Author Topic: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?  (Read 4578 times)

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Offline Muggins

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I read with interest the article in todays paper about SBC yet again bringin in the consultants.   SBc say that every department concerned knew about this yeaterday - no they didn't.

Parks Department read about it in the Adver this morning same as you and me!

Isn't it about time money was saved on the employment of consiltants and spent instead on keeping a few of the front line workers in their jobs?






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Offline itspavagain

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2010, 12:07:43 pm »
What if the consultants identify £3m worth of efficiency savings? Isn't that worth more than keeping £50k worth of front line staff?

The bigger question is why can't the senior managers and directors employed by the council conduct this kind of review?

Link:
http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/8348499.Swindon_Council_to_spend___50_000_on_leisure_review/

Offline Tobes

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2010, 12:18:36 pm »
The problem is that consultants are used as a convenient fig leaf for weak and incompetent managers to hide behind (and we know what's normally hidden behind a fig-leaf, huh?). If you properly 'manage', you should by definition, at least if you are any good at your job, know the structure of your department and the abilities of your employees better than anyone else. Any manager who calls in a consultant to give then information on basic staffing and resource issues should actually be seen to be signing THEIR OWN resignation!

Consultants by definition outsiders with less understanding of the issue on the ground. Their 'objectivity' is only as good as this limited starting point - and the biased information they are given by the people employing them - the self same managers!

This form of consultancy - paying a third party to make the decisions which you are too ball-less or weak to take yourself - is one of the most destructive and invidious influences on modern business practice. No surprises then that they are being used for politically expedient (and money wasting) purposes by SBC. Again.
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - Voltaire 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita

Offline Muggins

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2010, 01:32:19 pm »
Tobes is right when he says they have a limited starting point, and them who pays the piper can call that tune even more. 

 A few years ago when consultants were called in to look at the community development ept., , they were expressly told NOT to talk to any community activists, but to bypass us - we found out about it and managed to have our say and it was pretty grim I can tell you. And I will quote the Voluntary Action manager that was in there with me "We are in crisis" and that could have been about five years ago, so you can imagine what it's like now.

For some reason I was one of a few people who were invited to the 'reading of the will' of that consultation to the staff , and to be fair, much of what we said had been taken down and used in evidence against them.  The staff looked grim.

However, it didn't get us a better community development team etc- they just slashed most of it. It was rebuilt - no not rebuilt - because it was dismal before the slash.  Mostly they got rid of the good with the not so good ft and recruited many (including the managment level) that didn't have a clue what it was about - add that to the funding situation -we struggle on.
Lifes not always fair. Sometimes you can get a splinter even sliding down a rainbow. - Cherralea Morgen

Offline Jean

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2010, 04:48:15 pm »
Can't see the point of taking on costly consultants and, at the same time, producing these budget cuts (up for consultation!):

http://www.swindon.gov.uk/yourcouncil/budgetsandexpenditure/budget2010/budgetproposals.htm

For example, the council proposes cutting the services at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery by a third in an effort to save a measly £6,000 for the rest of the year! It would be nice if the Council promoted it instead!!

 

 

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2010, 05:00:22 pm »

For example, the council proposes cutting the services at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery by a third in an effort to save a measly £6,000 for the rest of the year! It would be nice if the Council promoted it instead!!


Let's put some of this 'smaller' proposed cut to Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in perspective against just some of Rod Bluh's legacy spends.

Wifi loan = £450,000 or, put another way, 75 x £6,000

Tabernacle Stones = £360,000 or, put another way, 60 x £6,000

Radio Rods Big Spend Weekend = £498,000* or, put another way, 83 x £6,000

I could go on, but you get my point.  My own opinion is that the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery is good value.  If the annual grant it receives from SBC is around £18,000

Bluh splurged £1,308,000 (One Million, Three Hundred and eight thousand pounds) on just 3 of his many legacy spends, or, put another way, enough cash to support  Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to the tune of £18,000 each year for over 72 years.

Makes 'yer think doesn't it......

*publicly admitted to by Radio Rod - I still believe this total is incorrect.

