This was never a question during my two years serving in the Cabinet of Southend Borough Council. The job was clearly divided up: certain things were the responsibility of the whole council, others the responsibility of the Cabinet and, typically, the implementation of these decisions was left to the council’s able officers.
When you are in the Cabinet, the one thing you should never shy away from is responsibility – when I got things wrong I accepted responsibility for it, when went well I accepted that I was just a small (but sometimes important) cog in the council machine.
However, since the Rainbow Alliance has taken over, if we are to believe what we see, then we have moved to letting officers make all the decisions. Councillor Martin Terry, the Cabinet Member responsible for Public Protection and Waste appears to have no control over his budget. In today’s Echo he is quoted as saying: “The idea (to close public toilets) has been put forward by officers… This is not something we want to do…”
Erm, hold on a second. The budget that has been published and I was at a meeting tonight and two further meetings this week to debate is the Administration’s budget. The Cabinet met, in public, on 20th January, where they endorsed their budget. Martin Terry was at that meeting. He voted for and supported his Administration’s budget.
For him to then publicly blame his officer’s (who aren’t allowed to defend themselves), for coming up with an idea, which he accepted and then endorsed, simply because he wasn’t switched on enough to realise what a dreadful idea it was is distasteful, rude and treats us all like a mug. Cllr Terry signed off the proposal to close the public toilets and publicly supported them on 20th January.
He should now have the balls to stand up and say “Sorry, I got it wrong. Due to all the feedback from residents, activists and opposition (and back bench administration!) councillors, I will no longer close the public toilets as part of the budget proposals.”
Instead we just get “It wasn’t my idea, we haven’t decided yet, I don’t want to do it…” They may be the self-styled listening Administration, but since when did anyone think closing the loos was a good idea?!
Perhaps things are actually simpler than they looks. This Administration’s policy is to take the credit when things go well and blame council officers when things go wrong. Nice.