The Council’s many thousands of employees work throughout the year to keep the myriad of services operating, despite the shifting ground beneath them, the fluidity of leadership and the constant uncertainty of change.
A relatively few number of paid senior Officers of the Council, led by the Chief Executive ( currently Paul Robinson) generate the impetus for new policies. These are people who rarely account for themselves publicly, or subject themselves to scrutiny by the media.
The 51 Councillors should represent the 250,000 people in Derby and ensure that the Officers are challenged. The Leader of The Council ( Cllr Banwait) and the 8 Cabinet members ( Cllrs Rawson, Afzal, Russell, Repton, Hussein, Raju, Bolton, Shanker) set the political agenda that influences and directs the Officers.
Due to conflicting objectives, personalities, politics, money, power, incompetence, and external influences the result is a lack of transparent accountability, poor delivery and a lot of disquiet among staff and residents…..and significant ambivalence and confusion.
So what changes have been achieved in 2017?
The document that defines many of the Council’s committed changes is its “50 Pledges”. The following are those that have been publicised as having been delivered:
- RAM Energy – subsequently confirmed that it does not provide the cheapest tariffs; just cheaper for those who have not switched recently.
- Purple Flag status retained – certifying a “vibrant, and safe, night time economy ” in the City Centre
- Xmas lights switch on / Darley Park concert re-instated after being cut the year before
- “Talking Points” – making social workers more available in the community for one-to-one dialogue
- Improved taxi licencing procedures
- Crowdfunding – very slow start. Only 3 projects funded in 6 months- £1050 granted in total. This is less than supported by Derby News Community Grant in the same time period.
- Community Protection Officers – noticeable difference made to fly-tipping in some areas of Normanton.
- Replacement for Moorways, work started.
But considerable uncertainty exists…carrying into 2018
- Teaching Assistants/School Support Staff – despite the “agreement” in March 2017, the Council did not deliver. This dispute is far from resolved, and many people are still living with massive pay cuts
- Libraries – despite being a pledge to “protect libraries”. Staff don’t know whether they will have a job in the New Year, and many residents are concerned about their library facility
- Day Care services for adults with Autism, Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties, and Physical Disabilities – 20 service users/parents from the INSPIRE and ASPECT centres, together with staff, don’t know how this “outsource” will resolve itself. The current tendering process has been less than satisfactory.
- Day Care for elderly people at Morleston Day Centre – no clear view on future. Council running it down, despite plans to “outsource”.
- Care Homes – the sell off is significantly behind schedule – the positive expressions of interest didn’t bear fruit. Bramblebrook was closed at short notice, contrary to the policy. Coleridge residents and staff were given a month’s notice to quit before Xmas. The future is unknown for Raynesway View and Merrill House – the Council are systematically running them down to avoid the burden of the Council’s “triple lock”.
- Special Educational Needs (SEN)children:
- The Officers are telling the Department of Education and parents that the programme to upgrade children’s SEN statement to the new Education, and Health Care Plan is on target for 31 March 2018. Parents know that this is not the case – there are significant delays…they don’t know how and when their child’s education and provision will be properly secured.
- Council consultation on SEN provision in schools. Much consternation as to the plan for Brackensdale, in particular. The proposal asks many questions and leaves parents anxious.
- Carers Consultation – a proposal to not renew the contract with Derbyshire Carers Association, and review the provision to support carers.
- Assembly rooms replacement – the new performance venue consultation which has largely decided the preferred outcome without formally seeking advice from all of the local theatre and entertainment organisations
- Major controversial planning applications, in dispute:
- Waste incinerator on Alfreton Road / Darley Abbey
- 122 apartments in Alvaston, 8 storey buildings.
Pledges not achieved in 2017
- Breakfast Club – Commitment to increase the number of children using the Club by July 2017 to 400 per day
- Council Children’s Homes to be rated GOOD by OFSTED by April 2017
- Regeneration of the area of the old RR factory on Nightingale Rd – “behind schedule”
- Commit £250k to deliver, and publish, a programme of affordable events, and Cultural Charter by Summer 2017
- Neighbourhood Charter not issued by November 2017
Due before the May 2018 elections
- 5km of new cycle track to be completed
- All school crossing patrols protected
- The Council will protect Derby residents and consumers from unsafe and illicit goods and food, and from rogue traders.
- Apprenticeships offered to Care Leavers
- Council will protect all 10 Children’s Centres
- The Council will increase the number of older or vulnerable people receiving advice and adaptations so they can live independently at home by 10%.
- Council will support 3000 people on the Livewell programme
- The Council will double its intermediate care capacity to 460 assessments to help people get out of hospital as soon as they can.
There are too many outstanding issues where the resolution is unclear, too many where the adverse consequences are far-reaching and long term , too many where no one person is accepting accountability to ensure a satisfactory completion. This is exacerbated by very poor transparency, and communications with the public and staff.
Christmas is an opportune time for the thousands of Council staff to relax and enjoy some well-earned respite. It is also time for the Council Seniors and Councillors to reflect on the unresolved uncertainty that they have created in 2017 – take stock of their objectives, motivations, political philosophy and leadership obligations and consider how these will be settled to the satisfaction of all stakeholders – and not just to the benefit of those who act behind closed doors, with impunity.
Categories: Derby City Council