A breakdown of trust
TDC’s Protocol on Member-Officer Relations begins:
“Mutual trust and respect between Members and Staff is at the heart of the Council’s good governance. Both are essential if the partnership necessary for the effective and efficient running of the Council is to succeed.”
Yet amidst turmoil and mutual recrimination, trust between elected members and senior officers at TDC (and indeed within the officer group and amongst members) is under considerable strain.
Allegations of bullying and harassment, the suspension for undisclosed reasons of a well-respected senior officer, threats by the Chief Executive to refer an elected member to the Standards Committee and suggestions that a motion of No Confidence in the Leader of the Council is imminent all paint a picture of an organisation in crisis.
Meanwhile, TDC's financial picture is equally worrying, with substantial sums paid out in non-disclosure (gagging) settlements with former staff, ‘fire sales’ of assets, little staff capacity to bid for or manage external funding, hurried sale plans for the Dreamland complex and the proposed ‘emergency’ £1m spend on pontoons for Ramsgate port, now apparently halted as breaking financial rules.
It appears increasingly unlikely that the Council will be able to set a balanced budget for the 2019-20 financial year, particularly in light of the continuing suspension of its chief financial officer.
The Member-Officer Protocol also states:
“Together Members & Officers combine the essential skills, experience & knowledge to manage an effective public sector organisation...”
Sadly, it is the considered view of Thanet Green Party that this is no longer the case – that between them, officers and members have emphatically not shown they have the range of skills and expertise that are now required to run the Council effectively.
So we have reluctantly concluded that members need to ask for external help for TDC now – before this is imposed on us and the Council placed in special measures.
Asking for help now has several things to recommend it:
- It’s the responsible thing to do, while there is still hope of turning things round.
- It gives Councillors the chance to do what we elected them to do (ie take control) – even if they do so by admitting they urgently need help!
- It may help avoid the Councillors we elected to represent us being suspended for up to 6 months at some point in future, as is likely to happen if they cannot fulfil their legal duty to set a balanced budget and the Council is compulsorily placed in special measures.