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Lib Dems Support Aldermen’s Letter of Concern Over Staff Morale at GBC

Published on: 19 Jul, 2012
Updated on: 19 Jul, 2012

Cllr Mark Chapman

Liberal Democrat councillors have come out publicly in support of the letter sent by seven Aldermen concerned by staff morale at Guildford Borough Council to Council Leader Tony Rooth. This follows Cllr Rooth’s response to the Aldermen in which he refused to admit to any validity of the Aldermen’s view.

The Lib Dem spokesman, Cllr Mark Chapman (Westborough), deputy leader of the Lib Dem group in a signed statement wrote: “Liberal Democrat councillors share the concerns of the Honorary Aldermen: staff morale at the Borough Council is low and some highly regarded officers have left or retired early. The matter is so serious that the Liberal Democrat group has already offered to work with the two other political parties on this issue…”

In his earlier response Tony Rooth stated that he was “disappointed that you [the Aldermen] continue to set store on the dissemination of gossip and innuendo, rather than the facts of the Council’s culture and achievements”.

Council Leader Tony Rooth

In an apparent reference to the suspension in March of Strategic Director Jim Miles, for reasons that have still not been admitted, he writes: “Even when we have a legitimate dispute with an individual employee we always seek to resolve this in a respectful and confidential manner. It does however mean that we are sometimes limited in refuting wild speculation about some individual staffing matters as happened earlier this year.”

Claiming staff loyalty, Cllr Rooth continued to state staff have shown: “commitment and enthusiasm at a time when central government has cut our grant by almost one third, and imposed a two year pay freeze”.

He concludes: “It is a pity that you have decided to base your overall picture of the Council on anonymous and disaffected sources rather than relying on independent, external verification and the collective achievements of our staff and councillors.”

Below is the response from Council Leader, Tony Rooth, and the Lib Dem press release, both in full.

Response from Cllr Tony Rooth

Dear Alderman Bridger and other Aldermen

I and some of the Executive received your letter dated 4 July only on Monday 9 July and we are disappointed that you continue to set store on the dissemination of gossip and innuendo, rather than the facts of the Council’s culture and achievements.

There are a number of comments I would like to make but will restrict myself to a few essential points.

1.  We pride ourselves on the respectful nature of our relationship with our staff.  Even when we have a legitimate dispute with an individual employee we always seek to resolve this in a respectful and confidential manner.   It does however mean that we are sometimes limited in refuting wild speculation about some individual staffing matters as happened earlier this year. 

2.  We do expose ourselves to independent, external assessment of our management practices and organisational culture through our Investors’ in People accreditation.  Just over five years ago, before David Hill joined us as Chief Executive, we were at risk of failing to comply with the standard.  Under his leadership of our workforce, we have made a number of significant changes to our management and staff development practices.  The independent report on our IiP assessment report last year stated that “it identified improvements in the leadership, management and development of people.”  Informally the assessor told us that we have made “unbelievable progress” over the past few years.   On this basis we are now working on a plan to achieve the Gold standard of accreditation.

3.  Anyone interested in the health of the Council and the quality of the services we provide to our residents cannot fail to have noticed that we have just completed one of the most successful years in our history.  Conservative Councillors were clear that replacing the old Civic Hall was one of our major priorities over the past few years and our officers and advisors have delivered an incredible new building ahead of time and under budget.  We have also become the only district council in the country to achieve a triple-A credit rating and only the fifth council of any type in the country to achieve the prestigious Customer Service Excellence standard for the whole council.  This list of achievements includes being officially rated the best performing kerb-side recycling service in the country,  in the top ten for all councils in council tax collection ,winning new awards or external accreditation for many of our services and freezing our council tax to our residents for the last 2 years-I could go on….

These achievements in a climate of challenge and change would not be possible without the continuing commitment and contribution of an outstanding staff team.  Our staffhave maintained their loyalty, commitment and enthusiasm at a time when central government has cut our grant by almost one third, and imposed a two year pay freeze on our staff.  This must go at least some way to demonstrating the quality of leadership and management of our workforce by our loyal and devoted Chief Executive and the wider team of managers in the Council.

It is a pity that you have decided to base your overall picture of the Council on anonymous and disaffected sources rather than relying on independent, external verification and the collective achievements of our staff and councillors.

Yours sincerely

Cllr. Tony Rooth

Leader, Guildford Borough Council

In response to letter from Honorary Aldermen

Liberal Democrat councillors share the concerns of the Honorary Aldermen: staff morale at the Borough Council is low and some highly regarded officers have left or retired early. The matter is so serious that the Liberal Democrat group has already offered to work with the two other political parties on this issue as we have no wish for the issue to become politicised.

However the Aldermen’s letter means that the public are now fully aware of the issue and how respected former Councillors are so worried that they have felt they had to make their concerns public – no doubt a difficult decision to make.

We would like to reassure residents and staff that we do take this seriously. We hope the Executive will take action following the Honorary Aldermen’s letter, and work with all the political groups to address these concerns.

Cllr Mark Chapman, Deputy Group Leader, Liberal Democrat Group

Both Tony Rooth and Mark Chapman were invited to give further comment. Cllr Rooth said he had nothing further to add. Cllr Chapman was unavailable.

Click here to see ‘Alderman Write of Grave Concern for Council Officers’ Morale’

What are your views? Do you work at GBC or know someone who does? Are the Aldermen and the Lib Dem councillors right to be so concerned or are the claims exaggerated? Please comment using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below.

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test One Response to Lib Dems Support Aldermen’s Letter of Concern Over Staff Morale at GBC

  1. Cllr Angela Gunning

    July 23, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    The Labour group is of course deeply concerned with these allegations and the alleged state of GBC morale. However until we have concrete facts as opposed to hearsay or gossip, it is wrong for us to cast judgement or guilt on anyone. To do so would be to politicize what is undoubtedly a very delicate and complicated issue, the actual existence of which is still to be determined. With this in mind, we would welcome an independent enquiry in order to clear the air and set the record straight.

    Cllr Gunning is leader of the Labour Group at GBC