Tag Archives: Tory

Where has all that money gone? To consultants, everyone!

It was only couple of weeks back  I reminded you of SCC’s extraordinary and unspecified spend on consultants which was decided unilaterally by Suffolk’s Conservatives back in May. £122,000 of public money ( 16p from every single Suffolk resident) was to be spent without oversight on unspecified but terribly, terribly important  ‘services’ from three consultancy companies : Fields of Learning, Scintillate and DNA.  This decision (to allow Chief Executive Andrea Hill to spend this money without further reference to the Council) was voted through by the Tory majority at full council despite the best endeavours of my party.

We Lib Dems had previously prevented this significant spending decision being slid in via the Cabinet back door without ever reaching the ears of full council (see below*) by ‘calling in’ the Cabinet decision. I will remind you again that deputy leader Jane Storey said at the time that £122,000  ‘ is a tiny proportion of the county council’s budget!” Her implication was that no oversight should be  required in the spending of such a itsy bitsy teeny weeny sum of money by such an intelligent and serious bunch as the administration, and that it was damn nice of them even to have mentioned it!

Today the Evening Star reveals that  the DNA  in ‘DNA’ stands for Davidson Nicklen and Associates . And that the ‘Davidson’ in question is that very selfsame Sol Davidson whose coaching of the Chief Executive Andrea Hill, Council Leader Jeremy Pembroke,  and other senior executives apparently cost us people of Suffolk an itsy bitsy teeny weeny  £583 per 60 – 90 min session!  Or, as was minuted in the original Cabinet papers,  a price that was ‘competitive with market rates’.

Competitive? Do me a favour! Do you suppose for a single moment that any one of the beneficiaries would have put their hands in their own pockets and paid out that kind of money themselves?

No wonder the administration  – puffed up with delusions of grandeur and selfimportance though they are – were reluctant to specify this expenditure too exactly. We – the people of Suffolk – might have thought more oversight was required than they clearly wished to us to have!

The Conservatives voted to spend the remainder of this money on further  equally unspecified services from another couple of  consultancy companies (Fields of Learning and Scintillate).

So the next question must be, what exactly have the people of Suffolk been spending that remaining £92,000 on?

*That infamous Cabinet decision in full (from the Minutes of SCC Cabinet  Meeting 30 March 2010)

….the Chief Executive invited the Cabinet to agree exemptions from the Council’s Procurement Regulations so that contracts for Organisational Development (OD) services may be let without a competitive process.

Decision: The Cabinet:   i)     agreed exemptions from the Council’s Procurement Regulations so that contracts for Organisational Development (OD) services may be let without a competitive process; and ii)    delegated to the Chief Executive’s authority to agree these contracts.

Reason for Decision: The Cabinet recognised that due to the enormous scale of change which faced the Council, the Council needed to get experienced Organisational Development service providers in post as soon as possible.  The Cabinet considered that the day rates proposed were competitive with market rates and that the cost of getting any other provider ‘up to speed’ would be disproportionate.

So there’s the truth bald and unadorned for all to see  – the Cabinet  really DO consider paying £583 per 60-90 min coaching session is ‘competitive with market rates’.  Market rates for what?  The Emperor’s tailoring???

Suffolk’s Parsimony and Profligacy: Update

Having blogged a couple of weeks back about the extraordinary spending priorities being displayed by the leaders of Suffolk County Council,   I wasn’t unduly surprised to find another example  hitting  national news via the Daily Mail.

Apparently both our  Chief Executive and our Council Leader have been benefiting from extraordinarily expensive “coaching for change”  (article here) According to a Freedom of Information request the Chief Executive has had 23 sessions  from ex-Chemical Engineer turned senior executive coach  Sol Davidson each one of which cost the Suffolk taxpayer £525 plus VAT.

We do not (yet) have figures for the amount Suffolk taxpayers have spent on Jeremy Pembroke.

I’d like to mention here our Woodbridge lollipop man, Terry King. Mr King has been paid £35 a week by Suffolk County Council for his valued and life-saving services. Now Suffolk says his services are too expensive.   £12,075 would pay for him to continue protecting children in Woodbridge for nearly seven years.

I will not offend your intelligence by pointing out what other equally valuable uses Suffolk residents could put this sum of money to.

The county council line is dismissive.  Spending £12,000 on personal coaching is  ” in line with training normally provided to senior officers” they say  – which suggests that SCC spending priorities are even more skew-whiff  than anyone has realised.

I know nothing about Mr Davidson, beyond what is available via Google  which is principally profile pages. The more recent profiles read:

He now specialises in coaching leaders and their teams in building strategic and operational capacity in the face of increasingly uncertain and unpredictable circumstance

What is interesting for the residents of  Suffolk is that the uncertain and unpredictable circumstances we face are seemingly created by the very people he coached!

