Thursday, 18 December 2008

I wish to complain

I am appalled by the increasing use of harassment in tbe work-place. The other day a file of papers was dropped upon my desk. The unexpected noise deeply disturbed my concentration and disrupted a crucial scheduled meeting with high-powered executives from IBM’s Institute of Electronic Government. The culprit will be duly punished. My wife has also been seriously harassed by postmen knocking too hard upon the door of the Old Barn. I will not tolerate anti-social knocking, there is a time and a place for everything. I complained to my good friend Lord Mandelson and I am pleased to report that he has now accepted the wisdom of my remarks and intends to privatise Royal Mail. This proves my thesis – the only way to maintain order is to keep on making complaints. And if anyone (and I seriously mean anyone) should dare complain about me and my conduct to the official professional body then I undertake to complain about them in even stronger terms. The difference is that I will win. Right is on my side. I have friends in very high places. I hope that is fully understood.

Friday, 28 November 2008

A knock in the night

This silly man, who happens to be Conservative spokesman for immigration, was held by the police for nine hours because they suspected him of leaking classified Home Office documents. Now he has the temerity to complain. What hypocricy! There is a genuine public purpose in keeping sensitive material confidential. It is done to protect state secrets and - sometimes - industrial and county documents too. We have laws about data protection. We rightly punish those who offend. Damien Green's action was foolhardy. He richly deserved the arrival of nine armed officers at his home. Other MPs might choose to reflect on this incident and wonder when their door bell will next ring.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Read All About It

My extremely able Human Resources expert, Richard Crouch, has been lending me a hand with some important correspondence. Those wicked souls in Unison are flexing their miniscule muscles again. But Richard and I have now written to all the councillors and 17000 staff with the facts:

"You will have received an email from Unison last week concerning SWOne, the recent Tribunal and the actions taken by the Council concerning the associated breach of its data. Without wishing to inflame the situation or prejudice the various investigations that are taking place, it is now incumbent on us to inform you of the Council's position.

As acknowledged by Unison, it has conducted a long campaign in Somerset against the ISiS project and the creation of SWOne and this has included Unison lodging a claim with an Employment Tribunal for an alleged failure to consult. The claim was lodged against SWOne Ltd, Taunton Deane Borough Council, as well as the County Council, despite there being no complaints made by those staff who transferred to SWOne nor those remaining within the Councils.

The original claim was a general claim concerning those staff who had transferred into SWOne, but it was only in the very last moments prior to the Tribunal Hearing, that Unison focused and re-directed its claim to staff not just from within SWOne, but also to those from the rest of the Council. This effectively meant that the potential claim for compensation went from circa £5M to one in the order of £75M. Unison's claim, if won, could have inflicted considerable damage on the Council, on its ability to deliver its services and ironically, on the Council's ability to secure the employment of many staff who deliver our services.

The Tribunal published its findings last Thursday, with the result being that Unison lost its case.

When the witness statements were exchanged a few days before the Tribunal Hearing, it became apparent that Unison had accessed the Council's payroll system and used the data of just over 300 staff. This was undertaken without the Council's knowledge or authorisation and with the intention of sharing the information in a public hearing. The Council's lawyers immediately took this up with Unison's lawyers who confirmed that it was a small number of Unison's branch officials who had done this. Unison’s lawyers also confirmed that what had not been accessed was the type of personally sensitive material that could lead to identity fraud. Such confirmation led to the Council concluding that there had been a breach in its systems and a breach of the Data Protection Act.

The Council immediately instigated its own internal investigations into the matter which are still on-going, but to date they have confirmed what the Council had been told by Unison's lawyers. As a result, it can be confirmed that one Unison Shop Steward has been dismissed and that the Unison Branch Secretary has been suspended, pending an investigation.

To add a further dimension to this issue, the Information Commissioner is now conducting his own investigations into the matter and will be interviewing a number of people under caution. This action of the Commissioner is not, as being reported, due to the Council raising a complaint to his office about Unison, but simply due to the Council fulfilling its obligation to inform the Commissioner of the breach and to reassure him of what the Council, as the Data Controller, is doing about it.

As a consequence, the Council's own investigations are running parallel to the Information Commissioner's and we understand that Unison itself is also conducting its own investigations into the matter.

The actions taken by the Council to date are entirely appropriate to the situation and in line with its policies and procedures in dealing with such serious issues. Irrespective of whether a member of staff is a trade union official or not, these policies and procedures apply equally.

Lastly, to put things into perspective, at this stage in the investigations, the Council believes that this serious breach is down to a very small number of Unison officials from within the Council’s Unison Branch. It does not reflect on others within the Branch, nor the Unison Regional Office, nor Unison nationally. As such, the Council and the Unison Regional Office are working closely on this matter and on employee relations generally to help ensure that they maintain to be as positive as they have been in the past."

That is telling 'em!

Friday, 21 November 2008

A waste of everyone's time

This irrelevant group of activists is now being dealt with firmly. The tiny handful of members will soon be substantially depleted in a continuing process of industrial relations cleansing.

"This Branch has campaigned continually to draw the attention of Councillors and senior managers to what it believes are significant drawbacks of a joint venture company to run a range of administrative services for Somerset County Council and others.

This Branch has commissioned independent research work that has provided advice to Councillors about the issues involved. It has advocated this advice to the Council and articulated its views through correspondence, presentations and discussions at Authority officer meetings, industrial relations consultation meetings and at the public speaking times of Council Boards and meetings.

This Branch has sought information from the Council about the proposals but, at all stages, access to information has been restricted such that the Freedom of Information mechanism for obtaining information has had to be used by the Branch.