Offline Mart

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2010, 08:01:23 pm »
Councils, not uniquely, seem curiously attracted to consultants. I take the point about their function as a figleaf, and the point about manager's ducking those awkward decisions, using the trusty 'Not me Guv' defence and pointing at the backs of the departing consultants.

I idly wonder the ratio of public money / private money that is spent on consultants, also the identified projected savings / realised and 'banked' savings. Suspect my cynicism would get a boost it really doesn't need.

Trouble is with those lured by the twinkling and sparkly world of consultants is that they sometimes get a bit selective with what is suggested in the slickly bound report. Imagine the happy and shortlived career of the consultant who recommended that SBC invest more in amenities like parks and galleries which are relatively low cost, and step smartly away from the big expensive clunky one off headline grabbers, more bang for your buck as it were. Unless 13, or whatever, subscribers for £450k outlay on that which cannot be named represents better value than an Art Gallery. More aspirational and demonstrative of Swindon's intentions. Mmm, council cans Park and Ride, makes Well Woman quite unwell and pushes open spaces back to nature, then spunks £1.4m on a jolly up and a service already amply supplied by experienced and competitive suppliers. Top job. Where does does 'Cost of behaving like

The other problem of course is that consultants recommendations tend to get implemented in the big bang kind of way, the organisation proceeds catastrophically driven in all directions by destructive explosions that occur at unpredictable intervals. It is not efficient, it is disruptive, dmaging and demoralising and the peppring of staff with initiative after initiative leaves cycnical and fatigued.
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.

Offline Mart

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2010, 08:06:40 pm »
Bugger, wrong button.

My solution would be to employ a small group of consultants and encourage them to work with the organisation on a continual basis, be part of the various groups and teams and use their suggestions and knowledge to deliver better service. Unless of course you are convinced your entire workforce, that you employed, know nothing about the jobs they do.

That way progression is steady and constant.

Dear me, that sounds quite reasonable.
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.

Offline itspavagain

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2010, 08:13:15 pm »
Bugger, wrong button.

My solution would be to employ a small group of consultants and encourage them to work with the organisation on a continual basis, be part of the various groups and teams and use their suggestions and knowledge to deliver better service. Unless of course you are convinced your entire workforce, that you employed, know nothing about the jobs they do.

That way progression is steady and constant.

Dear me, that sounds quite reasonable.
The problem with this though, is what happens when the "consultants" have nothing to do, like in the case of the New Swindon Company/Forward Swindon. You end up paying good money after bad so that a bunch of high paid professionals can sit around twiddling their thumbs.

I'd much rather pay for professional services as and when it is needed.

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2010, 08:40:10 pm »
I'd much rather pay for professional services as and when it is needed.

Isn't this exactly what the Directors and Chief exectutive of Swindon Borough Council are supposed to be there for?

Otherwise, what are we paying them between £100,000 and £200,000 each for ?.....


Offline Mart

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2010, 10:19:02 pm »
The problem with this though, is what happens when the "consultants" have nothing to do, like in the case of the New Swindon Company/Forward Swindon. You end up paying good money after bad so that a bunch of high paid professionals can sit around twiddling their thumbs.

Kind of, but the consultants are staff, get the their numbers right and adopt a medium to long term view for the delivery of improvements and they will remain gainfully employed. Improvement needs to be cyclical you visit and revisit, round and round, finish one cycle and start again.

No more sweep in, interrogate, deliberate, deliver and depart having lit a fuse on a thing that goes bang when you are safely away, come to that, no more departing having delivered a cogent, coherent set of sensible reasoned conclusions that are then twisted and buggerised by chimps who then light a fuse on a thing that goes bang.

Much better to have a small team who work alongside staff, as their colleagues, with a vested interest in the continuous delivery of small incremental improvements across a range of disciplines, staff then get used to that way of working and accept improvements as something you look for all the time, not just before the shit hits the fan.

Cutting cost can take two forms, you can do less with less, but that is finite and limiting. It is hugely discouraging for remaining staff and will seriously hack off your customers, particularly if they have nowhere else to go. The other form is to do significantly more with what you have by changing the way you work, and the most likely source of ideas of how to do that will be the existing workforce, your consultants skill will be in sifting and interpreting those ideas. Then you keep doing that over and over again. It never stops. No more big bang, a consistency of approach and a much more positive philosophy.

