This week’s writer is a policy officer

Rule number 1. Never chair a meeting. My colleague asks me if I can
chair a meeting that is seeking to put together a care plan for
three children prior to going to court. “No problem” I say. Little
do I realise that the meeting is aimed at an “11th hour” revision
of the plan and someone will need to present this to the court. On
Friday. It soon transpires that person is me. I go from knowing
nothing about the family to representing the local authority in
court. And we wonder why we get such a bad press…

My employer has embraced the modernisation agenda and is keen to
publicise our achievements to the workforce. We are treated to a
glitzy presentation by senior managers about the future direction
of the borough. But the “Question and Answer” session exposes the
yawning gap between the evidence in the presentations and the
reality. Far from being inspired, my colleagues fear they are to
lose their jobs, are unhappy about the poor salaries they receive
and can see no evidence that things will get any better. We all
troop out of the theatre in depressed and militant mood. I’m not
sure that this was the desired outcome of the exercise.

I’m chairing a particularly unpleasant disciplinary hearing. It’s
distressing for everyone involved and I can’t help thinking that
there must be a better way of sorting this mess out. During a
detailed piece of evidence I glaze over and trace my career path…
how did I get here? I can’t recall there ever being any “master
plan” about my career, just a series of jobs in search of something
to hold my interest more than six months. And now I’m here in this
disciplinary! My career path astonishes me.

The latest “customer care” instructions e-mailed to the whole
council is entitled, Corporate Guidance for Telephone
. I cannot believe that someone has been paid to
write a document explaining to employees what they should say when
they answer the phone, how many rings we should answer by, what to
say when we end a conversation. We’re informed that a “mystery
shopper” exercise will be undertaken. Those not conforming will be
“named and shamed”. If only the electorate knew how some of their
council tax was being spent.

My day in court arrives. Our counsel begins to offer the court
reams of information, much of which I have no knowledge of. It’s
the first time I’ve heard some of the details regarding this
family. The bench then asks if the local authority representative
is the best person placed to discuss the family, to which our
counsel can only reply: “Well, not really…”. The bench is
appalled and asks for the relevant team leader to be called upon.
He just happens to be sitting beside me. Salvation! I then take a
back seat and watch with some amusement as my colleague is
thoroughly grilled. There is justice after all.

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