In addition to considering that the general anxiety of the Branch about the proposals has been disregarded, the Branch believed that it had not been consulted properly over staffing issues at the time that the contract was signed to engage the Council with the joint venture company Southwest One and felt obliged to pursue its concern at an Employment Tribunal.

The Branch has conducted its campaign through its Branch Council of elected Branch Stewards and Officers. The Branch Secretary, as the leading officer of the Branch recognised for industrial relations liaison by the Council, has necessarily had an extremely prominent role in undertaking the campaign of the Branch, with the full support of the Branch endorsed at regular Branch Council and other meetings.

This Branch Council is extremely alarmed at the way in which its Branch Secretary and some Stewards have been treated by the Council since the closure of the Tribunal hearing. It believes that the treatment has been disproportionate and considers that an atmosphere of victimisation and corporate bullying has been created by the Council, so undermining the proper conduct of industrial relations. This conflicts with recent assurances given by senior Human Resources managers to regional and local UNISON officials that they wanted to build good industrial relations.

This Branch Council expresses its whole hearted confidence in its Branch Secretary, that he has undertaken his role in the campaign in good faith, with commitment and to the best of his ability.

This Branch Council anticipates that the regional and national tiers of UNISON will also be alarmed at the impact on industrial relations of an inadequately addressed instance of corporate bullying and instructs its officers to liaise with the South West Regional Secretary to ensure that the position is resolved in accordance with UNISON’s policies. "

If these absurd luddites want to be taken seriously they should behave seriously.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Justice must be swift

I am not prepared to countenance any more pleas for mercy. This time it is vital to make examples of those who have erred. My council did not get where it is today without unswerving loyalty to the Chief. I run a tight ship. It is my duty and responsibility to punish miscreants severely. You have all been warned. My spies are everywhere. This time there will be no hostages.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Congratulations !!

Bexley, Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton and Walsall are in there with us - but I know in my heart that Somerset County Council deserves the prize. As many of you will now know we have been shortlisted in the prestigious category for public/private partnerships for next year's LGC Awards. And as everyone knows there is no public/private partnership more adventurous and exciting than SouthWest One. Together we have created something fresh and unique in Local Government. And the big pickings are still to come. I confidently expect that the plaudits of the judges will come our way when I travel to London to meet them next month. Last year Somerset Waste Management was among the finalists for the Management awards. But now we are ready for higher things. We have the expertise. We have the experience. We have the makings of a remarkable new IT system. But above all we have a rock-solid base of loyal and hard-working staff. No wonder our good friends at 4Ps are sponsoring this particular award. I see stars in our eyes already.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Goodbye Guantanemo - Hello Somerset

In the heady aftermath of his overwhelming victory I recalled President-elect Obama's firm pledge to scrap the internment camp known as Guantanemo Bay. In view of his aspirations this is a pledge that makes sound common sense. But it leaves an important custodial deficit which must be addressed. I believe that Barrack's loss can be Somerset's gain. We are already well equipped to deal with institutional/organisational terrorists and the development of a secure holding place for Al Quaida terrorists and others is also within our capability and grasp. My colleagues in SouthWest One are already discussing with IBM the technical niceties of keeping these people safely locked up in our excellent county. I have also earmarked a potential site - that disused airfield up on the Blackdown Hills. I will be working tirelessly from now on to win this important new contract. Let me know what you think. This could provide valuable new jobs for Somerset.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

SouthWest One Savings - £60 million and rising!

"Great oaks from little acorns grow"

An old home truth is proving itself in Somerset today.
Earlier in the week the founders of SouthWest One proudly unveiled realistic areas of target savings that will, ultimately, be of huge benefit to all residents by increasing efficiency and reducing council taxes. Already £60 million has been ear-marked, and the plans display enormous imagination and foresight. My picture shows the design for new toilets in council offices. Eagle-eyed watchers will note that there are no doors for the cubicles. This simple savings will cut the amount of time wasted in comfort breaks by 80%. Toilet tissue will also be rationed for staff use. Taken together these essential innovations will save an additional £10 million over the lifetime of the contract, or not as the case may be. Similar economies are also being contemplated in canteen areas for stricter portion control, and staff will be expected to share cutlery and crockery. The identification of such financially astute ideas is critical to the success of this joint venture. I know that everyone will join me in congratulating the team who have spent twelve months finding ways to save money without actually saving any yet.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Away the lads!

I have been taking some important instruction in the matter of the warm and friendly dialect of the North East. Geordies are kind open people with a way of expressing themselves that is unique. My professional future may lie one day somewhere within sniffing distance of the Tyne. It would be folly not to acquaint myself with the language first. Kevin Keegan may be out but Alan Jones could soon be in. The pay is even better than what the good burghers of Somerset are currently shelling out. So watch this space

Friday, 17 October 2008

Beautiful Dreamers

Here's something to cheer us up.

Dream Team Challenge is Somerset's golden opportunity. Our dedicated workforce can show what they are really made of. I've signed up. Have you?

Thursday, 16 October 2008

An Old Lady Beckons

My renewed fascination with economics is timely. As readers may know Somerset County Council invested £25 million pounds with an Icelandic bank and fully expects to be recompensed for this sensible arrangement. Our judgement is confirmed today with the news that our friends at the Audit Commission also invested their millions in the same bank. The Audit Commission knows a good thing when it sees one. For a start they gave us four stars for excellence and they have also written glowingly about our joint venture with IBM. So everything must be in perfect order. All events carry a message, however obscure. I am beginning to see the message for me in these happenings. Events are proving my judgement to be not only perfectly sound but totally rock solid.

