Suffolk now has the New Pragmatic Direction to replace the New Strategic Direction. Mark Bee the new leader of the county council signalled the change of direction yesterday after being confirmed in his role.
His rhetoric laden speech was understandably short on detail about what his approach will mean. He made it very clear that the need for big financial cuts has not gone away. It will be a tough job to turn policy around in the middle of a financial year.
He told the council:
The NSD has come to be seen as a one size fits all philosophy that must be applied across Suffolk, regardless of the views of local communities.
This has resulted in much of the good work being ignored. With the debate focused around the concept and three or four highly contentious issues.
I believe that has been to the detriment of Suffolk County Council.
I am clear that my Leadership will not be about a ‘philosophy’. It will be about three core principles: Listening to the people of Suffolk, openness and transparency, and above all: Practical, common sense solutions to problems based on the needs of a specific area developed with communities and partners.
The full text of his speech is on the East Anglian Daily Times website.
One of his first tasks will be turning around the administrative structure which under the former leader, Jeremy Pembroke, and Chief Executive, Andrea Hill, has been geared to delivering the NSD. Ms Hill had firmly nailed her colours to this mast and her future remains uncertain as her extended leave continues while an investigation into matters in the legal department is carried out.
There are hopeful signs that the Maoist tendency of the former administration has not succeeded in completing its cultural revolution in Endeavour House. Cllr Bee is going to need the wholehearted and constructive support from the county’s officials.
But we should not imagine that things are going to simply return to the way they were. His speech signalled a continuation of localisation, with community involvement in school crossing patrols, libraries, recycling centres and much more.
James Hargrave, the Stradbroke blogger, who was at yesterday’s meeting (I missed it having just returned from Wales) has interesting views on the change of direction. He is not convinced that the “current leadership realise quite how dysfunctional the County Council has become”.