Despite the claims made by members of the Cabinet, their compliant clique, and of course Directors of Service at Shropshire Council, I am picking up reliable evidence (some of it first-hand, some of it from concerned residents who have had conversations with council officers – and that in itself is significant) of growing unhappiness amongst Shropshire Council staff over the much-vaunted “new way of working”, with some staff seriously considering moving on, either to new jobs within their professions (there are plenty going in neighbouring local authorities) or simply to new jobs that their transferable skills opens up to them. All of which is a repeat (and coincidentally within the same timescale) as happened with the voluntary redundancy scheme way back in 2013. If a scheme of voluntary redundancy is again introduced by our increasingly desperate Executive then it will mark the end of Shropshire Council as a fully functioning entity, regardless of how many videos Councillors Lezley Picton, Dean Carroll, and Ed Potter put out on YouTube courtesy of the taxpayer-funded election publicity resources of Shropshire Council.
(It will be interesting to see if they observe election purdah during the period of the by-election to choose my successor.)
My anger at seeing the desperation many staff feel at finding themselves between the proverbial rock and the hard place that is our Executive’s determination to see through to the end what they have committed us all to, is greater than anything I witnessed back in 2013; staff simply can’t express their true feelings because of that damned “staff survey” they were all “asked” to complete at the start of lockdown, called when it was all still a Covid-driven novelty. That survey more or less committed them to what the Executive had planned for them all along.
But fear not, is the message. Our Chief Executive’s virtual door is apparently always open allowing any member of staff to take their concerns directly to him. Yup. But what idiot takes those kinds of concerns to someone who will inevitably be making a mental note of their lack of commitment? Think about it. Yes, exactly.
The problem is how to protect those whistleblowers (who are actually becoming braver by the week, itself a sign of the growing disenchantment)? Even a mention of a department unhappy at finding itself shifted to one of the (again much-vaunted) “new sites, thereby spreading the council around the county”, could result in that whole department either being called in and questioned as a department, or more likely approached individually for a “quiet chat” (thought by some staff to be the more likely scenario), to see what the Executive can do to “address their concerns”. A bit bloody late for that, but at least management can claim to have made the effort and of course they won’t have found any concerns, how could you think otherwise you little cynic you.
I just wish I could still be around when the impact of a slow emigration of experienced staff begins to be felt. Mind you, they could just look at the impact of those voluntary redundancies back in 2013, the impact of which we’re still seeing and feeling. (For the record, in the south of the county the Authority lost 40% of its most experienced planning officers who took their knowledge and experience to land agents like Berry’s, where they used all that knowledge and experience against the less knowledgeable and experienced staff left behind. The thing was, the knowledge and experience the staff that left took with them had to do with the recently introduced National Planning Policy Framework and they ran rings around the less experienced staff because the staff that left knew where all the skeletons were buried! Until Mal Price got a grip on planning and had them challenge developer’s knee-jerk threats of “judicial reviews” and “appeals” (See the Teal Drive case, below.)
Just another reason to feel sad at having to stand down at the end of April, the 29th to be exact. But if I stayed on I’d find myself continuing to fight a rearguard action against both the ignorance (in all innocence – mostly) of the cohort of new councillors who came in at the last election, and the desperate attempts to put a human face on a converted shop in the Darwin Centre or Pride Hill or wherever else they can sell to the public as a viable replacement for Shirehall. Bloody idiots, the lot of them.