I have enormous respect and admiration for Mervyn King. I know that my native abilities in Economics coupled with my much honoured work in Sociology would serve him well at the Bank in its most challenging days. It would be morally wrong to ignore the inner calling of one's soul.
And the money's pretty good too.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Frome at the Inn

If you missed my conference speech in Wolverhampton on Tuesday there is, I am pleased to report, a four-star opportunity to meet me tomorrow over lunch in Frome. I will, as ever, be prepared to field questions about any issue at all. Try me. It promises to be a convivial occasion and well worth the £10.50 ticket which includes lunch.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


I telephoned my old friend Geir Haarde this morning. As usual he was in a buoyant mood and said 'everything is alright - how you say hunky-dory'. Geir knows his nation and understands the banking sector intimately. So Somerset has absolutely no need to be in any way alarmed. Our £25million investment of council tax payers money is not only rock solid but Geir assured me that the interest rate would soon reach hit a new high. Then the line went dead.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Colourful ideas

Jungian psychology has a thing or two to teach us. We ignore it at our peril. And there is nothing simple about the colour wheel. Colour can reveal much about our personalities and influence the way we work. That is why I am allowing my senior managers to participate in a special course tomorrow to help them improve their lives. They are off to a workshop at the lovely Bindon Country House Hotel where their ideas will be challenged by some of the sharpest brains in psychological profiling. I first discovered The Colour Works team at a conference for Chief Executives in the South West. Their workshops are a safe, non-threatening, high energy experience. The emphasis is on fun, motivation, learning and the freedom to enjoy all types of personality and personal styles. You come away with your unique, detailed profile, the appropriate Colour Works hat and – typically – a great big smile. You do not need an understanding of psychology or have any special training in order to make sense of the profiling. It is presented in user-friendly, accessible terms with simple visuals. Most importantly, this profile values the differences in people, rather than clumps them together as ‘types’.
The power of self-understanding is multiplied many times over as we move from PERSONAL to TEAM development and learning. By discovering the mechanics of some of the frustrations that exist within the team, we start to:

Focus on critical areas and resources

Celebrate success

Benchmark the team’s performance and progress

Encourage a supportive team culture based on respect and understanding

There is always a positive and dramatic effect on morale and productivity. ‘BREAKTHROUGH’ moments are common.Once the basics of team-working have been embedded, we are able to move on to measure the team’s performance against 16 core competencies, such as roles & responsibilities, DECISION-MAKING, creativity and trust.
The results often include that vital plus - releasing the "X" factor within the team.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Simple economics

I went to University to read economics. But boredom intervened and I switched to Sociology because it is quite unnecessary to know anything whatsoever about money or arithmetic, or the value of anything. I am still convinced that Milton Keynes was one of the founding fathers of the new economic order. So in the woolly discipline of Sociology it was inevitable that I would shine like an excellent star. No knowledge of economics is required and no knowledge of anything else either. It was thus something of a foregone conclusion that the University of Kent should award me first class honours. I relished the term “first class” and proceeded to Liverpool University where I was to obtain my second first class Masters degree in Civil Design (Town Planning to ordinary folk). Then it was back to Kent College – not a University, I’m afraid – to obtain my diploma in Management Studies. They presented it with distinction – which, I think you will concur - is a notch above first class. Anyway there has been a great deal of talk about economics in recent days and inevitably it re-awakened my early fascination. In fact I cannot recall a time when events in Washington and Westminster were more fascinating that match of the day. It all seems to be going wrong at the moment but it will turn out fine in the last chapter – mark my words. I think we in Somerset will need to learn to value delivery and cost effectiveness far more in future. Remind me to get a book out of the library about it, or did we cut the library budgets this year? The remarkable savings which SouthWest One will make – the projected figures have risen from £200million to a staggering £150million – are certain to be of benefit to everybody. You can all rest assured that I am in complete control and have the academic qualifications to match the challenge with excellence.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Making a Drama out of a Crisis

"Chief Executives and senior managers will be given the chance to confront contentious issues and challenge the accepted way of doing things, when they have a theatrical mirror held up to them, reflecting on how a crisis can become drama." This is exactly my sort of event, so I have booked a place at the Solace conference to participate. I can tell them more than a thing or two about contentious issues.
"After seeing a short dramatic scene the audience, in groups, then redirect the actors with new actions and lines, challenging situations and raising issues. The actors change groups and participants can then experience other points of view. Participants are also allowed to stop the action." Frankly they should hold the next Solace conference in Taunton. And I'm sure my loyal staff and loving family would have several things to say about the appalling attacks made upon me by some. It is great to be able to rely on solid support at times of considerable stress.

Monday, 29 September 2008

If the cap fits

The complaint against Cllr Alan Gloak is not a matter for me nor a subject upon which I wish to make any comment. The poor man was seen openly weeping in County Hall today. It would have seemed partisan to give him a hug, but I smiled in empathy as he lurched down the stairs. The high standards of this authority and its reputation for excellence in every field speak louder, surely, than politically motivated charges against a vulnerable public figure. Cllr Gloak, like me, is a victim of gossip. But the public should rest assured that there is ample machinery in place to deal with matters of financial and personal probity. As readers may know elected councillors are subject to the displines of the Standards Board and local monitoring committees. Council officials, on the other hand, subscribe to a strict code of conduct and must declare any interests upon an official register. This should be a considerable reassurance to all electors and interested parties. The registers, of necessity, contain personal data which identifies and relates to individual members of staff. This means that the registers are covered by the Data Protection Act 1998 and must be kept secret from anyone who does not have a strict need to know. In other words people in my position are duty bound to make declarations and people like you have no right at all to know what has been declared. I hope that is now clear.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Chough Off

