In a frantic appeal to stop the ever increasing quantity of:-
the Slough Borough Council chief executive has told upset and critical council
stop the leaks for the good of the council.
Council staff complained to the Slough Times that since Mrs Bagley's arrival at SBC, quickly accompanied by the first of many internal reorganisations, they work under a cloud of fear. Insiders agree things were never as bad under the previous chief executive Cheryl Coppell (now at Having Council in Essex).
It is difficult to confirm these claims, since many say they would loose their jobs if caught talking to the Slough Times. One thing is certain, there is considerable increasing unhappiness among council staff, some of whom have already lost their jobs; others are waiting to be booted-out in May or June.
Staff say they would prefer to make anonymous allegations because:-
Staff also told the Slough Times the council's whistle-blowing procedure is inadequate. They would like two or preferably three independent members of staff to process and investigate their concerns rather than one person. That one person is currently solicitor Maria Memoli from Melksham in Wiltshire. Mrs Memoli is paid a retainer by Slough Borough Council to be a part-time, occasional worker occupying the statutory position of council Monitoring Officer.
Staff suggest the chief internal auditor and the council's chief personnel officer should operate the whistle-blowing scheme with the Monitoring Officer. That would ensure more transparency, more accountability and increase staff trust in the system devised by the senior staff.
The Slough Party's chairman Paul Janik agrees but suggests the two or three council officers should be augmented by the appointment of one external independent person to ensure council staff have complete confidence in the operation and impartiality of all 'whistle-blowing' investigations. Mr Janik said:-
There have been serious lapses in the past. It is very
important the council gets it right this time.
However the council's chief personnel officer, very well liked and greatly respected, Yvonne Childs is being 'kicked-out' on 31 May this year.
Mrs Childs, acknowledged throughout the council as being utterly professional but always very approachable must be wondering why the council no longer needs a chief personnel officer. Some have hinted it is because Mrs Childs may have raised concerns about happenings at the council. However the Slough Times is unable to confirm those worrying allegations.
Very surprisingly, for a council that no longer needs a chief personnel officer, that chief personnel officer work is now being done by a consultant with links to the council's Director of Resources & Finance, Julie Evans.
It is alleged consultant Anne-Marie Scott worked closely with Julie Evans at Cherwell District Council in Oxfordshire and that Mrs Scott is still employed, part-time, by Cherwell.
Meanwhile the real chief personnel officer Yvonne Childs remains in post until 31 May. So why do we need an expensive consultant ???
Aware of this week's 2 page anonymous letter delivered in a council-type brown envelope and said to have been sent to:-
Chief executive Ruth Bagley, whose critics say she ignores or delegates things rather than deal with them, has burst into verse or rather into prose.
The following email was sent out to all council staff on Thursday 31 March 2011.
Over the past few weeks anonymous letters have been circulating making allegations about members of staff and the workings of the council.
We are committed to high standards of openness, probity and accountability, yet as with any large organisation, we do not necessarily get everything right. When something is not right it is our duty to make sure it does not happen again.
Within the council, we have several avenues available for people wishing to complain if they feel other officers are not conducting themselves in a professional manner. In particular we have a confidential reporting or "whistle-blowing" policy. This enables staff to report concerns in confidence and provides protection for those acting in good faith. Complaints will be investigated.
Anonymous letters are an unhelpful way of seeking resolution. Whether produced in good faith or maliciously they simply cause maximum disturbance whilst making it impossible to verify the content. Circulating them widely is destructive, potentially defamatory and a breach of the council's code of conduct for officers.
I am deeply disappointed that someone has chosen to act in this way. If you do have concerns, please use the proper channels, they are provided to secure staff and council interests.
We wanted to get the council's version of events, so we emailed chief executive Ruth Bagley asking:
1 April 2011
Dear Mrs Bagley,
(1) Staff, especially junior staff, have alleged they work under a cloud of fear and they are afraid, if they raise concerns about any matter, they may lose their job. Please will you kindly comment.
(2) Staff say they would have more confidence in the Whistle-blowing scheme if the Monitoring Officer shared responsibility with the chief internal auditor and the chief personnel officer. I have suggested they be augmented by one external independent person. Please will you kindly comment.
(3) How successful do you believe your all-user emailed appeal, sent yesterday, will be? Do you think it will stop the allegations being made about XXXXXX ? Do you believe these allegations are misplaced or simply malicious?
