Mayor of Doncaster continued…………
Well the Audit Commission report came out yesterday and it seems that all the Davies faithful were wrong, he did get some of the blame, not just previous controlling regimes.
To be fair to Davies, he has only been in power a short time, and all the infighting has not helped him, but he hasn’t helped himself.
To be called ‘The Common Sense Mayor’ by some, surely he would have to use some. He could of handled things a bit better than his bullish way he has resorted to to get his own way.
Here is an excerpt from the report:
The Mayor and his Cabinet
The Mayor fails to act in a way which demonstrates an understanding of how an elected Mayor might lead his authority in an inclusive way with a view to building consensus. Some of the behaviours adopted by the Mayor, and some Cabinet members, fail to meet required standards.
82 In a well-governed mayoral authority we would expect the Mayor and Cabinet to:
• adopt leadership styles and behaviours which are open, inclusive, and engender trust from staff, other council partners, and the public;
• discuss priorities with the rest of the Council and be seen to respond to the Council’s feedback;
• work collectively with officers to develop those priorities into clear, costed, plans of action, which are shared and agreed with partners;
• be clear and decisive about their political priorities; and
• act as ambassadors for the Council in the wider area, to work effectively with partners.
Leadership styles and behaviours
83 The Mayor is not the cause of the Council’s problems, which date back to a time before either he or his predecessor were elected. However, the way he has set about his task has tended to make those problems worse. He acknowledges that he is inexperienced and the leadership he and his Cabinet provide has so far lacked the sophistication and skill that would help the Council and its partners to deliver better services for the people of Doncaster.
84 The Mayor was elected in June 2009. By his own admission this was something of a surprise to him. He lacked any background in local government politics, but found himself overnight in a position of considerable power and influence over the people of Doncaster and the services they receive. His expressed views are unsympathetic to many of the normal processes by which decisions are traditionally taken and policies developed in local government.
85 The Mayor’s views on issues of diversity and political correctness are well known, and formed part of the platform on which he was elected. He is, of course, entitled to pursue his political agenda as a democratically elected Mayor, and is doing so.
86 However as Mayor he has also certain responsibilities including, for example, a statutory duty in discharging the functions of the Council to have regard to the need to promote good race relations. Perhaps partly through inexperience, he seems insufficiently aware that the way he expresses his views might compromise his ability to discharge those responsibilities.
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council 20
The Mayor and his Cabinet
87 The Mayor’s statements about removing translation services, or there being ‘no such thing as child poverty’ have led to confusion. Partners are unclear what they mean for them, and for jointly-agreed objectives within the Borough Strategy and Local Area Agreement, such as helping and supporting vulnerable groups. They have also caused major concerns amongst vulnerable groups within Doncaster. Some staff, residents including some from the black and minority ethnic communities, and representatives of the voluntary and community sector, expressed concern that certain people within Doncaster may see some of the Mayor’s comments as legitimising their racist and homophobic behaviour.
88 In discussion, the Mayor is more balanced, and suggests that he accepts the need to adhere to legal duties around racial equality and the need to address inequality and poverty. He appears to accept the need for translation services to aid in the safeguarding of vulnerable adults from minority backgrounds. However, his public utterances, which he may see as serving a useful political purpose, have served internally to confuse and de-motivate staff; externally to confuse partners; and publicly to worry sections of the community who are already vulnerable.
89 Asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement ‘There is clear and effective leadership within the Council by the Mayor,’ 67 per cent of staff responding to our survey disagreed or strongly disagreed. An additional 16 per cent didn’t know.
Working with the Council
90 The Mayor and Cabinet find it difficult to work constructively with the Council. This is in no small part due to the behaviours of some councillors. However, the Mayor is also not averse to provocative and inflammatory statements and these serve to create division when compromise and conciliation are required.
91 An elected Mayor requires the approval of the full Council for key decisions, such as the budget. The Mayor, coming from a minority party (the English Democrats), has little natural support within the Council and consistently struggles to capture enough votes to secure his policies. His current Cabinet consists of three Conservative and three independent members. Attempts to attract independent members to sit on the Cabinet have caused acrimony and given rise to complaints.
92 It is in the context of this unstable and limited powerbase, that the Mayor’s attitudes towards political leadership within the Council, and how to build consensus amongst competing politicians and groups, becomes problematic. The Mayor has genuinely tried to discuss matters of mutual interest, and has sought to make alliances with groups and individuals in return for support. He has himself identified that at least nine of his ten priorities could easily link to priorities already expressed within the Borough Strategy.
93 However, the Mayor lacks the political skills to build and maintain consensus. His offers for others to ‘get in touch’ are often not followed through, and he fails to understand that simply saying ‘my door is always open’ will not result in dialogue unless his behaviours, attitudes, and opinions also support a more collusive and open approach. The Mayor has not responded positively to offers of help, for example from IDeA. The Mayor has also decided to take the Council out of the Local Government Association and the Local Government Information Unit from 2011.