If you want to know the truth I didn't like Cornwall. It was a blessed relief not to be offered the job of running the new Unitary Authority down there. Truro makes Taunton glitter and buzz like New York. It is the sort of one-eyed town that would be greatly improved by demolition. The pasties are dangerously inedible. The people are sour. The politicians even more more talentless and stupid than some of ours. And considerably more bitter and twisted. I am tempted to report the whole lot of them to tjhe Standards Board for misrepresenting the awful things that have been said about me. Then there is the language. What in the name of all things reasonable is the purpose of attempting to preserve a tongue that has less life in it than their blessed Pyrrhocorax (the rare - and incredibly ugly - Chough) ? The Cornish don't have enough words for everyday use. Most of them communicate in crude sign language anyway. They are dangerously interbred and harbour a quite insane belief in their own superiority. I took one look and vowed never to cross the Tamar again. So goodbye Kernow and "Dyharajow".....apologies.....for having disturbed your third-rate county with my boundless excellence.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Our Ancient New Chairman

Please raise a glass to my very good septuagenarian friend Jay Tidmarsh. Jay has agreed to become SouthWest One’s new “Independent”Chairman. I can’t think of anyone better qualified. He’s just handed back his ceremonial kit after 11 years as Lord Lieutenant of Bristol. A more amiable old buffer one could rarely hope to meet. Jay was educated at Taunton School and worked for the Imperial Tobacco Company so he knows quite a lot about killing by stealth. He learned even more as a Commissioned Officer with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.It is also possible that Jay helped kill the British footwear industry before setting up his own manufacturing company, Dycem Limited which now makes clever things to help the police. He can no doubt do a bit of extra business with Moira Hamlin and Colin Port at SouthWest One's board meetings. He has a major interest in the development of local radio – or, rather, in the development of fat profits from the radio industry. He was Chairman of Radio West Ltd and a founding Director of GWR Radio plc and has a string of other directorships as long as your arm. Jay feathered his nest very successfully and then tried to do a bit of good on the side by lending his name to all manner of worthy causes. Soon after the riots in Toxteth, Liverpool, he was one of a dozen business people who helped establish the Bristol Initiative in 1992 as a means of promoting partnership between the civic authorities and the business community in addressing social and economic problems. His other current charitable involvements reflect his wide range of interests, everything from the bladder to bells: Bristol Urological Institute; Army Benevolent Fund; Avon Ambulance Service Staff Benevolent Fund; Avon Outward Bound; Avon & Somerset Police Community Trust; Avon Youth Association; Brace (Alzheimer’s Research); Bristol Archdeaconry Charitable Trust; Bristol Benevolent Institution; Bristol Cancer Help Centre; Bristol Commonwealth Society; Bristol Drugs Project; Bristol Macmillan Cancer Relief Appeal; Christchurch Lands Trust; Clifton Down Charitable Trust; East Bristol Advice & Information Centre; Fortuna Charitable Trust; Greater Bristol Foundation; Initiative Charitable Trust; Jessie May Trust; Life Education Centre; Lifeskills; New Sinfonia; Royal Bath & West of England Society; Vassall Centre Trust.His interests are eclectic; the Merchant Venturers society; Prison Visitors Association; the Dolphin Society; and St Stephen’s Ringers. Jay Tidmarsh lists his hobbies as rugby, the visual arts, collecting playing cards, walking, photography, French and New World wine, and travel. I have absolutely no doubt that IBM will want to whisk him away very soon to inspect their facilities in America, where there will also be ample opportunity to sample his favourite wines at their expense. Chug-a-lug Jay, and welcome aboard

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Time is running out

The goals are clear, the challenge starts here. I am looking to find the best CHIEF PROCUREMENT OFFICER in the country. The job comes with a Competitive Salary and your own "Our Man in Havana" hat - just like mine. This pivotal and high profile role has arisen at Southwest One, the joint venture company recently established between Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Avon and Somerset Police and IBM, to deliver better value for money while improving access to services for local residents. Reporting to the Chief Executive Officer, Southwest One, your principal goals will be to provide the essential vision, thought leadership, strategic direction and guidance for the management of third party spend of approximately £500m, together with supporting the delivery of substantial benefits. In driving collaborative and strategic procurement, a key priority will be to develop and implement leading edge Category Management and Supplier Relationship Management together with providing innovative approaches and practices across the supply chain.Your substantial record of achievement at senior management level will need to include visionary procurement transformation in a complex environment, involving the delivery of world class procurement strategies across different categories and supply markets, reducing risk and maximising value for money.
A passion for hyperbole is expected.

If you want to take on the challenge then send for more information and an application pack, by emailing quoting reference 2284SD or telephoning 01823 356209. Closing date 5pm, 2nd October 2008. (Please state hat size in your application)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Goodbye and Hello

There will soon be a fresh face at the top table to replace my trusted colleague and this County's able Solicitor, David Corry. David is opting for retirement - how I envy him. He is a genuinely good and caring human being who has, perhaps, sometimes allowed his Christianity to cloud his decisions. I mean the remark to be taken more as a tribute to his persona. But this, after all, is a hard game. It demands iron wills of all those practitioners who seek change for the better. David will, I know, pray that we continue to get it right and we will hope that he enjoys the quieter side of life from now on. His workload will fall to a man I know well and have now persuaded to join our team. Meic Sullivan-Gould makes Rumpole of the Bailey seem like a rank amateur. He is the archetypal lawyers', lawyer. Meic will run rings round everyone. He did the job in style at Hackney and Basingstoke. He's heading over to Taunton very soon.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Truncheon Vouchers

The new independent chair of SouthWest One is the wise choice. Indeed she was my personal recommendation. They don't come more independent than Moira. She is a clinical psychologist by trade and a force to be reckoned with. There will of course be some stupid people who will argue that she is too closely aligned with police matters to take an overview of the entire SouthWest One remit. This is ridiculous. SouthWest One was always destined to be a company servicing the needs of our courageous constabulary not just here in Somerset but perhaps throughout the UK. Moira is the best placed person to keep an eye on all this and keep her new colleague on the board, Colin Port, company too.

