Author Topic: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake  (Read 10915 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« on: August 09, 2010, 03:26:41 PM »
Also blogged here: http://www.geoffreid.com/?p=592



I recently blogged about Rod Bluh's plans for dealing with the black hole in his April 2010 budget by reducing the number of public employees in the Borough of Swindon.

The Swindon Advertiser, also interested in this, began its reporting with:

“SWINDON council has delivered a blow to its staff by announcing that up to 1,000 of them could potentially lose their jobs.”

...and four days later followed up with:

“The largest cuts plans in living memory will lead to the loss of an additional 2,000 jobs in Swindon”

I'm reliably informed that there are 2,679 full time jobs at Swindon Borough Council, a figure which excludes school staff and workers at Swindon Commercial Services.  I don't know how many people are employed within Swindons education systems, but I can tell readers that SCS employs approximately 960 full-time staff and that its housing maintenance division manages the maintenance of over 11,000 properties in Swindon.  SCS has a turnover of around £58m per annum.

It doesn't take much mental effort to recognise that, in addition to approximately 3,650 council & SCS workers, almost everyone employed in Swindons education sector is likely to be wondering if their job is secure in a town, our town, which The Times described in 2009 as being:  "The town hardest hit  by the recession", but in 2010, as the rest of the country is retreating steadily from the brink of disaster, Swindon appears to be accelerating towards it.      We might wish to reflect on why that is.

Could it be that Swindon is suffering a double-whammy caused by a national economic recession and the toxic effects of profligate and irresponsible council spending?  Does  (what we optimistically call), 'The Council Leadership' really know what it is doing, or has it gaily sailed Swindon onto the rocks?  Now that the town is stuck good and fast on the rocks, its politicians seem to be desperately looking for suitable scapegoats upon which to lay the blame for their lack of skills.   Whatever the definitive truth is, one thing has become inescapably apparent this week is that most of the council leadership have jumped ship and 'escaped' for a bit.  Yes, when the 'going got tough', the 'tough' have most certainly 'got going' - and have gone abroad, on holiday.

Don't get me wrong, I don't usually have a problem with anyone going on holiday and I think even politicians need a break now and again, but in this case I was disappointed to hear that Rod Bluh wasted no time in scarpering off to his second home in the Loire Valley instead of staying put, (for the time being at least), to work on alleviating the anxiety being felt by the  families of about 5,000 public sector workers in the Borough who are probably wondering if they'll still have houses and jobs soon.  I expect the most pressing questions currently on Bluh's mind are likely to be: "Shall I have Dijon mustard with my Jambon et fromage?" and "White or Red?".  There are probably many more, but you get my drift.

My own perspective is hardly objective but it is well informed by the 'holiday or no holiday?' question.   One of my Brothers died of Cancer in Europe last summer, (much 'before' and 'after' travelling to and from the continent), then one of Rachael's Grand Mothers died of cancer just after Christmas, (much 'before' and 'after' travelling to and from Wales), and then  my Father suffered a massive stroke in May, (much travelling to and from Telford), and just this very morning, my only Aunt passed away in Essex, (travelling yet T.B.A).  We have forgone the respite offered by a holiday because circumstances showed that the needs of our respective families outweighed our own desires.

In my opinion this is not a sacrifice and neither are we 'martyrs'.  I was simply the right thing to do and, were I the leader of the Council, I like to think that I would lead by setting a similar example and would not scuttle off for a bit of luxurious R&R while so many others need to see a genuine and honest demonstration of  "We're all in this together",  perhaps we especially need to see this from the man that unashamedly, and continually, promotes himself to the borough as 'The Man At The Top" who has 'All the answers"

Unfortunately, the 'Man at the top' increasingly reminds me of the Austrian born Marie Antoinette, Queen consort to Louis XVI of France.  Antoinette initially charmed the French peasants with her personality and beauty, but eventually her true nature became apparent and the French came to despise her, often accusing "The Austrian" of being profligate, promiscuous and of harbouring sympathies for the enemies of the people.   Her name, (Marie Antoinette), has become almost the byword for the privileges, luxuries and perks enjoyed by the political elite in the face of national problems and the hardships of those of us who are merely mortal, and the bitter irony of the Bluh and Antoinette's similarities is easy to define.

