The £248,000 CEO speaks: Six pages of councilspeak

The latest morale-boosting memo from Jon Rouse, Croydon Council’s £248,000 per year chief executive, reaches Inside Croydon Towers this morning directly from the Planning and Environment department on Taberner House’s seventh floor.

Croydon’s CEO Jon Rouse: does he get a bonus for the volume of words he uses in his staff memos?

The six pages (no attempt at brevity) is an prime example of Rouse’s preferred language, councilspeak, a special dialect intended to make the user sound more important and intelligent, while imparting as little real information as possible.

It includes reference to a “flash report”. You can only imagine…

And don’t overlook the latest “initiatives”, such as the “Printing Improvement programme”. Also known as getting the IT department to make sure office printers are actually working.

Special note should be paid to the dire content, poor grammar and typing errors – this is a good one: “Celebrating achievement:  ‘Recognising ansd responding immediately to the good things our staff do every day” [sic] – in an important document sent out from our council’s most senior manager to reassure the troops.

We have tried to reproduce the memo here in the style as it has been delivered to council staff this morning. Take a look for yourself and let us know what you think by posting  your comments below.

From: Jon Rouse

To: All Planning and Environment Staff
Date: 13 June 2012

You may recall that following the staff conference in January when we had first sight of the Croydon Council flash report, I wrote to you responding to the issues you had highlighted and prioritised. Since then, I have met with our management teams to look in detail about how we meet our promises to you. Most recently all the managers and leaders met for a day to identify and celebrate the many achievements in P&E, to look at how we work more closely together as a department and to examine the staff survey results for our department and service areas.

We have made a lot of progress in what has been a short time, and I hope you will begin to experience these changes in your own areas. This memo restates our commitments to you and states what we have achieved and what you should be seeing soon.

You said
• You wish DMT members to be more visible in the departments and to have a deeper knowledge of the work in their departments.

We promised
• Ensure that Directors allocate more time throughout the year to meet with their teams and gain a deeper understanding of the work you do and some of the issues that affect you day to day.

Directors have booked time in diaries to visit teams especially those remote or working in the community. I recently went to the car pound and am next going to spend time with some of the park rangers.

• Consult with you on whether you would value quarterly breakfast / lunch meetings where you can bring any issues of concern to the DMT will be of value to you and if so, we will arrange these.

We sent survey monkey to ask whether staff would value this and choice of lunch or breakfast. Following your response, two meetings have been set up for 25 May and 18 June.

You said
• You want better clearer more honest communication; non financial reward and recognition for good work; an opportunity for front line staff to contribute their ideas.

We promised
• Produce a staff newsletter that will contain clear updates on any changes that are taking place in the department and changes in the other parts of the council that affects you.

The first copy was sent to you on Friday 11 May.

• Make sure that the CMT cascade that goes to managers is shared with all staff and put checks in place so we know it is happening.

This has been put in place. Please let me or your director know if you do not get this information.

• Create a virtual forum where you can contact DMT members directly with issues that are long standing that you would like to bring to our attention.

When we migrate to Sharepoint, we will be able to set up a virtual forum that everyone will be able to access easily. We will be moving to Sharepoint towards the end of the year.

You said
• There are issues of too much work pressure in parts of the department

One of the key messages that came through the staff survey was that it sometimes hard to get things done because of procedural or technical barriers. Some of these issues are as a result of the vast amount of change that the department has been through and are in some areas still going through as the council gets to terms with adjusting the services we offer with less money to deliver those services. But some of this stuff that gets in the way can be dealt with quickly as long as we know about it.

We promised
• Set up a system for getting simple problems that are getting in the way of the job sorted more quickly. We will consult you on the best way of doing this.

This is being carried out through the OD board that where we have taken on board the comments you have made about why it is difficult to get things done here, and we are putting in place changes in place to address these. One of the early changes involves removing DEP.

• Set up a means of just testing out at regular intervals how you are feeling and what we can so to help through quick and easy to complete surveys and using the results to put in place the things that will help deal with the issues we cannot change.

We are devising a P&E survey which will come to you periodically to check out how you are feeling about the department. For this to work, I need you to take the time to respond to the survey so we can address issues before they become problems.

• Develop our managers to better deal with performance and capability issues.

We will be training all tier 1-4 managers to become more effective coaching managers. We have devised a talent grid that all managers are asked to complete after the PDCS that will enable a clear picture of the balance of the team. It will also give guidance about the steps to take for those staff whose performance may not be at the level that the job requires.