Look at some of her current responsibilities:

Member of the following committees:

Chair of Appointments Committee
Chair of Remuneration Committee
Finance Committee
Capital Asset Management Sub-Committee
Standards Committee
Human Resources Committee
Police Authority Representative on the following bodies:
Association of Police Authorities (APA) Deputy Chair
APA Plenary Meetings (as Chair)
Somerset Strategic Partnership
Police Community Trust (Chair)
Regional ACPO/PA Meeting

That's independence for you.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Big Hitters

Bad luck Max - it could have been you.

And sorry to disappoint my old friend Alistair.

But the competition could not have been fiercer.
This is certainly Britain's most challenging Public Relations job. It needed a truly inspired individual to meet my exacting specifications.

And I am happy to say that I have found him on our very own doorstep (well just up the road in Alhampton) So step forward Simon Clifford, my new master of spin. Simon is to the world of wireless what Colonel Sanders was to the humble chicken. Sir Terry Wogan in his soon to be published book "Radio Greats" describes Simon as a "towering perpendicular pillar of excellence with the authentic Midas touch". He has already transformed BBC Somerset Sound into a world class station. Thus I am positively delighted that Simon is now able to bring his immense industry experience to this County Council's assistance. Simon's mission is without boundaries. He intends to launch our own multi-media channel to provide the high quality alternative to existing biased outlets. His great plans for new programmes include "Me and Mine" - a daily show broadcast live from the Chief Executive's office. (I may surprise some of you with my adventurous playlist) Simon will mastermind all our public utterances. He is a radio genius and well worth the £72,000 a year we will pay him. Remember the name.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

West is Best

My good friend Rick Stein found us a table (he never lets a pal down even at the height of the season). Mark and I sat in the corner marvelling at the menu and contemplating the future. He's done well. The fast footwork of his team has proved its worth. Cornwall's new Unitary Authority will hit the ground running in April and, who knows, the famous Jones clan name may well go up in lights. Mark and I have roots in the far South West. Some of my ancestors started as tin miners before they followed their fortunes to Kirkby where I was born. But Cornwall has positively boomed in recent days. The council is vibrant. The new authority will have real zip and go. You can hear about Mark's aspirations on their little film or pop along and have a chat with me. My door is always open. I can even greet you in Cornish!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Because they're worth it

I have heard some stupid internal carping about the high salaries now being offered to key employees of SouthWest One. The new Chief Procurement Officer, for example, will command around £90,000 a year. This is a perfectly fair rate of pay given the responsibilities - developing and delivering the provision for collaborative strategic procurement and providing thought-leadership of leading edge procurement strategies.Tenacity, drive, personal acumen and persuasion will be required. Give Eileen Hill a bell today on 07740639930 if you want to apply - its your last chance. And as for the carpers - well I know who you are. There are middle managers at SCC doing very nicely thank you. Some of them drive expensive German motor cars. One or two have personalised numbers plates. Let's cut the carping. We are all better off in the SouthWest One family.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Wherefore art though Romero?

The images of my nation's success have cheered me greatly in recent days. None more so than the brave feats of Rebecca Romero. Her origins, like mine in Kirkby, were humble. Her achievements, like mine in Somerset, have well exceeded everyone's measure of excellence. Some may mock the efforts of Team GB, just as some have mocked the efforts of Team Somerset, but she and I have a great deal in common. And frankly who cares if Rebecca chooses to advertise a sports drink by riding naked with her firm thighs pulsating for the cameras. It is no worse than me championing an international computer company by lecturing delegates on the wonders of business partnership at the conference they sponsor. If only they'd allowed me to get down to the buff

Thursday, 14 August 2008

My Right to Know

I am delighted at the courageous decision of the Home Office to give Somerset County Council new powers to access e-mail and internet records. A great deal of precious time is being wasted attempting to deal with the rash of fictitious blog sites that have suddenly appeared. My personal intervention with the Home Secretary has borne fruit quickly. It is only fair to warn the perpetrators of such cyber crime that I already have significant power and influence and am quite prepared to use it. Desist, in other words, or you will face the fearsome consequences.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Likely Vlads

At fifty-five I am just running in, ticking over, flexing my muscles, gently stretching my huge cubic capacities. Like my good friend Mr Putin I cut a lean figure in the field and we share the same age and several of the same ambitions. Should the time ever come for me to relinquish my role as Somerset's Chief Executive I would cheerfully accept a quasi Presidential office in the county. But with such power inevitably comes great responsibility. The future communities over which I may one day preside will need to be not only well governed but intelligently managed. This is where global partners are so valuable. I commend Vladimir's decision to call a halt to the current armed struggle. I will post a message on his My Space site and send warmest greetings to his charming lady wife. But, of course, Georgia is always on my mind.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Who needs Councillors?

