Council customers put last, says chief

A SEVERE attack has been launched against the management culture at Suffolk County Council – by the organisation’s own chief executive Andrea Hill.

In two memos to staff, Mrs Hill said the council was more keen to please the regulator than the customer.

And she said council officers were afraid to take risks and were not responsive enough to the needs of Suffolk residents.

She warned there would have to be major changes in the years ahead as Government funding was seriously squeezed.

The comments come in memos distributed to senior staff at the county in February and March this year as councillors were looking at ways of keeping the budget down.

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Mrs Hill wrote: “We have an overly complex and sophisticated organisation that will not be fit for purpose in the new era. In particular, inspection, monitoring, performance management, scrutiny, risk and audit have begun to dominate the local government culture to such an extent that our council is now more focused on the regulator than the customer.”

She believes that the council has worked well within the framework laid down by the Government – but that has not necessarily been good for Suffolk residents.

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“It [the council] is also over-elaborate, difficult for us and our customers to understand, risk adverse, full of process, slow to respond, and insufficiently responsive to different needs in different local communities.”

Looking ahead, Mrs Hill wants the council to become more focused on the needs of Suffolk residents and less on worrying about the regulator.

She wants to set up more joint offices across the county with other public sector organisations including district councils, health services and police.

And she warns that some jobs will be lost in restructuring.

She said: “In many cases the jobs we have to do in the future are different to those we do now. This means some people will no longer have a place in the organisation.

“That does not make them bad people and we don’t want them to feel judged.”

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said the political leadership of the council was fully behind Mrs Hill’s efforts to reform the organisation.

He said: “We have to spend �6.5 million a year on scrutiny, audit, and pleasing the regulators – with that money we could fill in 600,000 potholes!

“There has to be some monitoring, but the level that is required by this government is frankly stifling the way we work.”

Opposition leader Kathy Pollard said Mrs Hill’s comments were a clear attack on the way the council had to be run.

She said: “This really is quite strong stuff from the chief – but it does show she sees that change is needed.”

The letters were sent anonymously to the newspaper, apparently from someone who is concerned about the impact on changes on the staff at Endeavour House.

The writer said: “This will put significant number of experienced, loyal council employees out of work or at the mercy of their new ‘private’ employers.”

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