Monday 8 September 2014

Management speak

One of the concerns the WLGA Governance Review in Carmarthenshire has heard expressed from several contributors is the way in which the process of appointing senior officers has been manipulated to ensure that the Chief Executive has ended up with a hand-picked team who share his vision and way of doing business.

The process can be manipulated in several ways, but the easiest is simply to exercise delegated powers to parachute in a protegé without having to advertise a post and put a shortlist of candidates in front of elected councillors who might, heaven forbid, have ideas of their own.

The best known example of this is the current acting Head of Law and Administration, Mrs Linda Rees Jones, who has been acting almost as long as Dame Maggie Smith. As we saw recently, eminent lawyer Sir David Lewis is not exactly a fan. The quality of legal advice being served up is "cavalier at best and incompetent at worst", he wrote.

So while a draft of the Governance Panel's report has apparently been circulated to a very small audience, there is just time to rush through a few more appointments and parachute in another protegée before any new regime is ushered in.

Descending under a canopy of the finest silk is Ms Wendy Walters, currently Head of Economic Development. Ms Walters may not be a household name, but she is a key player in the council's controversial regeneration programme where she has helped bring many a white elephant into the world.

Ms Waters is married to a director of WRW Construction, one of the council's preferred partners. Major WRW projects include Ffos Las and North Dock, as well as various school building and refurbishment schemes for the Council.

Talking about work is no doubt strictly off limits in the Walters household.

Chief Executive’s Department
Following the departure of Mr Chris Burns, Assistant Chief Executive ( Customer Focus & Policy) I should like to introduce an interim ‘acting up’ arrangement which will allow for the continuity of service provision until such time that I have had the opportunity to consider the current structures that are operational within my department. I consider that this interim arrangement will provide a significant opportunity for better alignment and efficiency savings in a number of service areas. This will be essential to meet the financial and service pressures the Council faces over the coming years. It will also lead to an immediate financial saving of circa £90k per annum in senior management costs. Therefore under the delegated powers afforded to me under the Scheme of Delegation within the Council’s Constitution, I recommend the following to the Appointments Committee ‘B’: 

Recommendation: To confirm that Ms Wendy Walters, the current Head of Economic Development, undertake an acting-up role of Assistant Chief Executive ( Customer Focus and Policy) on an interim basis, pending the outcome of a structural review.


Anonymous said...

Your contacts are not keeping you fully informed.
You have failed to mention the appointment of a child care senior manager to the post of Interim Head of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities follwoing the retirement of the previous postholder.

Anonymous said...

Is it really fair to point out the identity of the ladies husband. Are you making any allegation at all of improper behaviour ?

If you have allegations to make surely you should make them rather than the cowardly way that you have skirted the issue.

Have a bit of courage - are you making an allegation or are you simply pointing out the identity of her husband for the hell of it !

caebrwyn said...

Ms Wendy Walters' declaration about her connection with WRW Construction is, of course, documented within the Register of Officers' Interests.
The problem was that it took a lengthy six month Freedom of Information struggle to extract the Register from the council.
One suggestion to the Governance review panel, in view of the council becoming the 'most transparent in Wales', was for this Register, and the Register of Members' Interests to be published online.
Let's hope they are.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@20.51 - see Caebrwyn's comments about officers' interests.

They are not published and the public cannot make an appointment to go and see a register. It took her 6 months to get information which should be routinely available.

It is in the interests of the council and the officers themselves that these things are out in the open.

Anonymous said...

Keeping senior officer appointments on an interim basis not only enables the Chief Exec to appoint favoured candidates from within, but no doubt the interim status acts as a constant reminder to those appointed that their position is subject to "good behaviour" in the eyes of the Chief Exec. I expect that any trangressions would see an immmediate review.

There is an obvious conflict of interest where a person doling out public money to private firms has a pecuniary interest through a spouse's involvement in a company that stands to benefit from contracts and grants. Not only should such interests be publicly declared, but a Council officer should stand aside from any dealings in which a spouse might have a direct financial interest. Whether that is compatible with being Head of Economic Development or Assistant Chief Executive I leave to others to muse on.

Anonymous said...

Why would you feel the need to make such a personal comment about Ms Walters and her husbands employment? Well below the belt. You have just demonstrated that you are no better than Ms Thompson and her continuous attack on Mr Mark James.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@20.39 I think we need to stop being quite so naive. To point out that someone is married to someone else is not a personal attack. More to the point, you can bet your bottom dollar that everyone in the construction industry has known this for years - so why should the public be kept in the dark?

As I said before, being open and transparent is to the benefit of the officers as much as everyone else. Of course the council should publish officers' interests online. That way everyone knows where they stand.

Redhead said...

If this officer were a councillor she would be forced by law to declare this relationship in matters where she or her husband might derive financial gain and, if she did not, could in some circumstances be heavily fined or even jailed.

Why should officers be exempt?

Anonymous said...

Redhead asks why should officers be exempt? This is particularly important when decisions are delegated to officers, or where, based on officer recommendations, decisions are made summarily, in secret, and by a seemingly uncritical, unquestioning Cabinet Member.

Anonymous said...

Conflict of Interest. She should not be in the post.

Anonymous said...

Ms Walters has declared that her husband works for WRW. What has she actually done wrong? Has she made a decision to award work to WRW. No I thought not!!