Gordon Brown has ventured to the East Anglian coast for a family break. But along with his pilates teacher there will also be a large team of advisors and officials. Prime Ministers are never off duty. How different things are in local government. County Hall manages quite well thank you very much without any of the politicians present. Much as I respect the fervour and input of Mrs Shortland and her colleagues our machine of state whirrs quietly and efficiently in their absence. I told my loyal staff in a recent newsletter that it was probably time to open a political dialogue about the future direction of representation at county level. Are councillors necessary? Do they add anything to the sum total of human knowledge? Could we survive without them? These are important questions to address especially when considering the ludicrous furore about SouthWest One. Like most things in life the truth is cunningly concealed somewhere between the extremes. You cannot group all councillors together. A small handful have, in my opinion, ideas way above their station. Some are so patently lacking in the necessary brain cells that it is a wonder they are able to place the appropriate footwear upon the appropriate feet. But most are satisfied to do the sensible thing and leave all the decision making process to the experts – the officials who know best how to manage affairs. Councillors are there to make weight and make the right noises at the right time on cue. The intelligent ones realise their lemming-like limitations and leave us all alone during August. I wish they all would.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Pulanamic Penetration Profiling

My new interest – like all my interests – is gathering pace rapidly. What I am particularly interested in is what I describe as the penetration profile. That is the variation of pellet penetration within the shot cloud and whether one could thus estimate the potential penetration profile for a given load.It has been demonstrated by Compton & Giblin3 that individual pellets within a shot cloud travel at varying velocity, and thus there will be a difference in the terminal velocity and energy of pellets within the shot cloud. Examples of differences in leading and trailing edge velocities and energy are shown in their report.Where Compton and Giblin illustrated a shot cloud profile as “a side-on view of the shot cloud in space”, I wanted to show a side-on view of the penetration of the shot cloud.They went on to say “The shot cloud profiles offer unprecedented detail in the quality control information that it can give, particularly with regard to the pellet energy variation within the shot cloud. They also made the point that their studies showed that there was no single value for the flight time of a given load to a particular range and that there can be significant differences between flight times of leading and trailing edge pellets in the shot cloud. Thus there can be no single velocity for a given range. They went on to show large calculated differences in the kinetic energy between leading and trailing edge pellets.In one example at 40 metres they calculated a difference of 20% in pellet kinetic energy between leading and trailing edge pellets. This possibly making part of the shot cloud ineffective.Unfortunately, the significance of shot cloud profiles and the variability of pellets within the shot cloud appears largely to have gone unnoticed by the great majority of shooters. Most shooters, probably unconsciously, assume that each and every pellet within the shot cloud has the same velocity and energy value at a given range. I know better. Ducks and geese beware.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The Big Bang

I used to be against the use of guns. Coming, as I do, from the city of Liverpool where drive-by shootings are now all too frequent, my delicate sensibilities were ingrained early. But now, as I settle back into the lifestyle of my adopted new home, I can begin to see some sense in the sport. Shooting requires great concentration, real physical strength, dogged determination and - not to put too fine a point upon it - something of the killer instinct too. I have previously assuaged my anger at stupid individuals in a repressed but harmless way. However Penny's advice is to vent my ire with force in future - and where better to do so than on my own doorstep. Thankfully Morebath sports one of the best shooting venues in the region. I have a number of targets in mind!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Life is a beach

I have long been an admirer of the Tudor historian Eamon Duffy and was delighted to acquire a copy of his excellent tome The Voices of Morebath. It will take pride of place in my saddle-bag as I traverse the lanes near Dulverton during the summer vacation. It is the story of how the tiny local parish of Morebath functioned in the 1520s, and how it survived the vicissitudes of the mid-Tudor period. In many ways this is the biography of one Christopher Trychay’s working life. He was the priest - a uniquely powerful figure. Indeed they called him "Sir" Christopher. What an excellent tradition to confer an honourary knighthood upon the leading figure in any community. How I wish it could be thus in this day and age. Sir Christopher was really Morebath's Chief Executive. He emerges as a strong, sometimes pedantic, occasionally difficult man, with a pithy and powerful turn of phrase. He had definite ideas about how his parishioners should behave, and he encouraged them to cooperate, not least by being as meticulous in his records of those who failed to contribute to parish expenses as he was in recording those who were more generous. It must remain questionable whether his parishioners followed his wishes out of devotion or constraint. But so what. To encourage allegiance it is sometimes necessary to cajole and threaten. I should know. I heartily recommend this book. Relish the detail as you read. It will massage the mind just as another element of Morebath life can also massage the soul. So if you spot my familiar handlebars leaning up against the railings at Whitehall Farmhouse don't be too surpised - a bit of therapy for the old energy field never comes amiss!

Friday, 1 August 2008

Leakers will be dealt with

The passing of information to outsiders is not only morally wrong it undermines the health and welfare of our efficient and excellent organisation. There is a strict policy of zero tolerance towards those who convey gossip and ill-digested facts to person or persons with motives that are, at the very least, dubious. Only the other day I was with a group of senior managers and made it absolutely clear that leakers will be dealt with severely. Even when I am not in the office I keep watch. Vacations make no difference. My influence reigns. There will be no hiding place for those who transgress my rules. FIFO is the rallying cry to colleagues and the abiding professional yardstick. Fit in or f*** off.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Letting the Brain take the Strain

Last week, in my regular bulletin to my loyal and admiring staff, I wrote about the extraordinary uplifting effect of endorphins. It is a phenomenum of which I have personal experience from my regular strenuous cycling exploits. The threshold of pain is a thing of the past to me. I have exceeded my own abilities and conquered the after effects. I would like to share some of my discoveries with you all and now reproduce a simple explanation of the chemical forces at work:

"Endorphins are natural pain killing substances found in the human brain. The name comes from endogenous (meaning within) and morphine (morphine being a pain killer). Endorphins are one of the neurotransmitters in the brain. Levels of endorphins in the brain may be changed by taking a number of drugs including alcohol, anabolic steroids and heroin and other opiates. Electro-acupuncture and binaural sound have been used to stimulate the production of endorphins. Time and again you've experienced the intense effects that food can have on your moods. Cakes, cookies, and fudge are known as pleasure foods not only because they delight your taste buds but because they can make you feel calm and happy - at least temporarily. This sugar induced sense of euphoria comes from several chemical mechanisms in your brain. First of all, the sheer pleasure of tasting a chocolate treat or powdery donut stimulates your brain's pleasure pathways and the release of dopamine and endorphins, the chemicals that makes you feel exhilarated. You also get a quick surge of energy as the sugar hits your bloodstream. In one study thirty patients had binaural sessions at a particular frequency and experienced relaxation states of 80-100% after five minutes as well as improved pain relief. Eight patients had blood tests before and after the sessions and showed improved beta-endorphin levels of 10-50%. A specific binaural frequency in the high beta range has been identified as the most potent stimulator of Endorphins."

