Here’s an interesting little conversation I have been having with somebody (Them) who is kind enough to follow my Twitter tweets & ramblings (can you ramble in 140 characters or less?)
The first post refers to a leaflet produced by the City andCounty of Swansea Council, as a way of giving their taxpayers a better understanding of what a councillor does. I think the leaflet sums the role up perfectly and, despite being produced sometime ago, I also think that nothing it says is either out of date, or irrelevant to today’s modern councillor.
The exchange of views that followed come from a council employee and offers some very valuable insights from their perspective. The council has thinned out its management considerably over the last year or so and those that remain, at the senior level, are shared with another council inNorfolk. Furthermore, until the recent round of local council elections changed their political colour and thinking, we were on course to link up with a second council, thereby expecting those shared managers to work across three geographically dispersed councils.
When the ‘coming together’ proposals were being discussed, I was a dissenting voice, questioning the thinning out, combined with part time nature of the shared management model. Of even more concern to me, was the potential for generic managers. These were seen as the way forward for some of those positions currently filled by managers with specialist knowledge of the service. Under-pinning all of this was something called, new ways of working, a concept I have yet to fully grasp in all of its implications and one that, in my opinion, has yet to have any real meaning for many members.
Part of the new ways of working philosophy, was a belief that executive members would step-up and start taking a more hands-on approach to their portfolio holder roles. I asked for, but never got, the provision of a structured training programme for those executive members expected to take on this ‘new way of working’, which of course brings me back to the comments made below.
I expect that there are a number of executive members in councils around the country who are relishing the opportunity to be more hands-on, I certainly am. However, in the absence of any meaningful training, am I and others, doing any good, or are we just making life more difficult for departments already struggling with a leadership deficit?- only time will tell I suppose.
Them: Role of councillors is changing rapidly with the advent of customer services, Web interface and social media: time for reform?
Me: Yes, but that doesn’t change basic role of the councillor, helping people with ‘the system’. Some think themselves above that.
Them: With councils ‘shared management’, councillors need to assume more of an executive role and take ‘ownership ‘ of their patch.
Me: maybe so – for now. Poachers turned gamekeepers not good for the democratic process. Some relationships already too cosy.
Them: A proactive opposition is supposed to be the Democratic balance to combat political ‘cosiness’, isn’t it?
Me: Don’t agree. Having a majority trumps a robust opposition. Keeping em honest is not the same as stopping em going native
Me: members need to walk the tightrope of showing leadership, but not becoming part of the system and blind to service failings