CROYDON COMMENTARY: A former local government official who worked for three London councils from the 1970s until 2016, LEWIS WHITE (right) observed others doing their jobs in housing, engineering, maintenance, finance and in the comms team. And he is increasingly concerned at the way councils place barriers between their staff and the public they serve
I have encountered people – the majority – who care about their work and serving the public and doing a good job, and work incredibly effectively, flat out when needs must.
Many inspired individuals, too, who would put any private sector equivalent into the shade.
I have also encountered jobsworths, slackers, a few misguided individuals who had an inflated opinion of their worth, and a few dodgy characters, at low, medium and high levels.
But the only time I ever smelt a whiff of malpractice (relating to tendering a project) was actually with a specialist consultant. I took action to re-tender the project, never used that consultant again and passed my concerns on to others.
I have met a few Croydon Council officials. Most I have had dealings with have been helpful, and some have gone a step or several more to help.
What I have an issue with is the way that all local authorities nowadays set up real barriers between the public and the council officers, most of whom want to help and use their expertise to do so. Contact a council today, any council, not just Croydon, and it is a nigh-on hopeless task to find out a name or phone number. It should not be that way.
Nepotism and what I call “Friendpotism” is encountered in both the private and public sector. It should have no place at all in either. Recruitment and procurement should be open and free from either.
The problem arises when those in power avoid these controls, which are there to provide “Equal Opportunity”.
Standards in public life have not benefited from the abolition in 2012 of the Standard Boards for England which was set up in 2000, and set out a code of conduct, and framework for investigating the behaviour of all in public office, whether councillor, local government employee, or police or fire officer.
And that is a shame.
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I wholeheartedly agree with the inability to find a “name” to communicate with at Croydon Council. Even emailing a department with a concern or problem only receives a standard reply with no follow up of the Councils action.
Good manners and transparency cost nothing.
Councils are bound to adhere to the Nolan Principles, but rarely do.