One after-thought. Endorphins can have strange effects in other more personal areas of life. It is not something I would like to discuss in this forum but this link may be instructive.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Those nice folk at the Audit Commission have sent me a copy of their new discussion paper about the role of Chief Executives. It is aptly titled "Tougher at the Top". I intend to submit a great deal of evidence. I have been vilified and insulted by an ITV programme, subjected to insults by an ignorant MP, treated with contempt by some of my colleagues and undermined by a vicious little man who was, quite rightly, kicked out of the Liberal Democrats for his behaviour. And what behaviour. Read all about it

Thursday, 24 July 2008

ITV - The one NOT to watch

I did not have a copy of the 1714 Riot Act handy this afternoon, but I would happily have read it out loud to the nosey little madam who is producing tonight's so-called documentary about SouthWest One on ITV. Fiona, I said to her straight, you have lied. And I gave her a proper earful. Perhaps my tone would have landed me in deep water if she had been an employee. But, frankly, I wouldn't give her or her biased colleagues an interview, let alone a job. This programme is travesty of the truth, cobbled together by those who seek to denigrate one of the greatest experiments in local government innovation for decades. You would think that TV people from Bristol - once home to that renowned Victorian innovator I K Brunel - might be able to spot a genuine winner. Instead they are sniping from the sidelines, trying to poison the water not just for me but for the prosperity of the people of Somerset. I will not tolerate bad journalism served up in the name of public service. Be warned.

Behind the disguise?

I hate people who try to disguise their real identities. It is a dirty deceit and those who know me well will understand why I resent deceit of any kind. This picture is supposed to be Radovan Karadizc the Serbian ex President and war criminal. But it could equally well be Bill Oddie's uncle, a representative at the Lambeth Conference or even the scoundrel who is currently trying to impersonate my good friend and trusted colleague Roger Kershaw.

Make-overs and make-ups

Oh what japes yesterday! It gave me a secret twinge of joy to know that the journalists who turned up in the faint hope of seeing me squirm in the council chamber were, themselves, about to fall victim to my own cunning powers.

My able deputy David Taylor told one of the gutter press that I was in London. My loyal press office told another that I had taken time off for illness. And the truth was I was actually selecting decoration for the new house! There is a great deal to do. Walls to be knocked down, doors to be changed, fittings to be added and space to be made. I anticipate stress on a very grand scale as Farrow and Ball move in with pigs' bristles at the ready.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The S Word

....and it isn't Strategy or Synthesis.

The word I have in mind (and mind is the operative extra word ) describes in six lettered, stark simplicity the appalling toll of hard work and pressure upon the human psyche. I confess to being a sufferer. I can no longer suffer in silence.

It is high time for me to seek professional help

I have struggled for too long and without sympathy

My hope is that the cynical political classes will take my case seriously

We, who are driven low by the pressures of power, have to alter our lifestyles

My mission is to get well as quickly as I can and return to the task of transforming local government. Happily there are failsafe systems already in place that will compensate me for as long as my recovery takes. Of course this is a costly process and it may prove more intelligent to create a situation in which I may be allowed to leave in comfort and with no hard feelings. But this, for the moment at least, is a stressful thought in itself. May your prayers be with me.

Dulverton deserves my favourite Geeks

A sudden brainwave struck me. I was about to grease the gear nipples on my new racing pride and joy when it came to me: why not get some top class talent involved in the Dulverton Parish Plan. I met the two bright young sparks in the picture when I was fact-finding in California. So I will be sending word to Larry and Sergey to get on over and help. Mr Page and Mr Brin know a thing or two about picking up a good idea and making it run. They have become firm friends over the years and, I know, regard me as a little bit of a mentor. More to the point I am absolutely sure they would jump at the chance of doing something positive for me and for my new town. I seem to remember that Google was once subjected to Government legal action in America but stood up to the threats with great robustity and won the case. That's the spirit! The idea of bringing them in to Dulverton has cheered me up a great deal. Life has been tough lately. The pressures remain enormous. And, as with all such challenges, the costs emerge as stress. I admit it. I have become a victim of this malady and I need time to put things straight. I hope it will not be necessary to take too much time off, but my medical advisors will surely want me to recuperate completely if I am to work at my usual pace and efficiency. If I miss the final session of full council tomorrow do not be surprised. I will be here at home, gazing at the Google boys signed photograph which now has pride of place on the dresser in the kitchen.

