Whistleblower’s book ignored by all Croydon’s councillors

Sorry It's Not My DepartmentLocal government worker ROB TAPE decided to write a book based on the experiences of his council work career. He called it Sorry, It’s Not My Department. He then wrote to all 70 of Croydon’s councillors. He received not a single reply.

Here, Tape outlines the background to a book which carries the sub-title: ‘Where the money really goes in your town hall and the ways public services can be improved’

After working for various councils across the country for many years, I decided that it was time to write down my experiences about what goes on behind the closed doors of your average town hall. At first I thought it would make a great sitcom – in fairness, that might come next – but instead I opted for a book outlining what it is really like working for some of these public sector leviathans. Sorry, It’s Not My Department is my first published book and covers my career working in the lower and middle echelons of a handful of different local authorities.

The book is aimed at two audiences. The first is any member of the population who has had experience of dealing with their local council. Many of the people who have done so have commented that the title of the book basically says it all. The second target audience are those people who make the decisions in town halls, the councillors and senior officers. My hope is that they will see that there might just be a different way of running our public services that actually benefit the residents, of Croydon and beyond.

The book covers a number of areas:

• Unnecessary and wasteful services you didn’t know you had or needed
• Public consultation overload
• Writing strategy documents and policies for the sake of it
• Needless marketing, PR and events
• The ambiguous role of councillors
• The culture of jobs before public service
• Managing public sector cuts
• Perverse targets that actually decrease the quality of service

Sorry, It’s Not My Department also offers solutions. Rather than just being critical of existing systems and management approaches, it also tries to offer a way forward that will help make boroughs such as Croydon better places to live and work.

One area I explore is helping to make councillors more effective, moving away from party politics at the local level and instead focusing on high quality, independent individuals being elected to a more streamlined political structure.

The book also suggests other improvements, from reducing wasteful services through to having a greater emphasis on quality rather than quantity, and from removing the  “gravy train” for staff through to generating a more positive atmosphere of public service.

My hope is that the book starts a wider dialogue among the decision-makers in councils. But more importantly, that anyone who is interested in how local government really operates can learn a little more about where their hard-earned tax money is actually spent.

Response to the book to date has been mixed. The public seem to actually quite like it and are positive about the messages it contains. On the other hand, councillors and council managers seem to be somewhat quieter. For example after sending information to more than 10,000 councillors across the country, most – including all 70 of Croydon’s councillors – have ignored my correspondence entirely.

That being said the number of independent and smaller party councillors who have been in touch has been impressively high in comparison to those from the main two parties. Read into that what you will.

But given that it is the public who deserve a clearer picture about council management, it is the public that I want to read the book.

About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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12 Responses to Whistleblower’s book ignored by all Croydon’s councillors

  1. clogsilk says:

    This sounds great – I can’t see a kindle version though when I click through the link, sadly 🙁

  2. Well done Rob! Thank you for your courage. And, more importantly, for the vast amount of time and effort writing something like this takes.

    It would be great if, for people like me who can’t (or won’t) deal with Amazon, this was also available in bookshops. Do you or your publisher have plans for that?

  3. farmersboy says:

    While I was on the link I had a quick look at The Croydon Bards book. It doesn’t reveal sales figures but there are 2 cloying 5 star reviews of his first literary work neither of which comes from anyone called Mrs Barwell or anyone in his employ. No sir just independent apolitical lovers of a good yarn

  4. joeycan says:

    Apart from seeking out a copy for myself, I wonder if the book-purchasers within the Public Library system of this country will be putting it on their ‘to buy’ list for their residents. Perhaps an e-mail of two to our local Councillors wouldn’t go amiss !

    It seems to me that the more ways Croydon residents can dig into the Gordian knot of their interlocked politicians and administrators, the better.

  5. Rob Tape says:

    Hi nosuchthingasthemarket and all other posters

    Sadly the book is not available through any other outlets apart from Amazon. Not ideal but despite an initial contract with one distributer we fell at the final hurdle when we couldn’t agree on the final edits so I opted to publish through Amazon (needs must when the devil drives) which means no real opportunity to distribute via local bookshops is likely.

    My email address is robtape99@gmail.com if you wanted to get in touch to discuss an alternative way of getting the book; or simply for you or anyone else to discuss the issues raised in the book (if you manage to get a copy through someone else)

    If it helps the Kindle link is at

    Thanks to everyone

  6. davidjl2014 says:

    Absolutely brilliant. Very well done Rob (and Inside Croydon). But doesn’t this mirror image national government? We all know that the Education Minister has never been a teacher, the Minister of Defence has never been in the Armed Forces, and the list goes on and on and always has done.. It all boils down to the Civil Servants who “advise” those in power, and the so called “Ministers” either accept or reject their demands based upon the potential public opinion for themselves to be re-elected at a General Election. But at the same time, they have to juggle their own Party’s politics, pledged in the manifesto they got elected by in the first place.
    The silence of Croydon’s Councillors is deafening. Don’t worry Rob, they all know. They are no more qualified to be on the Croydon Council than are the Ministers who sit Whitehall. Sadly, they do not sit on the Council to serve the community they represent. Because obviously they are incapable of understanding it and equally blinded by the Party politics behind it. However, if there was an Egoistic Party, they would undoubtedly all be Honorary Members.

    • Rob Tape says:

      Thanks David

      Absolutely. It does mirror national government. And sadly that is part of the problem. “Party first, people second” councillors who are answerable to party HQ before they even get started on serving the public. I think you’ll like my chapter all about the role of elected members – it’s called “just put your “X” in the box”. Your “egoistic” comment is completely reiterated there.
      To be fair though up and down the country there are some good councillors. Honestly, there are! I have worked with some VERY talented elected members and unfortunately they get hamstrung by restrictive systems, unhelpful officers and party colleagues who are not interested in public service.
      Fingers crossed you see some light at the end of the tunnel in Croydon. From the various comments and email I’ve had as a result of this piece there are some great people living there. Its a shame they can’t all move into local politics and get elected!

      • farmersboy says:

        Downloaded a copy but when I read it is hard to say. Aside from Amazon’s business practices my only gripe with kindle is I have no control over my book buying addiction. Sounds good though Rob

  7. madwblog says:

    Ordered a paper copy ‘cos despite owning a kindle, ya can’t beat a book in yer hand. Very much looking forward to reading.

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