Monday, 6 January 2014

What's My Line?

Don’t Call Me Dave was browsing Essex County Council’s website when he was reminded of the 1950s game show What’s My Line? hosted by the late, great Eamonn Andrews. In this show, celebrity panellists would try to guess the occupation of contestants from a series of cryptic clues.

DCMD happened upon the biography of senior officer Dave Hill, who is paid £175,000 per annum for his services. Mr Hill is described as Executive Director for People Commissioning. No, DCMD didn’t know what this meant either; but fear not, dear Reader, because his duties are listed on the website and include: (DCMD’s comments in blue)

  • To be accountable for managing the statutory role of Director of Public Health and have responsibility to ensure that statutory obligations are met. [That’s nice and clear]
  • Through understanding the needs of Essex residents, ensure the most efficient and effective allocation and use of resources (financial and non-financial) in order to reach the desired outcomes. [Still relatively clear, but slipping into management speak]
  • Bid for budget from Cabinet to deliver against specifications and select potential delivery providers and allocate a budget envelope for delivery. [Allocate a budget envelope? Is that more management speak or a shopping list for Lidl?]
  • Through subject matter expertise, understanding of National developments and best in class thinking across the public and private sectors design the specifications to commission and achieve the required outcomes. [This is meaningless bollocks]
  • Be accountable to the CEO and Members of the Council for the achievement of people related outcomes, including evaluation of providers to select optimal partner in each case. [DCMD is losing the will to live]
  • Be accountable for safeguarding for both vulnerable adults and children. [See, it’s not hard to be clear and concise if you put your mind to it]

Apparently, Mr Hill manages an FTE of 3,588. What is an FTE? Florida Tomato Exchange? Flight Test Engineer? Ford Truck Enthusiast? Why do public bodies insist on using incomprehensible management speak and unidentified acronyms? Are taxpayers not entitled to know precisely what it is that highly paid officers do? To his credit, Mr Hill has responded favourably to DCMD’s request for his biography page to be re-written in plain English.

What is crystal clear from the web site is that Mr Hill carries out two vital statutory roles - Director of Children’s Services and Director of Adult Social Services. This is quite a substantial workload and, arguably, justifies his £175,000 salary. But, equally, there is a valid argument that these two functions are too important to be under the control of just one person.  

DCMD supports councils cutting out waste and bureaucracy. There is little doubt that most local authorities employ a surfeit of pen pushers who can safely be put out to pasture. But given that Mr Hill’s job entails risk management, perhaps he should carry out an immediate review of his own position to determine whether combining two statutory functions under the control of a single person increases the risk to highly vulnerable people who rely on council services.