Thursday, 18 December 2008
Friday, 5 December 2008
Friday, 28 November 2008
Thursday, 27 November 2008
"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
"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. "
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
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
Thursday, 30 October 2008
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
Friday, 17 October 2008
Thursday, 16 October 2008
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
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
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
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
Thursday, 2 October 2008
"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
Friday, 26 September 2008
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Thursday, 18 September 2008
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
Chair of Remuneration Committee
Capital Asset Management Sub-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
Monday, 8 September 2008
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Thursday, 28 August 2008
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
Thursday, 14 August 2008
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
Sunday, 10 August 2008
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
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
Monday, 4 August 2008
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
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
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
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.
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 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.
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.
Sunday, 20 July 2008
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Sunday, 13 July 2008
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)