(4) It is now alleged that YYYYYY was suspended because YYYYYY raised concerns or objections to decisions taken by XXXXXX. How true is this? Please will you kindly comment.
You will remember Mrs Bagley's strong assertion made to council staff the previous day:-
We are committed to high standards of openness, probity and
but, on this occasion, there was no openness from Mrs Bagley herself or from anyone in her office.
Surprisingly the council's 'Propaganda Department' another name for the press office - a press office directly responsible to Mrs Bagley - emailed us.
Subject: FW: [SOLA 010625] Whistle-blowing & leaks
Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2011 12:30:28 +0100
Internal employment matters are confidential and we are not prepared to discuss them.
As you are not working for an accredited media outlet, nor are you an accredited journalist we have taken the decision not to grant you the access proper media organisations and journalists have with the council.
However, in all cases, employment matters are confidential.
Slough Borough Council
The Slough Times asked Kate Pratt, manager of the council's press office, who the 'we' refers to.
Here is Mrs Pratt's reply.
Subject: RE: [SOLA 010625] Whistle-blowing & leaks Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2011 17:06:21 +0100
With regards to your point (8). When I say 'we' I am referring to the council.
Kate Pratt Communications Manager Slough Borough Council
Keen to discover why 'the council' had decided, according to Mrs Pratt's previous email:-
..... taken the decision not to grant you the access proper
media organisations and journalists have with the council.
the Slough Times asked Mrs Pratt for details of that official council decision:-
not to grant you the access proper media
organisations and journalists have with the council
Here is Mrs Pratt's reply:
Subject: RE: [SOLA 010625] Whistle-blowing & leaks
Date: Wed, 6 Apr 2011 15:22:16 +0100
The decision was not an executive one, but based on the long-standing processes of the communications team.
Slough Borough Council
After being told the decision to be unhelpful was made by:-
we finally discovered the identity of the mysterious decision maker.
Subject: RE: [SOLA 010625] Whistle-blowing & leaks
Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2011 17:26:19 +0100
I made the decision based on the long-standing practices of the communications team.
Slough Borough Council
We wonder how Mrs Pratt would have reacted if the neutral Slough Times had been in the pocket of the local Labour Party and the Slough Times had agreed to ignore the hanky-panky at Slough's Labour-run council.
The Slough Times says council chief executive Ruth Bagley's claim made to all council staff:-
We are committed to high standards of openness, probity
Ignoring this latest matter, we have been accumulating evidence for several years that shows Slough Borough Council has been pouring, and continues to pour, scarce public money down the drains in a desperate attempt to waste as much cash as humanly possible. We think this is a scandalous wrong.
We have examples of council officers seriously failing, or unwilling, to perform their public duties and making false and incomplete entries in official council records yet complaints made to Mrs Bagley or her office seem to be ignored. Just because matters are serious or embarrassing it is not, in our opinion, a valid reason for Mrs Bagley & Co. to swept genuine public concerns under the already lumpy council carpets.
Our understanding of openness, probity and accountability seems to differ from Slough Borough Council's version.
Instead of the promised openness and accountability it appears Mrs Bagley presided over, or seemingly ignored, cover-ups galore and an outright refusal to supply all types of information to local residents. Can this really be a proper Public Service ?
Mrs Bagley, salary package £186,000 per year, is unelected by the public or by the staff, totally unaccountable to both public and staff, can do, it seems, whatever she likes with virtual impunity. Only 1 of Slough's 41 councillors has the lawful authority to question her. However the law states no one can sack her.
No law requires Mrs Bagley & Co. to justify their actions and conduct to the council's customers, the local public whom Mrs Bagley & Co. are paid generously to serve, or even to 40 of Slough's 41 councillors.
Mrs Bagley's version of 'probity' conflicts so dramatically with the real-life experiences of many local residents that her utterances may benefit from a dictionary perusal.
This shabby and illusory mockery of true democracy defiles our borough and its people.
A day after Mrs Bagley's circular to all staff condemning the leaks:-
Circulating them widely is destructive, potentially defamatory
and a breach of the council's code of conduct for officers
London based image consultants and outsourcing company Quadnet are believed to be involved in talks on how to dramatically improve the image of everything being wonderful at Slough's less than impressive Borough Council.
Council staff are afraid Mrs Bagley & Co. may be intending to close down more departments and outsource the work to this private company, located on the Cromwell Industrial Estate in Leyton, London, E10. Their web site is www.quadnet.co.uk