Suffolk is in national newspapers — Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph — again this morning for the wrong reason. It is, of course, the on-going saga of Andrea Hill, the county council’s chief executive.
This time the story is about the row between her and Kathy Pollard who said on her blog that it was time for Hill to go (see my previous post) and the rise in the cost of “gagging” orders on former employees.
When the “gagging” orders story broke locally with a story in the East Anglian Daily Times in February, I was rather dismissive. This clause is often in agreements when staff leave in acrimonious circumstances but a settlement is reached before the case gets to an Industrial Tribunal. I would be very surprised if the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and Archant (the owner of daily papers in Ipswich) had not also used them.
But the fact remains that the cost of such settlements at SCC has doubled in a couple of years which suggests an unhappy workplace.
The unwritten story beneath this saga is the question of who is making policy in Suffolk — Andrea Hill or the Conservative political leadership?
The transcript of a presentation on the New Strategic Direction (becoming an “enabling” authority which does not directly run services) shows it was made by Hill and Pembroke, the Conservative leader, was relegated to answering a question.
Looking at press coverage and the council’s website it seems clear that Hill is the main explainer and justifier of the policy, not Pembroke.
The cuts in services because of reduced government funding seem to be worse than needed because of the costs of the New Strategic Direction. School crossing patrols are going as are youth clubs, retirement homes are to be sold or closed, libraries are under threat, reduced travel fares for the young have gone, recycling centres closing.
The common belief in the county is that it is really Hill behind the painful policy. And there is a lot of anger about the way she spends money and her pay.