, were all rated as ‘poor’ at the time of writing by Prof Jay. It beggars belief that Mr Kimber could have honestly concluded by September 3 that there were no issues requiring him to consider initiating disciplinary or capability procedures or referral to professional standards boards. Moreover, one wonders how council members can have been satisfied with that conclusion.

Even allowing that funding and resources have become seriously problematic in recent years, there can be little doubt that managers at several levels of the social care departments (and others too perhaps. Who knows!) have failed, and are failing.  

We must look forward to Jan Ormondroyd taking over in the hope that she will prove to be just the inspiration needed at Rotherham Town Hall. Otherwise, whereas Oxford is ‘the city of dreaming spires’, Rotherham is in danger of becoming the town of ivory towers.

Richard Beeley, Maltby