Thursday, 21 January 2010

Mostly charmless

Here’s a charming vignette of life in Yorkshire’s chunk of the public sector, from the ever-reliable Beeb.

Council chief 'made lewd remarks'

A former children's services manager at Barnsley council told a pregnant colleague "it would be easy to have an abortion", a tribunal has heard.

Douglas Adams, (yes, I know) who was assistant director of children's services, also told another woman he could imagine her in a "Miss Whiplash outfit".

The 56-year-old, from Nottingham, is accused by the General Social Care Council (GSCC) of misconduct.

An aside, only, but this is what it takes to discipline social workers or their leaders without national tabloid coverage. It’s not taking children from law-abiding Christian parents; or leaving them with violent drug addicts living in chav ménages a trois and thus exposing them to repeated violent or sexual abuse and eventually murder whilst ignoring all the repeat evidence to the contrary; nor assuming that soldiers are more violent to their children than other people; nor placing them with homosexual couples in preference to their blameless natural grandparents. Insult other social workers, and you’re toast.

The claims relating to four women were listed as a hearing started in London.

Mr Adams allegedly said he knew that Ms D, a junior member of administrative staff, was pregnant because her breasts had become larger.

He told her it would be easy to have an abortion because it was early in her pregnancy, the tribunal heard.

He is also accused of telling the woman her boyfriend was "using her for sex" and that she would lose her figure.

Mr Adams, who did not attend the hearing, is alleged to have said to another colleague, Ms A: "Oh yes, I can see you in a Miss Whiplash outfit with high leather boots taking them [her male colleagues] in hand."

When managers at Barnsley council discussed the matter with him, Mr Adams told them that while he did not accept all the allegations he admitted his remarks to Ms D were inappropriate.

However, he put it into context by describing it as "shock tactics" to discuss her pregnancy.

Mr Adams was suspended on 9 June 2006 before a disciplinary hearing on 26 July.

Mr Larkin said: "He made some admissions but sought to put his remarks into context.

And the context in which it’s okay to suggest abortions to underlings, openly discuss them dressed as dominatrixes and refer to their lactating breasts is…?

"Nonetheless he accepted that his remarks were inappropriate and he expressed regret."

Mr Adams was summarily dismissed from the authority in August 2006 and lost a subsequent appeal.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to imagine what sort of recruitment, selection processes, training and peer reviews recruits and promotes to great power and influence an individual as crass and ignorant as Mr. Adams and place him in charge of the people responsible for the vulnerable children of one of England’s most famous toilet-towns, and to speculate about the fate of the defenceless kids under his ‘care.’

However, as they say, there’s a larger point here which is: just how low can the public sector go?

This case has got me thinking about the conduct of public servants (please don’t snort – it’s undignified).

I’ve had twentyish jobs, both temporary and ‘permanent’, since leaving school thirty-odd years ago and about a quarter of them have been in the public sector, and the behaviour, manners and morality of those at the public trough are, on reflection, way worse than their private sector neighbours.

Don’t get me wrong. This is no libertarian screed about the essential morality of the market compared with the productive sector. The pursuit of profits is no guarantee of goodness; but it is a pretty fine indicator of politeness and respectful behaviour between colleagues. Now, I’ve worked under sales managers who could never quite get the hang of halting their ‘sell more’ monologues when making speeches at birthday parties and leaving celebrations, and a couple of proprietors were rather slower at handing out pay increases than I’d have liked. And you have to work on a large sales team or in the newspaper industry to know just how foul-mouthed civilised people can be.

But O! my gentles; how insensitive are the tax-collectors and how rude the troughers!

Right now I have a relative whose largish provincial government section of about sixty staff includes; one never-married single mother who goes around complaining at the expense of war-widows’ tiny extra benefits for ethno-religious reasons while running down the British Army that protects her freedoms and her generous tax credits and who abuses Christianity throughout the entire office in a foul-mouthed and high-decibel way without a word of rebuke from management. She is managed by someone so crass as to place her in close proximity to a couple of known Christians – and this is out of forty peers amongst whom she could be placed. There is a socialist consensus so thick and the Labour ‘culture’ so prevalent that allegedly professional suit-wearing types can gleefully and obscenely anticipate the death of The Fatcher right in front of their few known Tory underlings and expect to get away with it. He has a colleague who openly boasts of family support for terrorism, and another manager who was so openly and frequently rude to her subordinates that she was banished to a make-work job to keep her away from any personal contact with other human beings – but only after years of her bullying ways being tolerated by all the levels of leadership above her.