I think SBC may be someway short of adopting this philosophy, we will continue with the impending crisis + consultants in + cash out = service cut + staff redundancies, repeat ad nauseam.,
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.

Offline Tea Boy

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2010, 10:51:10 pm »
SBc say that every department concerned knew about this yeaterday - no they didn't.

Parks Department read about it in the Adver this morning same as you and me!

Isn't it about time money was saved on the employment of consiltants and spent instead on keeping a few of the front line workers in their jobs?

Hi Muggins, i suppose your R wasn't happy this morning then! Don't tell me he first heard it from the Adver!!! :WTF:

Actually I know that was where he first heard it! He was fuming when I called him earlier, I don't think Gavin Jones' promise, in front of 1000 staff at the wyvern, to " keep all staff informed" holds much water any more. Gavin "Hypocrite" Jones I think :bottom:. He did say his mnager was told late on Friday (after normal working hours) and is on leave this week, so in his absence, when he went to the director level to confirm what was going on that manager was also on leave.  It was only due to his line manager ringing in (from home), when he saw the Adver, that meant he was offcially told at all. So much for consultation eh Gavin? or even management accountability!

At least when the managers at SCS stab you in the back you see it coming! and the decisions are straight forward economic ones. For once i'm glad i'm at SCS. with management of that calibre who needs enemies. It might just be co-incidence, the news coming out and no manager, information or consultation, but there's too much of that 'co-incidence' in the council at moment. Co-incidence my arse, Parks has always been an easy target for cuts and keeping people in the dark, nothing has changed.

R wasn't surprised, he'd heard about trust status etc along time ago, but had discounted it because 'Parks' are now in the Streetsmart department. My favourite quote of his is that he's worked in the council  for 25 years, 8 different directorates, seen off 14 directors, been contracted out twice, worked in 13 depots, 4 offices, 7 parks, been bitten by two dogs and worked with Stuart Tucker....... I wonder what his 'intouch' score is for 'open to change'? ;D. I could do all  that, but work with Stuart, no thanks, bring on the Grim Reaper! ;D

Personally I can see a change in R, from being one of the most motivated 'front line' council officers I know (not that I know many) to becoming despondant and feeling f****d over. Not many of us, the lowest of the low, climb the ranks to his position and when you see the way they are treating him, how will they then treat us! Its enough to make you spit!.  :tickedoff:




The quote below still holds true...

SBC Motto: You play Ball with us and we'll stick the Bat up your Arse
Gardening tips: Always remember its brown side down, green side up.  If its knocking now it'll only go bang later

Offline Bogomil

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2010, 12:31:56 am »
Me thinks some have missed the real point here with the consultants and if you look back you’ll see the trend.

Use consultants then Rod and Co can pass the buck on whatever decision they make, justified by the advice of the consultants.

SDAR, WiFi, etc etc etc…..

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2010, 02:36:06 am »

Aye, Rod Bluh has turned SBC into a local government version of 'My Beautiful Launderette' - a veritable emporium of policy-washing and implausible deniability.

I'm hearing sentiments similar to those Tea Boy expresses from all corners of the Borough and grumblings within the civic offices when I was there on Monday.

Bluh's bullshit and Gavins Jones's smarmy assurances don't seem to sit well with front line staff, and why should they?, the staff are well aware that the 'leadership' is largely away on their holidays.

It's no suprise that the news is timed to be released when they're out of Borough.

Offline Muggins

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2010, 08:05:29 am »
Bogo, the point about buck shoving has not passed us by and it's been made several times via different threads including this one - you've been speed reading again!

Teaboy: As it happened R popped in last evening - he was by then in a state between quaking anger and (dare I say) tears.  Them that know him, know he is a 'Borough man' through and through.  Goodness, he even had a huge respect for John Short when he worked under him.  Let's face it that should prove his credentials!   However his morale and motivation is at an all time low.

He is trying to keep customers foremost in his mind, trying to remember that they are not to blame for all of this. Being pretty much frontline, he's the one having to deliver the itemised bad news.  i.e. the cut backs mean you can't have this or that done. As no one greets this news with a "Oh all right then" every conversation gets uncomfortable - and there is that additional fear of job loss.   

