CROYDON COMMENTARY: The appalling conditions endured by council tenants in South Norwood, says ROD DAVIES, is symptomatic of a decline in local government, where the front-line services are stripped of resources
While the cases of the neglected tenants in damp and mouldy flats in South Norwood is appalling, it is symptomatic of a decline in local government, where the front-line services are stripped of resources while senior management and back-office functions are protected and sometimes elevated, at considerable cost.
It reflects also the tendency to appoint chief executives with no front-line operational management experience. None of the last three CEOs in Croydon had ever held a significant front-line operational management role.
In the glitzy council offices up and down the country, there is a tendency to lose sight of the fact that all the jobs exist solely to deliver local services to local people.
Croydon contracts out repair and maintenance to private sector contractors and presumably there are council officials assigned to manage these contracts. Provided these officers have the skills, knowledge and resources to manage the contracts effectively, then they should be held to account for this failure.
If, on the other hand, they are now so denuded of resources and support that managing the contracts and the volume of transactions is unachievable, then senior management should be held to account for why this situation has arisen.
While it may be enjoyable to excoriate elected councillors, it is unlikely that they would have been aware of this failure if the senior management does not report to them effectively. By effectively, I mean communicating the issues explicitly so they can act, and not burying the bad news in some lengthy tome largely filled with irrelevance.
We may wonder why service managers did not take action, if they were being impeded, by using the whistleblowing complaint system. However, this route would only be used if it functioned and that councillors were made aware of the complaints when they were made and subsequent investigations were made known to them at each stage.
If the whistleblowing complaints system was wholly controlled by senior officers, complaints may not have been progressed and, in the worse case, the complainant may have become victim of bullying and other action.
Of course all of the above is supposition, but it does suggest that a root and branch overhaul of Croydon Council supported by all parties is much needed.
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