The smell of fresh paint

WHEN Moira Gibb’s replacement as a council chief executive joins Camden at the start of next year, will they be taken on a tour of the borough? And will the borough be given a hasty paint up job beforehand? It was claimed that Gospel Oak got a ‘royal visit’ treatment (whereby teams are ordered to smarten up a place before a VIP visits) just before Moira had her first look at the area all those years ago, back in 2003. Press officers strongly denied the claim, as the smell of fresh paint wafted from the neighbourhood.

1 Comment on The smell of fresh paint

  1. I’m sure Moira would have been mortified if any special tidying up had happened before she visited any facilities.

    Moira shrewdly offered on arrival to spend a couple of hours in each ward with the councillors looking first hand at problems. She then repeated the exercise on at least a couple of occasions. I think almost uniquely across the 18 wards, my two colleagues and I failed to take up Moira’s offer and get her around our ward, but that’s our failing. This would certainly be a good practice for her successor to follow.

    Moira is actually very assiduous in my experience at getting out to see front line staff and managers across the council. She’s also met a lot of residents, but she’s always been conscious, I think, that it’s principally for councillors, especially the leader and cabinet, to represent the borough to residents. While it’s not an exact analogy, no one expects the Cabinet Secretary to have a high public profile.

    I have never bought the line that Camden is an ‘officer-led’ council. In my experience in Camden officers loyally implement plenty of policies they are instrinsically less than convinced about.

    The structure of local government does blur the essential political nature of decision-making – and politicians sometimes hide behind that. In other words, an officers report comes to the cabinet and is approved as it is – the public who may be concerned don’t necessarily grasp that while it’s an officer report, it is the product of extensive work with the cabinet so that the written report already reflects the political decisions of the cabinet.

    Local authority chief executives of course increasingly have to spend a lot of time liaising with bits of London and central government; I hope but am not completely confident that localism will make a bit of a difference there. But Moira has always said she’s in local government because it’s local government, ie with politics, not just local administration. To be honest, if it was just local administration, you could have much greater spans of control for managers at Moira’s level – maybe three or four for London (or more likely you wouldn’t have a multi-function chief executive, you’d just have health, social care, transport managers etc.) And even with local government, it is arguable that the model of first rate general chief officers is only possible now if you have bigger authorities, or management teams managing several authorities.

    Lots of thinking for the council committee (not the cabinet) which will appoint the next chief executive.

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