I am appalled at the remarks that Shropshire Council leader made on BBC Radio Shropshire this morning. His response to the failure of the council under his leadership to work within budget has led to a recruitment freeze. That means we won’t have the staff to deliver services. What does Nutting say? Staff will have to run a little faster. Why shouldn’t they. That’s the world we live in.
This is the same Peter Nutting that refused to come Ludlow to discuss the row over parking charges because he needed a week off. It’s deckchairs on the beach for Nutting. But it is a speeded up treadmill for staff.
The first rule of any leadership role is not to blame staff for the problems in the organisation. I go to Shirehall regularly and work with council officers every day (including weekends when there are urgent problems). They work incredibly hard. I get emails at midnight from senior executives and before I wake up in the morning. We have dealt with confidential casework to secure safeguarding in the last week on a 24 hour basis.
Peter Nutting has the wrong attitude to staff. After the horrors of the Barrow Era, when staff were “bullied” – this word was used by one of the most senior officers – and everyone was sacked and reengaged on lower wages, staff have been treated better. I pay tribute to the chief executive for that and all the officers that have not fled to better employers.
When I first walked into Shirehall as an elected councillor, I saw a display cabinet with the prizes and awards the former county council had won over the years. There was not a single prize for the unitary authority because the whole operation was being wound down by the political leadership. Now prizes are coming back because we have good teams working flat out. But Peter Nutting says they need to go faster. Faster than fast.
Peter refuses to blame the government for its swingeing cuts to budgets. He holds out hope for the government giving a deal that will give enough money to Shropshire. We will be waiting for that pig to fly forever.
A recruitment freeze often occurs in January. My diary says it is now August. This is the earliest recruitment freeze I can recall anywhere in local or national government.
Shropshire Council is not like Northamptonshire, which is a shipwreck. But we should treat our staff well. Telling them to run faster is a Dickensian approach to employment. I am embarrassed to part of a council whose leader has this attitude.