Joint chief exec. position for Islington and Camden from Tribune letters page c. 09.2010

Islington Tribune letters page was full of comments and questions about the potential joint chief exec position for Islington and Camden. Our own Dr Potter kicked off the questions with :

Will ‘superchief’ be able to run two housing regimes?
Published: Islington Tribune 17 September, 2010
• ALTHOUGH I seriously doubt the wisdom of Islington Council’s recent decision to engage in the latest money-saving trend of “sharing to save” (Year of the ‘superchief’, September 10) I can at least applaud its decision not to automatically replace the position vacated by the present chief executive, John Foster, with another grossly overpaid senior manager.

I doubt that what I perceive to be another whimsical attempt by the council to halt the borough’s financial freefall into debt will succeed. It will effectively send residents’ services into a severe decline as a result of staff redundancies and the consequential use of the controversial implementation of “hot desking” in order to reduce costs associated with office space.

Nevertheless, the possibility of an extremely unexpected, and welcome, result does exist in regard to the council’s housing stock. While Camden was extremely sensible and retained its council housing management, thereby establishing housing as being the direct responsibility of its councillors, Islington rather irresponsibly placed the responsibility for managing its housing stock under the somewhat dubious auspices of an arm’s-length management organisation.

So, how will a part-time joint chief executive view the possibilities associated with running two boroughs with different housing regimes, and cope with the problems which will inevitably arise as a result of potential conflicts of interest? With a great deal of difficulty I would suggest.
The bright side is that Islington might decide that this is the perfect time to keep its pre-election promise to residents by returning housing management to where it rightfully belongs – under the direct control of councillors, thereby disposing of the wasteful services of its extremely expensive arm’s-length company, Homes for Islington, at the same time

Dr BS Potter
Chairman, Islington Leaseholders’ Association,
Federation of Islington Tenants’ Associations

• ISLINGTON and Camden boroughs sharing a chief executive seems to be being suggested as some kind of fantastic, cost-cutting plan. But would it really be cheaper?
I suspect a chief executive of an area double the size of each current borough might be after a wage somewhat larger than that the current individual chief execs enjoy (not to mention the larger bonus payments and pensions).
And then there’s the matter of the new “super-executive’s” support staff. One imagines there will need to be at least one more deputy chief executive, and I don’t think they come cheap these days. And each deputy will need some additional support staff – PAs, that sort of thing. And then overall, won’t all these new highly-paid people work out costing us all a whole lot more?
The whole thing seems to have been presented with almost indecent haste. As though once Islington’s chief exec departs, Camden’s can be just slipped seamlessly into the role. But what about due process, opening up the possible position to other candidates. Surely, a chief executive role of this size requires an extensive search-and-interview process to ensure the right person is found.
I know from experience that Moira Gibb, chief exec at Camden, is an excellent administrator but this would be a huge job increase for her. How would any of us cope were our job to literally double in size overnight? Of course, she’d give it her best shot but where is the guarantee she’d be up to it?
When one company merges with another there are always job losses – normally down the ranks. The more senior staff are lost too but they are well paid for it. It’s the junior staff who suffer.
Labour in Islington wrote its manifesto for the most recent local elections hand in hand with the unions. How do the unions feel at seeing their very recent friends so publicly providing a door for them to be moved out of?
Cllr Arthur Graves
Lib Dem, Junction ward

• ALTHOUGH most residents will welcome any initiative that has the potential to reduce bureaucracy and the ever-increasing tax burden levied on our community, the proposal to share Islington Council’s chief executive with Camden begs the question as to whether or not there is enough slack in the system to allow either council’s chief executive to spend half his or her time working for, and presumably in, the other borough.
If not, the obvious conclusion is that both councils will have to employ a layer of support staff at a level that will inevitably lead to extra costs, which will far outweigh the financial advantages of such a merger.
Furthermore, both councils are currently controlled by the same party. As the primary purpose of their respective chief executives is to manage in accordance with the policies of the majority political party, how will the new super-chief executive be able to balance the conflicting interests of both councils if and when one or the other is controlled by an opposition party?
Dave Barnes
Islington Taxpayers Alliance

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