Saturday, 2 October 2010

Barnet Council Special : Telling the truth is unprofessional

Yesterday I saw another huge spike in hits on this blog. Analysis showed that this was almost entirely due to hits coming from Barnet Council. The stats showed huge numbers of searches for things like "One Barnet project" "Future Shape" and "Leaks". How odd I thought. Maybe as it's Friday afternoon, they haven't got much to do. This morning, the reason became clear. I was sent the text of an email, which I'm told was sent to Barnet Council workers by CEO Nick Walkley. My correspondent had clearly taken the wise precaution of sending this via a home email. Whilst I am always pleaased to receive leaked information, I urge workers to be rather careful as Nick is clearly on the warpath and they can trace and monitor email sent from work. It is often safer to copy documents, then scan them at home and send them. Anyway here's what my correspondent tells me Nick had to say

I am immensely proud of the professionalism with which staff in this authority carry out their work and provide support and services to our residents.  Maintaining that professionalism requires a commitment from us all to behave in a way which respects colleagues’ work.

Earlier this week, a copy of a council document relating to a One Barnet project was published on a blog.  It was a fairly unexciting document showing officers getting on and doing their job.  But I am deeply upset about this leak - not because of its content, or its impact in the wider world. But by what it says about the attitude of at least one member of staff to their colleagues and employer. Leaking a document suggests to me that at least one employee thinks that trying to undermine the work of colleagues will shift how the council deals with challenges we need to confront if we are to continue to provide good services at a time of extreme financial stringency. Instead it simply illustrates a lack of professionalism which undermines us all.

That lack of professionalism contrasted strongly with a group I encountered having an end of season beer whilst I was on holiday. They regularly give long hours at high personal risk for little or no financial reward and were being rightly thanked by their community for their work and their contribution to local life.  Of course the lifeboat men of St Ives are all volunteers but no one doubts their professionalism, or the valuable role they play. At the time that got me thinking about the balance between what the Council does and what the Community do - a One Barnet theme. I hadn’t expected it would also cause me to reflect on the professionalism (or lack of it) of some of our own staff.

I know that the vast majority of staff show their commitment to our standards and values on a daily basis and I trust everyone will take pause to think carefully about the impact that they have on their colleagues as well as the Council as a whole in the difficult times ahead. 

I have this response to Nick. Barnet Council workers are working for the people of Barnet, we pay their wages, you don't. We are the bosses, we'll be here long after you have gone to your next assignment. You are merely the custodian for the tenure of your reign. Council workers recognise this. It is clear that the Council is suppressing information and it would be unprofessional of staff to let this happen. You talk about the RNLI lifeboat men and there professionalism. Would they abandon drowning people if the boss told them to? Of course not. That is why staff oppose the warden cuts and the privatisation. Do you suppose the RNLI men would sit idly by if the boss decided to outsource the rescue service to Green Flag because it was cheaper and only 10% of rescues would be affected.

People leak info because they care. I don't pay a penny for info. I don't get paid to blog. You get £250,000 a year to do your job. I pay your wages. Open administration is honest administration. That is professional. Sadly you don't seem to understand this


Mrs Angry said...

Dear Mr Walkley: I'm glad you enjoyed your trip to St Ives and your evening with the lifeboatmen (bet I know which pub it was) Perhaps a more appropriate analogy, however, would be the comparison of the unquestionable professionalism,integrity and courage of the RNLI volunteers with the shameless behaviour of our self serving, spineless Tory councillors, who have so badly let down the community they volunteered to represent.
You mention the long hours of service which the lifeboatmen give with little or no financial reward: what a contrast to the grudging, confrontational, secretive,idiotic, amateur performance we witness from our councillors, who are paid generous allowances for their unmonitored performance and still complain that they are overworked and underpaid.
Regrettably, from your point of view, that it is, that a member of staff leaked this document, it is only a reflection of the deep concern that many employees feel at the course this council is taking. The residents of this borough - and all employees - have a right to be fully informed about the enormous implications of the Future Shape programme: at the moment, as detailed in council meetings by councillors of all parties, even they are struggling to obtain information, and consultation with residents appears to be non existant. This lack of information and debate is deeply concerning for residents and employees alike and I suspect that this anxiety will continue until such a time as this administration commits itself to a more open, honest and indeed professional relationship with the community it is intended to serve.

Moaneybat said...

What, in Local Government? "requires a commitment from us all to behave in a way which Respect colleagues work." Quite frankly,Walkley is taking the urine! man your crew has to first show a basic understanding of humanity to some of the people you supposedly provide support and services.