Friday, 24 November 2017

Shaking Up Glasgow

Glasgow City Council has called in the Improvement Service to help make the council a more 'open and transparent' when it comes to making important decisions. 

Now that's a good thing if you ask me, although I have my doubts about the ability of the Improvement Service to turn things around because if you ask me this 'quango' does not have much of a track record in Scottish local government over the years.

I've written about COSLA and the Improvement Service many times on the blog site during the long fight for equal pay and I'm re-publishing some of these posts from the blog site archive.

So, whether the Improvement Service helps to improve anything remains to be seen - all I can say is that Glasgow City Council remains as secretive and uncooperative as ever when it comes to explaining how the interests of traditional male jobs were 'looked after' under its WPBR pay scheme.

Which is why my FOI campaign in Glasgow is beginning to crank up into top gear.


Glasgow - Walking vs Running (31/10/17)

I read this article in The Evening Times about making Glasgow City Council more 'open and transparent' - and said to myself:

"God above! The City Council can't even get its act together to arrange an important meeting or provide crucial data on equal pay, so maybe it would be better if Glasgow learned  to walk before it started to run."

Shake-up set to make Glasgow City Council 'more open'
By Stewart Paterson @PatersonHT - The Evening Times

Susan Aitken

A SHAKE-UP of how Glasgow City Council comes to decisions, to make it as open and transparent as possible, is being planned.

The man charged with reviewing past decision of Labour run administrations, by new council leader Susan Aitken, has set out the remit of his Review of Governance.

The council said it wants to be “world class” in openness and transparency allowing the public, community groups and the media to be engaged in how the decision making process works.

Colin Mair, chief executive of the Improvement Service, has been appointed to lead the review and he will recommend changes for how councillors and officials go about their business.

The Evening Times revealed last month how Mr Mair would delve into previous decisions to uncover any practices that are considered out of step with the transparency aims of the new council administration.

His role has been dubbed a “transparency tsar” to remove any cloak of secrecy over decisions of the council that affect citizens.

Labour said it had no problems with its decisions being put under scrutiny.

He has now produced the proposed remit of his review which is to go before councillors this week for approval.

Mr Mair will also review the “whistleblowing” arrangements for council staff and the public to raise concerns.

In his report to councillors he said: “Given the financial challenges of the next five years, the administration is fully committed to engaging openly with communities of place and communities of interest in addressing the challenges and opportunities facing the city.”

“It wants the council’s decisions to be fully explained and for sufficient information to be available for citizens to challenge, or campaign against them, if they wish to do so.”

Mr Mair’s remit will be to “review past governance and decision making” and to learn lessons for the future.

He will advise on what structures the council should adopt to ensure it is open, transparent and geared up for community participation in the decision making process and open to scrutiny.

Mr Mair will also make recommendations to councillors and council officials on their role and relationship and responsibilities.

He said he will examine the council’s communication methods with the public and the media and how open it is.

It is proposed that an all party group of councillors will oversee the review and a final report by Mr Mair will be submitted to the full council for approval.

He will hold face to face meetings with community groups, voluntary organisations, businesses and the media to gather suggestions and recommendations.

He said there will be a social media platform set up to allow the public to raise their individual concerns and to make their own suggestions for how the council can improve.

Interesting 'Bomb Pattern' (25/08/11)

I visited the web site of the Improvement Service (IS) a few weeks ago.

The Improvement Service is an unelected public body - set up by COSLA and the Scottish government some years ago - with the aim of helping local councils to improve local services - by adopting best practice and becoming more efficient.

Interestingly the membership of the IS board is shown as follows: 
  • Pat Watters, Chair, COSLA
  • Rory Mair, COSLA
  • Colin Mair, Improvement Service
  • Gavin Whitefield, SOLACE
  • Mary Pitcaithly, SOLACE
  • Bernadette Malone, SOLACE
  • Tina Yule, SOLACE
  • Robert Murray, COSLA
  • David O'Neil, COSLA

  • Colin Mair is the chief executive of the Improvement Service - brother of Rory Mair, chief executive of COSLA.
  • SOLACE stands for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives - and as far as I know the named representatives on the IS board are all serving council chief executives.
  • Pat Watters is President of COSLA and is a senior Labour councillor in South Lanarkshire Council.
  • David O'Neil is a senior Labour councillor from North Ayrshire Council.
  • Rob Murray is a COSLA Vice President and is a senior SNP councillor from Angus Council.  
So I make that: 6 chief executives, 2 brothers, 2 Labour councillors and 1 SNP councillor.

Interesting 'bomb pattern' - for an unelected public body - as a character in Joseph Heller's Catch 22 might have said.

Save Money, Shut COSLA (28/01/12) 

I've just had a brainwave on the subject of 'pain free' cuts.

Why doesn't Scottish local government do the hard pressed council tax payer a favour - and save money by shutting down COSLA in its present form at least.

The self-styled voice of Scotland's 32 local councils - is a total irrelevance these days.

What with a five year council tax freeze - what is COSLA's purpose and role - because no one seems to be taking its leadership seriously. 

No pay bargaining taking place for quite some time - and that's likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.

So what does everyone at COSLA do with their time - other than talk a great fight about  COSLA's role in a mythical partnership with the Scottish Government?

I imagine lots of people go to lots of meetings - but do these meetings produce anything besides vast quantities of hot air.

What it all costs is shrouded in mystery - but the big question is - 'How can it possibly be good value for public money?'

Even COSLA's partner body - the Improvement Service (IS) - has failed to make much of an impact.

Because the IS has been unable to persude COSLA's member councils - to do anything really meaningful on the shared services agenda.

The wizard idea is that councils would pool resources on bakroom services - like payroll and IT - in order to make better use of scarce resources.