21 Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council
The Mayor and his Cabinet
94 The Mayor, and the Council, are too insular in their approach, failing sometimes to see the key links between Doncaster and the rest of South Yorkshire and the City Region. This in turn may mean opportunities to improve with the rest of South Yorkshire are missed. In addition, their lack of appreciation of issues relating to diversity risks perpetuating inequality amongst the people who live within Doncaster. For example, Council strategies do not feature children who come from gypsy and traveller families, despite there being over 4,000 gypsies and travellers in the Doncaster area.
Working with officers
95 The Mayor is isolated, and has too often been unwilling to take advice. In his early days he relied heavily on Mr Hart, the then Chief Executive. This had two consequences. It took so much of the Chief Executive’s time that it affected his ability to function as a strategic leader of the staff within the Council. It also created a perception amongst some (already antagonistic) councillors that the Chief Executive was becoming too friendly with the Mayor.
96 The induction process for the Mayor did not lead him to understand how the Council works. In his view, considerable time was spent on key policy issues and service concerns, but only belatedly was he told about the mechanics of how a mayoral authority works: what key decisions are; the necessity to get key decisions through Full Council; and the respective roles and powers of the Mayor, the Cabinet as Executive, the Council, and the Overview and Scrutiny function. Others suggest that these briefings did take place. Whatever the process, the result was that the Mayor only belatedly gained an understanding of the processes that had to be adopted in relation to certain decisions, and this resulted in further delay. It also increased the Mayor’s frustration that as democratically elected Mayor it was proving so difficult to ‘get things done’.
97 Recent events, and the divide between the Mayor and Cabinet and the Interim Chief Executive only served to increase this isolation and underscore the Mayor’s frustration. By the Mayor’s own admission, getting decisions taken was like ‘wading through treacle’. This is further evidence in support of our conclusion that the Council has failed to make proper arrangements to fulfil its duty of continuous improvement.
Clear and decisive
98 The Mayor’s, and some Cabinet members’, bluff approach to dialogue also extends to the way in which they relate to officers. Some officers report considerable pressure being put on them to amend or alter professional advice. If advice is contrary to expectations, then officers sense they fall out of favour. Clearly, this is not conducive to a well-governed organisation or to a situation in which officers feel able to give impartial advice.
99 In part, as a result of the political impasse within the Council, key decisions have been slow to be taken or still remain undecided. Examples include decisions about the Local Development Framework, which is described in Paragraph 63.
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council 22
The Mayor and his Cabinet
100 A further example of slow decision making, involving partners, relates to the decent homes programme delivered with St Leger Homes – the ALMO. On becoming Chief Executive in May 2009, the Chief Executive of the ALMO defined a series of key decisions on which she needed clarity from the Council to enable her to deliver ALMO and Council priorities. Examples included clarity on whether tower blocks were to be included in Decent Homes Standard refurbishment plans, and if so to what extent – just windows and doors, or full refurbishment to include repairing concrete and improving thermal efficiency. The Chief Executive stated she needed these key decisions by November 2009, thus giving six months for discussions and resolution. In February 2010, three months after the deadline, and ten months after identifying the issues that needed to be decided, there was still a lack of clarity, having discussed and redrafted proposals around these programmes three times. We understand this decision may now have been taken.
Working with partners
101 A further impact of the conflict within the Council is the confusion it creates with partners about what the Council’s long-term priorities are. There are mayoral priorities and there is a Borough Strategy, and partners and staff express confusion about how these are linked. The corporate strategy also fails to link properly with individual service development plans. The recently defined strategic vision for children and young people is not yet set firmly within a clear corporate strategy as this corporate strategy still consists of the priorities inherited from the previous Mayor.
The Cabinet has limited experience. Whilst some portfolio holders are accomplished
others are inexperienced and appear less comfortable with the strategic leadership required. Some have clear views of their own, and in certain cases these have caused confusion and concern with partners. The ALMO, St Leger Homes, is in ongoing discussion with the Cabinet, and portfolio holder, over the length of its management agreement. There are differing views about how long the ALMO agreement should last for, but one consequence of the portfolio holder seeking a shorter term is that ALMO staff have become concerned about their job security. Tenants have also become concerned that their homes, scheduled to be improved in the latter stages of the Decent Homes process, may not get the necessary funding as they believe the ALMO may not exist in the longer term. This is both unhelpful and destabilising. The rejection of the usual working methods with others is also slowing the progress
partners can make. For example, the Mayor’s chairmanship of the Local Strategic Partnership Board – Discover the Sprit (the DTS Board) – is causing some confusion.
So he has to shoulder some of the blame, but not all of it.
It is a shared responsibility that has been thwarted along the way by too many big egos.
Please read the report before making your mind up about the Mayor, and bear in mind his inexperience and that he is possibly a good man.
Posted on April 20, 2010, in Doncaster, English Democrats, Peter Davies, political view, smaller parties and tagged Doncaster, English Democrats, Peter Davies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.