When told that the French famine was so severe that the peasants had no bread to eat, Antoinette allegedly said:

"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"

Or, in English:

"Let them eat cake"

As the term 'Brioche' was used to describe both a luxury bread enriched with eggs and butter and a low-quality cattle-feed,  the statement appears to reflect Antoinette's obliviousness to the nature of a famine.  As I said, the irony is easy to spot, as is the massive 'disconnect' which exists between Bluh and the population he 'reigns' over, the scale of the 'famine' he has caused, and his inability demonstrate exactly how "We are all in this together", which we are obviously not, not if some of us are living in a French Farmhouse for several weeks each year.

We can confidently expect Councillor Bluh to back on duty by the 14th of August for his favourite event on the Civic Calendar,  I expect he will be carefully avoiding any discussion of cake eating lest 'Roderick Bluh' becomes the political byword for enjoying the rampant profligacy, perks and selfish political elitism in the face of the problems and the hardships suffered by mere mortals.



Offline itspavagain

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2010, 04:09:41 PM »
I am confused as to how the democratically elected councillors interact with the employed and handsomely paid management of Swindon Borough Council.

Surely Rod Bluh, despite being the "leader" of the council, has little or nothing to do with budgets and will in turn have little or nothing to do with who gets made redundant. Shurely the chief executive and his senior managers are the real decision makers and Bluh is, much like the PM, little more than a figurehead?

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2010, 04:19:03 PM »
Sadly, (and I genuinely mean that), this isn't the case in practice.

It is acknowledged within the 'officer corp' at Swindon Borough Council that there is a massive imbalance in power between the permanent civil servants and the 'elected' members, i.e, Roderick Bluh and his chosen disciples, and that Bluh & Co. can more or less do exactly as they wish. Instead of 'only' providing 'political direction' to the council as a whole, they regard themselves as being the council.

The remainder of the elected members, lets say 50 of them, are left almost completely dis-empowered by the Blairite manner in which Bluh has centralised control to his cabinet-within-the-cabinet of effectively 4 people.

A perfect example of this in action is wifi.

Probably the next one to be exposed will be the way Dial a Ride has been forced to tender. I have most of the info now, just waiting for the appropriate time to publish.

Offline Bobby Bingo

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2010, 06:51:59 PM »
If I see Rodders on Saturday when he returns from his holiday I will raise a glass to him and shout "BOTTOMS UP OLD PAL OF MINE"
Bobby

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2010, 06:58:39 PM »
If I see Rodders on Saturday when he returns from his holiday I will raise a glass to him and shout "BOTTOMS UP OLD PAL OF MINE"

That pre-supposes he's gone for only one week?

Although I was confident he wouldn't miss Swindon's Gay Pride event next weekend, others are now suggesting he'll be absent for several weeks.....   :popcorn:

Offline Bobby Bingo

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2010, 07:43:26 PM »
Rumour has it he has gone to Africa to find out how the Ostriches bury their heads in the sand
Bobby

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2010, 07:47:28 PM »

Funny you should say that Bobby, just received a similar email suggesting he was in Egypt.  To be more exact, in De Nile  :-X

Offline Bobby Bingo

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2010, 08:36:26 PM »
Just recently every thing they do "Sphynx"
Bobby

Offline Tea Boy

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2010, 10:07:19 PM »
Some bright spark said today that he probably chilling in a Gite in the south of france while the rest of us sweat it out for our jobs in blighty.

I suggested the truth was that, in fact, the Git was in the south of france. Could we not club together to keep him there?..... ;D
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Offline itspavagain

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2010, 09:39:34 AM »
Sadly, (and I genuinely mean that), this isn't the case in practice.