But the big project based on Glasgow and several neighbouring councils in west and central Scotland - went down like the proverbial lead balloon.

COSLA is nothing like the voice it was in the days of the Scottish Constitutional Convention - when COSLA carried undouted influence - when major figures like Charlie Gray spoke - with real authority and were greatly admired.

But no longer because times have changed - yet COSLA has not moved with the times - these days it's like the local government equivalent of - the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club.

Here's a piece I wrote recently - explaining why things have got into such a mess.

Deck of Cards (September 23rd 2011)

According to The Herald yesterday the much vaunted plan by councils in the west of Scotland - to 'share services' and make better use of public money - is now officially a dead duck.

Glasgow is the latest council to pull out of the so-called - 'Clyde Valley Review'.

Which promised a new era of co-operation amongst councils - by eliminating duplication and pooling backroom office functions - such as payroll and information technology.

But after months and years of talking - the whole project has collapsed - like a house of cards.

The death knell was finally sounded yesterday - when Glasgow City Council announced that it too was pulling out.

COSLA and its partner body - the Improvement Agency - must be wondering why they have spent so much time and energy pushing an agenda - that nobody seems to support.

More evidence to show that COSLA - simply isn't punching its weight these days.

Councils and Cold Feet (20th September 2011)

Newspaper reports at the weekend suggest that the much vaunted plans for 'sharing' council services - is on its last legs.

Glasgow is the latest council to voice concerns over the 'shared services strategy' - which is designed eliminate duplication and waste - by pooling back-office functions such as payroll and information technology.

Sounds simple enough - but it seems that as soon as councils get anywhere near having to make a decision about how to proceed - they get cold feet.

Which makes the councils involved look ridiculous of course - along with COSLA and the Improvement Service who have both been championing this cause for years.

Unsuccessfully it appears - which makes you wonder why Scottish local government seems unable to work together - in the wider public interest.

Here's something I wrote on the subject earlier this month - prophetically as it turns out.

As far as I can see the individuals councils that make up Scottish local government - are just ignoring COSLA - and seem to be thumbing their noses at the Improvement Sevice.

If this pantomime continues for much longer - the Scottish Government will have to get involved.

Improving Council Services (September 1st 2011)

Here's the 'team' from Scotland's Improvement Service (IS) - an unelected public body set up by COSLA and the Scottish government some years ago.

See post dated 25 August 2011 - 'Interesting Bomb Pattern'

Now the IS aims to help local councils in Scotland improve their services - by adopting best practice and becoming more efficient - and by sharing services in some cases.

In which case I suggest that some of the 39-strong IS team - ought to be hot-footing it down to West Dunbartonshire Council - where shared services seem to be about as popular as the mention of tram cars on Leith Walk.

Because West Dunbartonshire Council has pulled out of a 'shared services' project amongst councils in the Clyde Valley - and now the whole programme appears to be on a 'shoogly peg'.

So maybe with all these specialist people on its staff - the Improvement Service can help get things back on track.

I certainly hope so.

Information about all the Improvement Service staff, including biographies and contact details.

1 Colin Mair, Chief Executive
2 Mark McAteer, Governance and Performance Management - Director

3 Bob Christie, Governance and Performance Management - Outcomes Programme Manager

4 Sarah Gadsden, Governance and Performance Management - PSIF Director

5 Andrew McGuire, Governance and Performance Management - Programme Manager

6 Jane O'Donnell, Governance and Performance Management - PSIF Project Manager

7 Andrew Noble, Government and Performance Management - Project Manager

8 Tallulah Lines, Governance and Performance Management - Project Officer

9 Alison Clyne, Governance and Performance Management - PSIF Project Officer

10 Konrad Zdeb, Governance and Performance Management - Graduate Support Assistant

11 Paul Dowie, Shared Services - Director

12 Bruce Harley, Shared Services - Change Champion

13 Simon Haston, Shared Services - Change Champion

14 Gerda Bartsch, Shared Services - Change Champion

15 Alexandra Ostroumoff-Croucher, Shared Services - Pensions Pathfinder Project Manager

16 Jim Kinney, Customer First - Programme Director

17 Tom McHugh, Customer First - Programme Manager
18 Martin Brown, Customer First - Head of Customer Relationship Management

19 Sally Buchanan, Customer First - Project Manager

20 Iain McKay, Customer First - Gazetteer Business Development Manager

21 Cameron Walker, Customer First - National Infrastructure Programme Manager

22 Robert Clubb, Customer First - National Infrastructure Programme Manager

23 Fiona Dick, Customer First - Communications and Projects Support Officer

24 Joanna Anderson, Customer First - Project Assistant

25 Karen Williamson, Customer First - Graduate Support Assistant

26 Kate O'Hagan, Organisational Development & Capacity Building - Head

27 Lesley Broadley, Organisational Development & Capacity Building - Senior Project Manager

28 Dot McLaughlin, Organisational Development &Capacity Building - Senior Project Manager

29 Jamie Carver, Organisational Development & Capacity Building - Project Assistant

30 Emma Hay, Planning Development - Programme Manager

31 Ross Pattenden, Organisational Development & Capacity Building - Project Assistant

32 Mike McLean, Knowledge Management - Head

33 Martin MacKinnon, Knowledge Management - Web Development Manager

34 Louise Jenkins, Knowledge Management - Web Content Editor

35 David Friel, Knowledge Management - Reporter

36 Jamie Kirk, Knowledge Management - Graduate Support Assistant

37 Loraine Higgins, Corporate & Business Support - Business Manager

38 Alison Ritchie, Corporate & Business Support - PA & Business Support Assistant

39 Kirsty Markie, Business Support - Graduate Support Assistant

COSLA Isn't Working (25 August 2011)