ONE of the most striking things from the local papers over the two weeks I was away was the letter from a council officer, albeit writing anonymously, who claims people are leaving Camden Town Hall in droves because it has become a hellish place to work.
The New Journal ran parts of the letter, but it appeared unadulterated in the Ham and High… the extra words claiming that the “council is a miserable place since the change of leadership and some people at the top need to learn some manners”. To illustrate the point, the Ham ran a cartoon of ‘hell’ and joked that it had been twinned with Camden. Despite the usual gossip in the corridors up at Judd Street, I was surprised by the bluntness of the letter. This is officially not good press for Camden Council – and for once there is no journalist or editor to simply blame for authoring it. The tone is sharp as it gets for letters published in the local papers.
After the turbulent, well-discussed change at the top of Camden’s Labour party this year – and the full letter in the Ham pointedly makes reference to ‘Dear Leader’ – reading this must have felt like a biff in the chin to those who supported the coup, if that is not too dramatic a word, which effectively removed Nash Ali from the group leadership earlier this year.
Of course, at the end of 12 months, the group’s new leader Sarah Hayward will have to tell the group how Camden Labour has been different under her control, that there is a marked improvement in the way it performs. The group will expect her to show that her move to the top was worth the internal pain and she will have to explain a list of successes. Letters like this, however, become weapons for anybody in the half of the group who voted for somebody else to lead the party in May and may still be saddened or even angry about how things all panned out.
It is important to say that this is just one letter, just one, and the claims are not verified. People leave local authorities even in the happiest times. The old story about Camden was that people would develop so well there that they would seek natural promotions elsewhere as it became crowded at the top. Some say it is simply not true that there is a big rush for the door in recent weeks.
Amid the top tiers, there is even apparently the idea that the letter was rustled up by a councillor suffering from sour grapes and that the ideas in it have no real credence among the actual workforce.
Still, four months into a new regime, it is not the best thing to see in the local press. These kind of letters have been a rare thing in Camden in recent years.