It is acknowledged within the 'officer corp' at Swindon Borough Council that there is a massive imbalance in power between the permanent civil servants and the 'elected' members, i.e, Roderick Bluh and his chosen disciples, and that Bluh & Co. can more or less do exactly as they wish. Instead of 'only' providing 'political direction' to the council as a whole, they regard themselves as being the council.

The remainder of the elected members, lets say 50 of them, are left almost completely dis-empowered by the Blairite manner in which Bluh has centralised control to his cabinet-within-the-cabinet of effectively 4 people.

A perfect example of this in action is wifi.

Probably the next one to be exposed will be the way Dial a Ride has been forced to tender. I have most of the info now, just waiting for the appropriate time to publish.

Thanks.

So how should the relationship between senior council employees and elected councillors work?

It seems strange that we pay people £100K+ to do senior management jobs and at the same time there are a bunch of "amateurs" who seem to hold all the power.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2010, 10:12:51 AM »

It seems strange that we pay people £100K+ to do senior management jobs and at the same time there are a bunch of "amateurs" who seem to hold all the power.

So PAV are you suggesting that we should sack ALL the executive officers on the Council?  It would certainly save a lot of money!
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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2010, 11:01:59 AM »
[

So how should the relationship between senior council employees and elected councillors work?

It seems strange that we pay people £100K+ to do senior management jobs and at the same time there are a bunch of "amateurs" who seem to hold all the power.

Quite simple really - Members ('the bunch of amateurs' - certainly true of Rod and his cronies, although some Councillors, past and present,  are very able) set policy and general direction, the senior management make it happen. Problem in Swindon is that this is not understood and Rod runs the show as his own personal fiefdom

Offline itspavagain

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2010, 11:22:54 AM »

Quite simple really - Members ('the bunch of amateurs' - certainly true of Rod and his cronies, although some Councillors, past and present,  are very able) set policy and general direction, the senior management make it happen. Problem in Swindon is that this is not understood and Rod runs the show as his own personal fiefdom
Fair enough, but in a normal company its the board of directors set the strategy and the middle management implement it.

It seems like we are paying very high salaries for board calibre employees, when they are carrying out middle management level tasks.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2010, 01:37:22 PM »

It seems like we are paying very high salaries for board calibre employees, when they are carrying out middle management level tasks.

I would have thought that if these people were worth their salaries they would have instigated the very obvious efficiences of structure when times were better and phased it in over a sensible period of time.  The Tories are supposed to be the party of business but in the 'real' world we know that SBC would have gone bust or the Shareholders revolted with some of the decisions taken by their 'board' and removed the directors be they Politicians or Officers. The trouble is that the SBC shareholders, we Council Tax Payers, are oblivious as to what is going on in our name and apart from election time they have absolutely no influence let alone can exercise any control over it in any way.

The thing I cannot come to terms with is that the Conservatives have rightly castigated the unadulterated cavalier spending undrtaken under the previous government and yet we have a Conservative Council that behaves in exactly the same way.  How utterly bizarre!!  Does Cameron still want to run the Country like a like a local Council?  Surely he was not modelling his policey on SBC in which case god help us!!
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Offline Muggins

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2010, 03:22:40 PM »
So that it easier for me to understand, I look upon SBC structure much the same as I do a voluntary sector group. 

The members of the group (electorate) choose their management committee (the Council) at AGM to take the actions agreed, forward for the coming year.

If it can, the managment committee employ staff to work on it's behalf and to it's ideas and policies.  However, the committee does not usually have the skills they seek in their employees, so it's a daft committee that completely ignores what their staff say, on the other hand it's an even dafter one if it totally trusts (without question) what it's staff tells it.  So it's very much a two way responsiblity.

A good committee member will seek out what they need to do the job as well as they can, that might be seeking information, training and networking.  It might depend a lot on experience too.  The only difference is that in a voluntary group the trustees are not paid 'allowances'.   

So is this two way thing going on in the Civic?   I know that a lot of people thought that when we had the Labour Council, that the officers had too much power/influence.  Knowing and thinking this, when the Conservatives came to power, did the go too far in the other direction?  Are they now not really listening to their officers anymore than they are to us?  Perhaps that's why they appear to be so isolated - maybe on a island of their own making?

