Council should be regarded as ‘football club’ says cabinet member as organisational shake-up approved

JPCT 17-08-12 S12330140X Horsham, Horsham District Council, office building, HDC -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 17-08-12 S12330140X Horsham, Horsham District Council, office building, HDC -photo by Steve Cobb

The council should be thought of as a football club with the manager getting the sack if it performs badly - according to one cabinet member.

Horsham District Council almost unanimously approved a shake-up of its organisational structure, which included axing 29 posts and annual savings of £200,000.

According to chief executive Tom Crowley changes would make the authority ‘fit for purpose’ as part of its business transformation programme.

However during the debate tonight (Wednesday January 22) Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East), cabinet member for the environment, called parts of previous re-organisations ‘absolutely stupid’, and said the new council motto should be ‘just bloody do it’.

Mr Baldwin said: “This time we have to make it very clear to the chief executive and directors that this restructure must, and I emphasise must, be a success otherwise we will have to get rid of them. It’s not negotiable. Enough is enough, we must no longer tolerate failure.

“We have to take this opportunity to offload any remaining bean counters, bureaucrats, administrators and people who talk a lot but achieve very little.”

He continued: “If people cannot deliver or do what is expected we must get rid of them.

“We should regard the council as being like a football club. And everyone knows what happens to the manager if the club gets poor results or performs badly.

“If the chief executive, or any director or head of service is underperforming then later this year I will propose a vote of no confidence in them.”

David Holmes (LDem, Horsham Park) had started off the debate by saying that while he had spoken against previous restructuring, he thought this one was ‘well considered’ and welcomed it.

Dr Holmes added: “The council has got it badly wrong before – this time it must get it right.

“It owes this to the people of the district.”

Sue Rogers (Con, Steyning), cabinet member for a safer and healthier district, said she disagreed with Mr Baldwin’s comments, and that all of the staff she worked with were ‘very dedicated to the people of our district’.

Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) added: “This is management of change and management of change is one of the most difficult things you can do and needs to be done extremely well.”

Total redundancy payments will be in the region of £550,000, with the new structure expected to be in place by this summer.

Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park) told members that the recent ‘omnishambles’ within the planning department called for a shake-up, while Leonard Crosbie asked the chief executive if £200,000 annual savings merited the proposed changes.

Mr Crowley answered: “It goes back to one of the first things I said, it’s not solely about saving money, it’s ensuring we have a structure that’s fit for purpose.”

“As head of paid service the buck stops with me. I fully accept I have a responsibility if we approve this structure it delivers,” he added.

“It’s tough in local government at the moment and most of you have got private sector backgrounds. The reality of a squeeze in public sector finance means that things are tough in local government and everyone needs to recognise that.”