Tuesday 11 August 2015

Aspirations, cycles and indicators

Towards the end of last week a press release was published on the council website announcing that the Annual Report and Improvement Plan had been published, I've mentioned this before as it has been some weeks wending it's was through the corporate channels.

This is the weighty document which the council is required to publish but nobody reads. For that reason a Summary is published, which also no one reads. A bit like the Carms News except it's not forced through the letter box.

To try and get anyone to read it, an even shorter version is supplied to the press office. It talks briefly about 'Key Improvement Objective Priorities' or KIOPs for short (I prefer Key Resource Allocation Priorities, or KRAP for short).

It mentions 'improvement cycles' and 'performance indicators' and of course 'severe budgetary constraints' and contains side by side, ridiculously unlikely 'quotes' from new Executive Board Deputy Leader buddies, Cllr Pam Palmer (Ind) and Cllr Dai Jenkins (Plaid).

In other words, the usual meaningless waffle. The six KIOPs are the six 'priorities' for the forthcoming year and are probably (apart from perhaps the second one) found in council 'priority' lists across the UK, after all, these are are standard expectations and you're unlikely to find a list aspiring to provide the opposite;

Delivering value for money and directing resources to front line services
Reviewing governance, decision making, openness and transparency
Supporting older people to maintain dignity and independence
Improving council housing stock and helping people access affordable homes
Improving school achievements
Tackling poverty

One can understand the Council churning out this predictable aspirational nonsense but I was quite struck when I read exact copies of the press release in the local press; Unquestioned and word-for-word. Even down to using "All actions and targets in the plan will be monitored throughout the year and reported on at year-end"
'Year-end'? 'End of the year' at least, surely.
As a rule, if a council press release is not related to a local flower show or a changes to bin collections, it is usually worth closer inspection to detect possible spin and excessive jargon before re-publication.

Anyway, back to those KIOPs. Naturally they include the stock phrases, 'delivering value for money', 'frontline services' and 'tackling poverty' to tick the right boxes and keep those 'external regulators' who 'validate this self-assessment' happy. We'll have to wait and see if the new Plaid 'led' administration immediately introduce the Living Wage and non-evictions for bedroom tax - two issues they campaigned for when in opposition...no sign so far though.

Hopefully 'delivering value for money' doesn't still include fraudulent payments to bump up the chief executive's salary such as paying his legal bills or providing him with a tax avoidance scheme. And presumably 'frontline services' doesn't still include the pet rugby club or swanky hotels.

The priorities to 'support older people' and 'helping people access affordable homes' are interesting as a brief delve into council minutes reveal which way the wind is blowing. For both of these the council is looking to outsource remaining services, either through a 'social enterprise scheme' or a 'wholly owned company'.

Whichever way you look at it, and the track record of Carmarthenshire promises neither due diligence nor a transparent process, the wheels are already in motion; the Leisure department is on the cards to be offloaded into a trust and democratic accountability and control will be reduced even further and profit rather than public service will become the priority.

The second KIOP is one of those priorities which apply exclusively to Carmarthenshire. I've probably said quite a bit about all that already...but notably, the recommendation for 'culture change' is again missing. The rules can be tinkered with and the deckchairs rearranged, but to change a culture as toxic and as ingrained as that found in Carmarthenshire is impossible with the cause of all the trouble still steering the Titanic. And no sign of a mutiny...


Anonymous said...

“Delivering value for money and directing resources to front line services”
How does this tally with the soon-to-retire Eifion Bowen being promoted to Acting Director of Environment to increase his final salary pension, which of course is paid for by Carmarthenshire tax payers?

Anonymous said...

How bad is that.All at the tax-payers expense.