Dulverton Parish Plan

My new neighbours have been telling me all about their plans for the lovely parish of Dulverton. I must concede that the idea of canvassing ideas from the public is sometimes strewn with danger, but in this case the rewards outweigh the risks. Thus 600 different positive responses have been submitted to the Town Council committee charged with producing a long term plan. I will help all I can. My experience shows the need for active input in the area of strategic planning. I believe that the use of reliable contractors can also help, provided the elements of risk management and business realisation are cemented into any agreement at an early stage. Dulverton deserves the best. I hope to attract global players to assist the town in achieving the ambitions of greatness to which we should all aspire. My very good and loyal senior colleagues at the County will do all they can to oil the wheels and secure a fine future for everyone.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

A Moving Experience

The time has come to admit the truth. I have, at last, transferred my home and its many practical and sentimental chattels to the lovely town of Dulverton. The little house in Wivey is still for sale - perhaps one day it will sport a blue plaque with the legend "A Jones Resided Here". I am, as ever, open to all offers - or, indeed, belated house-warming presents. Friends have asked me how I can contemplate the daily journey to Taunton. Surely, they say, Dulverton to Taunton is not a leisurely bicycle ride. Oh ye of little faith. I take my lead from the tireless Mark Cavendish and my strength from the power of self belief. I owe much to Assos, of course. My incredulous critics will only marvel at my abilities in the saddle. Dulverton today. The world tomorrow. Meantime I have decided to become involved in the community of my new town. It seems to me that the Dulverton Trust, for example, is in urgent need of some professional help. Sometimes it vexes me that places like Dulverton - beautiful as they are - fail to receive the recognition they deserve. I will take it up with my new Member of Parliament, whosoever that may be.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Return of the Luddites?

I was brought up with respect for straight forward economics. You could not honestly have what you couldn't afford in the poor Liverpool of my childhood. Today and tomorrow many of the key workers in this County have decided to take industrial action. They want more money. But they have failed to spot the obvious flaw - we cannot afford the pay increase that is being demanded. It is no good them bleating about the large increases already awarded to senior personnel. Senior players make senior contributions - that is why they are recompensed. If we failed to buy the highest calibre of leadership we would end up with incompetence or anarchy. And even if all the Chief Executives in England were deprived of their justifed annual rises it wouldn't come anywhere near meeting Unison's unreasonable demands. What saddens me is the short-sightedness of those who have chosen to withdraw their labour. IBM does not suffer from strikes. Indeed it may be that the future direction of employment with SouthWest One will have to take account of such risks. Perhaps binding contracts are necessary. Maybe confidentiality agreements should be standard. Loose talk is costly. And industrial action is neither acceptable nor sensible. That is why I am at my desk as usual today. You will not catch me warming my hands on a picket line brazier.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Hot wheels

Mark Cavendish proved again that he is the fastest
sprinter in the world by dominating his rivals in the final 50 metres of yesterday's eighth stage of the 2008 Tour de France. 24-year-old Mike exploded out of the pack and crossed the finish line nearly two bicycle lengths ahead of his Team Columbia teammate Gerald Ciolek of Germany to record his second stage win of this year's Tour. Frenchman Jimmy Casper finished third. "It was really fast," Cavendish said after the race. "I was too far back at the last curve and too far back when the sprint started. So I began the sprint early and built up a lot of speed. I'm so fast that I can make up ground."

I know exactly how you felt Mark....and I was with you all the way in spirit. A great job well done. My sentiments exactly. And may I recommend my favourite product: Assos - a suggestive name, maybe, but at less than a tenner a tub it really does the business and it is so simple to apply (ask my PA)

Friday, 11 July 2008

Trimmed with Ermine

It was such a positive pleasure to meet Paul Hanningfield and his colleagues. Paul can trace his ancestors back a full five hundred years in that part of the County of Essex. Hanningfield is the very district from which he took his baronial title when he was elevated to the peerage. Lord Hanningfield, however, displays no airs and graces these days. He is the leader of a very large county council with challenges which resonate here too. Essex may once have presented an image of poorly-constructed Ford cars and young ladies more given to frolic than academic fancy. But this is a huge county of varieties. The task for Essex county council is to spend public money wisely. And that's why Paul and his far-sighted colleagues came to talk to us. SouthWest One may be born here in Taunton but we are happy to welcome all customers - especially when led by such a splendid member of the House of Lords! It is easy, when you meet him, to understand why
he was recommended for an honour. His untiring work in the community surely clinched it. Local Government can be a hard and anonymous calling. Perhaps you can think of other such unsung heroes who deserve recognition. Thankfully, these days, anyone can be nominated , even me.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

My Hero

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown may choose to liken himself to the dour and unsmiling Heathcliffe. Perhaps we all seek Solace in another identity? Mine is - as you would expect - loyal to the corporate cause. I am a committed romantic both at heart and in reality. My choice for hero, doppelganger and role model must go to the incomparable Mr D'Arcy. He, the true gentleman as well as the courageous champion. He, the model man most discerning women would rather be with and breed from. Colin Firth is popularly known as IBM -Ideal Breeding Material. The character he portrayed is strong, kind, generous and fair. In all my work it is my business to make big dreams become true. Surely this cruel world can allow me a small personal dream of my own. It would be Prejudice not to. And it is not a matter of Pride.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Getting Geared Up for the Big One

I was always a proud Sturmey-Archer sort of chap. I backed British. But as the race game becomes ever tougher (and when the Tour de France makes it down to Somerset again you will be able to see exactly what I am talking about) the job of keeping everything well oiled is becoming still more complex. I know. I ride. And I read the learned publications with special care too. The International Journal of Urology has just issued a treatise about the bodily risks of riding. Surgeon Vinod Nargund, from St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, said that cycling restricts blood flow and generates excessive heat. This could result in men having difficulty with erections. More than 60% of male cyclists experience genital numbness, according to Mr Nargund. He is, I am sure, not far off the mark. But perhaps fellow occupants of the racing saddle would like to know my secret - chamois cream. This splendid substance lubricates parts that might otherwise uncomfortably chafe. I invite all comers to apply it liberally and I raise my glass to its inventor. Bottoms up!