So come on Rod and the rest of you - face up...........you make the decisions, you face up to the public. And keep your staff informed.

Could it be you see  more of the Adver reporters than you do the staff?


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Offline Alex

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2010, 02:57:16 pm »
Swindon Borough Council have signed up to the Mindful Employer Network haven't they?  It's all about keeping people informed and Change being managed in a progressive, non-threatening and inclusive way (and in accordance with the HSE Minimum management standards which are there to reduce stress inthe workplace.)

Surely hiring external consultants are the absolute opposite of this?

I enjoyed Barrie Hudson's article in the Adver today- but not before a shiver of memories of countless talks with Cap Gemini when I was in the Corporate world- exactly the same issues were there then too- millions of pounds paid to external people who interviewed the staff but nothing the staff knew would help the situation were ever implemented.

You do begin to suspect that maybe  they were paid to compile a report to support  managers' existing decisions.

Offline Muggins

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2010, 03:49:05 pm »
"You do begin to suspect that maybe  they were paid to compile a report to support  managers' existing decisions."

Absolutely sure they do this.  I recall Academy consultations and decisions.
Lifes not always fair. Sometimes you can get a splinter even sliding down a rainbow. - Cherralea Morgen

Offline Drone

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2010, 05:23:18 pm »
£50,000 is a huge amount of public money, but it's worth digging a little deeper to see what this consultation is for - getting a huge amount of Swindon's leisure, parks and culture off their books. The consultants are there to investigate 'governance options', ie, who owns and runs lesiure and culture.

The scope of this consultation is huge - helping decide who owns and runs every library in Swindon and the whole library service, 'strategic' parks (Lydiard, Coate, Stanton, Lawns, Town Gardens, etc), every leisure centre in Swindon, all three museums (STEAM, Lydiard House and the under resourced museum and gallery in Old Town), and all cultural provision, such as the Arts Centre.

While this could be a good way to ensure all these places are run well and in the right spirit, the council is actually doing it to save money and cut staff. There's no long term commitment to what remains of Swindon's heritage, or the last few enjoyable or inspiring places in Swindon.

The best case scenario is that leisure, culture, libraries and parks end up in the hands of a commercially and culturally literate charitable trust. In the worst case scenario, sites are shut, sold off or run for a short term profit. Either way, local people won't have any say about how things are run, how much they cost, etc.

As One Swindon is all about public consultation, shouldn't the people of Swindon be asked if they want to see all of the parks, museums and libraries owned and run by someone else?
derp derp herp herp derp

Offline Muggins

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #18 on: August 25, 2010, 05:46:25 pm »
We've actually looked at forming some sort of Trust to manage and improve a large area of open space in our area. 

This could be good, if there is enough people with the right experience, passion, 'capacity' and time to give to the management. 

It might not mean less staff, it might even mean more, it doesn't mean no one get's a say, it might give us more.  A Trust will have to hold meetings  AGM's in particular, it would need to be charitable so it HAS to be open - no choice.  It has to be managed locally too.  BUT there are a lot of ifs and buts to make this a good option. 
Lifes not always fair. Sometimes you can get a splinter even sliding down a rainbow. - Cherralea Morgen

Offline Drone

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Re: Consultants, consultants consultants...but little consultation?
« Reply #19 on: August 25, 2010, 06:18:33 pm »
/\

Very true. When trusts work, they work very well and ensure that local people get a very strong say in how things are run. All of Wiltshire's museums are trust-run, with support from the council for things like conservation and development.

But, for a trust to successfully run, say, Coate Water, it will be reliant (at least initially) on grants from public sector bodies, most of whom are being slashed and won't be there to offer the support and guidance needed. Also, the neglect a lot of the facilities have suffered meant that anyone taking them on has a mountain of maintenance issues to wade through before they even begin. SBC does have experience of sending one of its services out to trust - Swindon Dance. Unfortunately, they've cut their grant year after year.

So I agree, trusts can be fab. but, this council has a pretty poor record on supporting people power.

Also, by my count SBC has paid for 1 consultation on libraries, 1 consultation on making culture more commercial and 1 ongoing consultation about a new museum and art gallery. They may be cutting council jobs, but they do keep management consultants in work!
derp derp herp herp derp

 

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