Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: There Is Something Wrong

Published on: 17 Jul, 2012
Updated on: 20 Jul, 2012

There is something wrong at Guildford Borough Council. So say seven Alderman who between them have decades of experience of council affairs. Five of the seven served as town mayors and all have been recognised for their service to the town.  Few could doubt their loyalty to Guildford, their concern for the way that it is run and, indeed, its future. These are concerns all responsible Guildford residents should share.

So what is causing such disquiet among these former councillors that they have felt provoked enough to speak out about the state of the Borough Council? What is it that they regard as so serious they have written a letter they say is unprecedented?

Over several years, they have detected a decline in morale among many of the council officers they know well, officers who have given good service to council taxpayers.

Those affected officers seem apprehensive, fearful of complaining openly in case their livelihoods are threatened. Rightly or wrongly, they seem to have no faith in the existing whistleblower process. This is not healthy and it is not right.

Discipline can be instilled by fear but it is never as effective as the discipline that comes from loyalty and a pride in one’s organisation.

Of course, it is always easy to make exaggerated claims and criticisms. In any organisation, some complaints will naturally arise, especially when what are uncomfortable, if necessary, organisational changes are underway.

It is a truism that leadership and management are not popularity contests but neither must they become exhibitions of machismo where power and authority are exercised for something other than the good of the whole and where any dissenting voice is stamped on without due consideration.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS has spoken to many councillors, from all parties, and council officers over the past months and we can report that the views and concerns of the seven aldermen reflect accurately, those expressed to us privately.

It is not a fashionable view to support public workers but they deserve decent treatment; without their work the town would not function and many of them are on modest pay, so modest some even qualify for income support.

The staff always have the option to quit, of course, but even if they are prepared to up sticks and move to a job with another council, with all the associated disruption and expense, most alternative councils are not recruiting in these cash-strapped times.

The suggestion for an independent review or investigation is a good one. How else can the citizens of Guildford be assured that our council is being managed responsibly, ethically and sensibly?

Many councillors do already feel a responsibility for the well-being of GBC employees at all levels. So they should. The responsibility for the employment of council officers might have been entirely delegated to the Chief Executive legally, through his contract, but morally, at least, the councillors still have a duty of care. We should all share their concern and expect some action.

What do you think? Were the Aldermen right to send and publicise their letter or are their claims exaggerated or wrong? Do you work at GBC or know someone who does? Please write in by email or using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below and share your views.

Share This Post

Responses to The Dragon Says: There Is Something Wrong

  1. Vivienne Johnson

    July 19, 2012 at 7:45 am

    I was very saddened to learn recently that the joint committee between the Council’s employers, i.e. the councillors, and the staff, including union representatives, has not met for years.

    For some time I chaired that committee, which was cross-party. It made every effort to be aware of what made the organisation tick – the union reps made sure of that! I do recognize that resurrecting such a forum would be a waste of time unless the leaders genuinely cared how staff feel, but it is surely indicative of an attitude from the top that it no longer exists. Shame.

    [Hon. Alderman Vivienne Johnson was one of the signatories to the letter sent by seven Aldermen to Council Leader Tony Rooth. Ed.]