What’s all that about?

Update: It was reported in the EADT March 5th, that the total amount paid to Mr Davidson by SCC for his coaching was £27,825 for 53 sessions of between one hour and ninety minutes each. This was to coach the Chief Executive, Andrea Hill, and the corporate management board in ‘teambuilding and working styles’.

 

Why MY mailbox is full while YOUR councillor’s mailbox is empty

One  peculiar side-effect of the disgraceful democratic deficit that’s occurring in Suffolk is that we 11 solitary Lib Dems – the official opposition – are daily being asked for support, information, and advice  from residents from all over Suffolk.    That is, not only from our constituents, and from people who are affected by affairs within our districts, but from people who are supposedly being represented by the 54 Conservative councillors in other Suffolk council districts.

Why? Well, we are getting a lot of mails and phone calls  from people who have despaired of getting any contentful explanation from their own elected councillor  about these cuts to frontline services by the SCC Tory leadership. A leadership that is insisting on making 30% cuts over three years although even they are finally admitting  that national cuts amount to  no more 19.5% over the same time.  (And we Lib Dems think it is actually less.).

In other words these are mails and phone calls from people suffering from the effects of seemingly  unnecessary cuts of over 10% without any reasonable explanation (except for those three fateful letters N S D). Cuts aimed at libraries, school crossing patrols, eXplore cards, local buses, yet not at the pay of senior executives or the cost of contracts or consultants nor in gagging clause payments to senior staff who have been ‘let go’ (£500,000 last year alone).

These are mails and phone calls from people who have discovered that if they write to their own Tory councillors to express their despair and disbelief , they will get no help, or any adequate representation for their plight. And its a serious plight for most of us – the loss of vital services for which we not only pay, but which we pay SCC executives to run, and for which we elect our local councillor to represent us. Instead, we only get variations of that same old theme:

I hope that my response has gone some way to re-assuring you that we share your passion for the county and the most vulnerable within communities, and that our New Strategic Direction is designed to help precisely these people.
(I hope the writer of this can recognise his style!)

Don’t get me wrong – I am very happy to help anyone who asks me. But there are 54 Tory Councillors who should be asking themselves: Why is it that our electors do not trust us  to support, inform, and advise them?”

And contrariwise there are many people in Suffolk who should be asking themselves: Why are we electing people that we cannot trust to to support, inform, and advise us?”

My Chinese  chengyu for this post is:

东风吹马耳 dōngfēng chuī mǎ’ěr: (literally – the east wind blows the horse’s ear)  eg: information falling on deaf ears

A Quick Question for Suffolk Labour activists

C’m on, folks, make your minds up. Is the lesser political party in a coalition responsible or not for the actions of the whole?  Helpful hint: We need a YES or a NO here.

Yet Labour activists in Suffolk have difficulty with this one.

When it comes to decisions made at Suffolk County Council,  pre-2005 (a Labour/Lib Dem coalition for those who do not suffer from political amnesia) they  remember it  as if these were their decisions  – and theirs alone.   As in:

“Labour left an exemplary council in 2005, since then this morally bankrupt group of Conservatives have done their best to run Suffolk services into the ground.”

Julian Swainson 2 Feb, “Don’t Privatise Suffolk Services” Facebook group

Yet suddenly,  when it’s politically expedient, when it’s a NATIONAL coalition  (in which it’s clear that the Lib Dems take a small – but ameliorating – role in sorting out the financial debacle of the previous Labour administration)  then suddenly all we hear from Labour is that the resultant problems are all the Lib Dems’ fault.

Yes – right.   And I’m the Akond of Swat.

Do you know, a  prominent Suffolk  Labour councillor had the crust to say to me the other day:   ” I don’t know how a moral person could be a Lib Dem.”  (Brave fellow, eh? Luckily for him  he didn’t know I go to boxing classes. My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure..)

And yet he was  totally flabbergasted when I replied:

“Torture, rendition, war crimes, denial of democracy,  total failure to support public transport and social housing  in times of plenty, privatisation of the NHS by the back door, destruction of our finances by cosying up to, and deregulating the banks,   threatening to cut ‘worse than Margaret Thatcher’ when in power  and then total amnesia afterwards..   Me,  I wonder how any moral person could ever have stayed with your morally bankrupt party!”

It’s like he was believing his own spin!

Come on,  guys – don’t be such hypocrites.  Be grateful that at local AND national level there is the quiet voice of common sense to ameliorate the extravagant  amnesia of right and left alike.

At the moment we Lib Dems are providing the only practical and vocal opposition to the excesses of  Suffolk’s Tory administration, and their bureaucrats’  heaven, the NSD.  United we jolly well ought to stand.  Divided, I’m happy to point out your deficiencies.