It they are not listening as they should to officers and merely issuing orders, then does that not render the high salaries a waste anyway?
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Offline Steve Wakefield

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2010, 04:55:49 PM »
Simply put a council, should be member lead and officer driven and it aint an exact science despite what people would have you believe.  ;)

I have done a blog post from an historical perspective http://tinyurl.com/32uez2l
« Last Edit: August 12, 2010, 06:07:08 PM by Steve Wakefield »
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Offline Muggins

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2010, 09:23:01 AM »
That means then, that the councillors would be between the shafts of the chariot and the officers would be sitting pretty with the whips!   :D

Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2010, 12:54:33 PM »

It seems strange that we pay people £100K+ to do senior management jobs and at the same time there are a bunch of "amateurs" who seem to hold all the power.

Quite simple really - Members ('the bunch of amateurs' - certainly true of Rod and his cronies, although some Councillors, past and present,  are very able) set policy and general direction, the senior management make it happen. Problem in Swindon is that this is not understood and Rod runs the show as his own personal fiefdom

Both Pav and HP have hit the nail squarely on the head and identified the same 'problem' that Council officers from Director level downwards are experiencing on a daily basis.

Bluh & Co. are the amateurs elected by us to give political direction to the council but, time and time again, some of the elected members think they know better than those who actually do know better. Unfortunately for us and the town, the experts are in a position where they dare not oppose Cllr Bluh's idiocracy lest they find their desks moving towards the door, e.g, former SBC Director of Human Resources Jack Mackiewicz who was recently paid off  and replaced by our old friend Hitesh Patel.

The Councillor/Officer relationship is a complex interplay of many competing forces but I believe Bluh, ruthlessly using the cabinet system & delegated powers to his political advantage, has infected the civil service component of the council with his own blend of pork-barrel politics and Spanish practices to the point where he can get virtually any of his visions & decisions implemented by officers, regardless of how ludicrous and unsustainable they are, because the officers know that to say 'No' to him might lead to the sudden movements of their desk towards the door, but saying 'Yes' virtually guarantees a seat at Bluh's trough.  We'll have to have a little look at the recent case of Jack Markiewicz soon and see if the facts fit the theory.  If readers would like to submit any view discretely please do so via leaks@talkswindon.org   :)

Bluh and Co think they have become expert at this but they really haven't.  I can think of three SBC Directors currently being 'used' in this manner and a couple of others who didn't play the game. One is gone and the other is considered 'untouchable' by Bluh because they know where the juicy bones have been buried.

Rod's fiefdom can't last indefinitely. He's out of money, out of time and out of ideas.  The officers have no confidence in him, the council workers have no confidence in him and even his own group is finally waking up to the 'orrible truth as the next round of elections approaches.

One thing I am very sure of is that Bluh's legacy will be more scorched earth than pavement cafés, canals and centres of culture.


Offline Mart

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #18 on: August 14, 2010, 11:43:42 AM »
game of futuristic tank combat using vehicles protected by a variety of shields and armed with weapons such as nukes, MIRVs and plasma charges

Well, it could hardly detract from the general town centre ambience.
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Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Rod, Don’t Mention Cake
« Reply #19 on: August 14, 2010, 11:57:42 AM »
game of futuristic tank combat using vehicles protected by a variety of shields and armed with weapons such as nukes, MIRVs and plasma charges

Well, it could hardly detract from the general town centre ambience.

and has anyone noticed the pedestrian pace at which the regen is taking place?  How can Stanska afford to take so long?  Are they being overpaid or is it a question how their contract was formulated?  Take Cavandish Square for example there is no requirement for the developers to ever finish that regen and it will probably need doing again before it is even contemplated.  That is unless there is a generated queue for commercial premises, however unlikely.

Now back to Regent Street can anyone tell how the considerable number of empty premises will ever be filled whilst the place continually looks like a building site where the work force appears to have gone to lunch - but permanently?

and has anyone noticed how the new paving slabs have already become stained?

Who is responsible for all this mishandling of our affairs?
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