All this in a service which, during an ongoing pay review, saw managers openly running down their subordinates’ roles and responsibilities in order to inflate their own importance and pay grades, and others colluding with the wholesale corruption of the assessment process in order to promote favoured specialisms and personally concocted sinecures.

You have to have worked in the ‘education’ system - or have been brought up by people who worked in it, - to know just how back-biting, clique-ridden and bitchy human beings can be to their neighbours in peacetime.

I have a friend who, when he was feeling excluded from company and support in the staff room of a small country school, was told by his union rep to get the hell out of Dodge and find a nice sink-hole city pre-comprehensive instead as he himself had been reduced to eating his lunch in the car rather than suffer the cold shoulder from the cellulite-clad rural harpies with whom he worked.

Then there’s this other friend who works in a particular, not very big, section of a local authority whose boss is shacked up with the Head of Service, and who has an inordinately hefty percentage of her staff out on disciplinary charges or suspension (and full pay, O taxpayer) on the most spurious and baseless (and indeed evidence-free) of accusations. This situation has lasted for years and yet she seems to be immune to the most basic of employee rights processes and there’s no end in sight for the victims but feigning sickness and resignations for her helpless staff and eventually legal action that will cost – guess who? – a packet whether successful or not.

Don’t get me wrong here either about favouritism. Private sector mangers can show it; especially in sales and other jobs with production quotas; but I only ever recall favouritism shown as lavish praise and some smallish office privileges to the top-level achievers. They were never allowed to be abusive to their peers – at least not without being slapped down by the selfsame colleagues when they got too cocky.

Mister Adams would be out on his ear in no time.

As far as I can see, public sector nepotism and favouritism just go beyond a joke. My first colleague’s boss has made a practice of refusing any and every shop-floor or middle-management suggestions to improve the service they provide, while shunting personnel round regardless of their specialisms and experience at will, and thus wasting talent, experience and training along with your money.

I’ve never known a businessman: director, sole proprietor, franchisee or hired hand supervisor who actively sabotages the daily working practices of their best staff by such micromanagement. Sure, they make big mistakes that annoy and temporarily slow stuff down, but they see the light when the bottom line is pointed out to them – but they don’t email their entire staffs instructing them to never publicly criticise any aspect of an entire Ministry or local authority’s working and costs. Ever.

I’ve worked in fast-food outlets on freezing nights and on production lines on heat-wave sweltering days and been more considerately treated and more politely addressed by potty-mouthed and tattooed dole-class escapees than by the letters-after-their-names suits who rule my little section of Government Hell. You can imagine how good we all are at our jobs with that lot to wade through. Its not that I expect productive sector workers to be sympathetic to the plight of a minor bureaucrat like me, but just think what this does to cost effectiveness and where it all sends your tax pounds.

All this in the most heavily unionized workplaces in the country.

Either they’re putting something in the water in the public sector or the power that comes from monopoly and monopsony; the lack of responsibility; or any sense of ownership of the resources involved leads me to believe that this whole ‘caring public service’ thing is just a tick box talking-point.

Kiss your taxes goodbye – they’re not even making the pen-pushers happy.

Picture from here.


JuliaM said...

You're going to love this link...

I say 'love'. Actually, I think I meant 'curl up in a fetal ball, sobbing'.

North Northwester said...

Thanks Julia - I'd missed that.
One Foetal ball just isn't enough: I recognize that attitude all too well. I'd really rather do my job using a cattle prod for these wasters.
Workfare or no fare is what I'm beginning to think will have to work. Now all we need is a government with a spine and a brain and elementary arithmetic.

Oh, I SEE...

James Higham said...

You have to have worked in the ‘education’ system - or have been brought up by people who worked in it, - to know just how back-biting, clique-ridden and bitchy human beings can be to their neighbours in peacetime.

Never a truer word, NNWer.


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