• Introduce this year, on a corporate basis, 360 degree appraisals for all managers down to service manager level so you can give feedback on the support and leadership you are receiving.

This will be rolled out between June and the end of the year. You will have an opportunity to give feedback on your manager’s strengths and areas where improvements will be helpful.

You said
• The PDCS process, the link to pay and the way it is carried out, do not always work in favour of helping you feel valued and do a good job at work

Clearly there are limitations in the current climate. We are restraining growth in the pay bill to avoid having to make more redundancies than we need to and to protect front-line services. Nevertheless, we are going to bring forward a proposed pay and grading review, including some new thoughts about the best way to reward excellent performance in the changed financial environment. In the meantime:

We promised
• Feed back all your comments to HR and respond to you with what we are doing to improve the PDCS experience for you.

• Keep you updated with any changes that will affect you and make sure you are included in any consultation

• Ensure everyone is fully trained to make the best use of the PDCS in its current state and on any new ones that come on stream. Training is already underway for reviewing managers.

We fed back your comments to the learning and development team and some of those comments were picked up at the reviewing manager training that has taken place.

We will be embedding a new on line PDCS scheme which will also help. There will be training on the new PDCS scheme and you will be notified as soon as these become available.

• Make sure that this Department benefits fully from the new talent development programme.

The talent grid is being rolled out currently and there are worokshops for managers and briefings for staff. The OD board will be considering what stretch targets we will be identifying for staff who want to develop more broadly in their roles.

You said
• You were experiencing difficulties with the printers and some other specific IT issues, and this took too much of your time

This is a specific issue but one I recognise.

We promised
• Feedback to IT and FM your specific comments and ensure we get some answers

• Review the robustness of the individual printers and whether there needs to be some changes in the hardware.

We are aware that there are initiatives and changes that are being discussed about changing to a newer version of Windows, and other changes around new ways of working that are being taken forward as projects.

We fed your comments back to IT and the following response has been received:

We have started a Printing Improvement programme of work to address any outstanding issues with the new printing service. We have shared with Xerox the feedback from the staff survey relating to the new printers and we are putting together a plan to address these.

There are a number of ongoing activities specifically for P&E;
– Planning service; resolve issues with printing to colour devices directly from Autocad (a work around is in place)
– Provide resilience for the printing service at the Crematorium (we have provided an additional device for the office and we are looking at options to have resilience for this area so that if we lose the network they can still have the ability to print/photocopy/scan locally)
– Parking services in Davis House; tighten the process to deliver consumables to this location
– Templates requiring specific paper/tray selection do not convert between different printer models (waiting for a fix from Xerox)

IT have also asked if there are any other printing related issues not on the list and have asked for a contact person to progress any new ones, so any new concerns can be sent to Anne Lackenby who will coordinate the feedback to IT.

In addition to these, the managers met on the 20 April to look at how we work together moving forward and how we can address any further issues raised in the P&E staff survey report. The following priorities were taken away by your directors:

  • Divisional interaction: Seeking opportunities for more team work across services.
  • Celebrating achievement: ‘Recognising ansd responding immediately to the good things our staff do every day.
  • In addition, if someone hasn’t done something right then being timely with feedback.
  • Change the way we feedback to teams from DMT.
  • Good practice and sharing across the department.
  • Introduce networking with Sharepoint when it is introduced later in the year.
  • Apply for more awards to get wider recognition for some of the good work being done in the different divisions.

The future for Croydon, as all local authorities will be challenging, but if we as the department that impacts the most on our residents take the initiative to work as one team, listen to each other’s concerns and respond in a timely manner, we can continue to make a big difference to the council and to our community.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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1 Response to The £248,000 CEO speaks: Six pages of councilspeak

  1. What shouts through consistently in this memo is that staff are frustrated and don’t feel valued.

    But what is of deep concern to me as a Croydon taxpayer, if you read between the lines there are clearly issues about management and that directors, in particular, don’t understand their areas of responsibility.

    All the way through it talks about training managers. But shouldn’t they be trained to do the job before they actually take it up?

    It also suggests that managers aren’t meeting their staff regularly and so their performance isn’t being monitored, which might explain why Croydon’s performance in this department is not very good – a worry given that the CEO Jon Rouse, is in charge of it on an interim basis.

    So who is managing his performance? The Council Leader, Cllr Fisher? Well, we all know if we read Inside Croydon that Fisher only pops in on a part-time basis. This is all a recipe for disaster – a disaster Croydon taxpayers will have to foot the bill for.

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