Another day, another restructure – but this is one with a difference, they are spending more money! (on senior managers….)
A restructure of the senior managers at the Council has been announced which means the directorates are also changing. The proposal keeps Adult Social Care and Children’s Social Care largely intact, but Neighbourhoods and Growth will be split between a Strategic Director of Growth and Employment and another area ominously called Chief Operating Officer (“Which directorate do you work in?” “Oh I work in the Chief Operating Officer”). Dean Shoesmith, the head of HR, said that the Chief Executive wanted a “US style” model of a Chief Operating Office for Housing Management, Environment and Business and Customers Services (including libraries). This COO will drive through facilities management in the borough – a “dedicated and integrated service dealing with customers”.
Corporate resources is undergoing a change as well – renamed the Finance and Investment directorate focusing on “finance and property services a new business and improvement function and HR and organisational development.” Homes for Lambeth is also due to be up and running soon and in some way attached to the Growth and Economy directorate.
UNISON has raised questions about how the recent Business Support and N&G restructure fits into all of this.
However, looking at the finances reveals a most unpleasant ‘surprise’ – this restructure will cost the Council an additional £300,000! This is the first restructure since austerity began in 2010 which will cost the council more money. Once again we see that the Council makes huge cuts among lower graded staff in the Neighbourhoods and Growth restructure – particularly affecting black staff – and yet the cash available for the top echelons of the council seems to be almost boundless.
UNISON has been assured that the second phase of the restructure, affecting Assistant Directors, PO7-PO9 posts, will save a million pounds – that is a lot of senior managers losing their posts to cover those kinds of ‘savings’.
The Council’s new direction – profit and the private sector
The introduction to the business case by Andrew Travers is most revealing. Picking up on the themes that he developed during his staff conferences a few months back, Travers develops his argument that the Council is undergoing an “incremental retreat” from the Co-operative model towards a new way of working which he defines as “place optimisation and entrepreneurship”. Goodness only knows what “place optimisation” means, but the entrepreneurship refers to the strategic model of the council whereby we are essentially here to ensure that the local business economy can grow.
This is part of the Tory strategy of transforming local government into an engine fueling private sector growth. The strategic directors business case indicates that the “core roles” of the council will be limited to SEND, child protection and adult social care – the bits that cannot generate profit or be realistically privatised. The rest of the council is about ‘facilities management’ to ‘deliver the conditions to attract investment’.
Furthermore, the Council “needs to have an entrepreneurial and commercial approach to ensure that the borough can maintain and increase its competitive advantage in London.”
All of this is a move away from the public sector ethos of service delivery and towards a model of local government where we are reducible to our capacity to foster the growth of local business. There is a financial benefit to doing this for the Council – soon we will receive almost no money from central government so we will have to rely only on the money we can generate locally. More private sector enterprises doing well means more business tax to pay for our “core services”.
This restructure therefore has to be seen in the context of the recent workforce strategy document which the Council has produced. Putting corporation needs before individual rights at work in the context of boosting the local capitalist economy.
Is that the kind of local government that we want?