Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Mole who was a Plant

#rdgnews - Reading's Labour party bosses have admitted they were 'forced' to reveal their plans to eliminate senior management posts in a £1m savings drive earlier than required.

Cllr Jo Lovelock described her 'embarrassment' at discovering the 'leak'.

The anonymous author of the since-deleted Civic Minded in Reading blog had reported 'overhearing' a private supermarket conversation in which a senior Labour councillor proclaimed where the axe would fall, ahead of the mid-December announcement - thereby preempting any requirement to inform or consult with counterparts, as would be normally expected, and producing a fait accompli.

The reorganisation of RBC senior management will involve eliminating the £145,000pa Chief Executive job currently held by Michael Coughlin and combine his role with the equally powerful and well-remunerated Director of Resources post, held by David Peasley. Labour expects this to create annual savings of £920,000.

Mr Coughlin is widely respected for his scrupulous commitment to constructive non-partisan politics and was praised for his smooth oversight of the potentially fractious recent, and short-lived, period of coalition - the first in Reading's modern history. Cynical commenters have suggested the move is personal payback against Mr Coughlin who replaced the more Labour-friendly Trish Haines in 2008. Long-serving Mr Peasley is now expected to assume the newly combined top job.

Effectively conceding the point, Cllr Lovelock has since declared no inquiry will take place to identify the author of the blog or establish the truth of the supermarket allegation, as "there are far more important things to be getting on with."

Well, it's obviously so unimportant to her that serious breaches of councillor conduct by members of her own side are overlooked that she spends extra time whipping-up disciplinary hearings for opponents (see previously)!

Jane Griffiths vents some spleen against her former party colleagues, wondering whether it was simply a coincidence that the accepted culprit (generally acknowledged as Park Ward's Cllr Hartley) is standing down at the next election in May, so it was no loss to remove him from his frontline Cabinet position anyway.

So witness the perverse spectacle of Labour activists cock-a-hoop at the apparent embarrassment for their party!

In what was a pre-arranged and coordinated strategy, Redlands Ward Cllr Jan Gavin gives the game away explaining that she hopes any savings produced from cutting management jobs will prove to be a successful election ploy which will help her local team unseat LibDem leader Cllr Daisy Benson in the ward they both represent.

And Cllr Gavin's electoral agent Tony Jones talks up their chances declaring a belief that people who previously voted LibDem are 'coming home to Labour' - there's nothing like the sight of experienced politicians treating voters like their personal chattel!

But LibDems struck back.

Cllr Warren Swaine republishes the original rumour, adding his comment:
"It is absolutely true that Labour has had a series of meetings which were out of cycle and it was abundantly clear that they were up to something and that something is, it would appear, is to axe officers who they deem as uncooperative."
He then followed up by picking out a phrase used by Labour which he calls a 'slip' - he notes Cllr Lovelock justified the removal of the Chief Executive position on the grounds that the council will employ "a significantly smaller number of council staff."

Cllr Swaine points out that Labour is struggling to contain spending increases currently running at 16% this year having previously promised to reduce outgoings in line with national cuts in central grants, and is thereby seeking to distract attention from the increased level of debt Reading is taking on just to survive - in Reading's budget 1% equates to about £1m.

A fresh local financial crisis is looming locally... is Labour hoping for a bailout, or will they make savings by cutting more jobs?

Oranjepan says:
Having kept a close eye on local political blogs while monitoring the Berkshire blogosphere, it is beyond belief that an obscure blog-site can appear and reproduce a single post of unsubstantiated hearsay before disappearing without a trace after only a few days and be noticed, let alone be taken seriously by any political figure in the town - that is, unless the writer is a known plant operating as a sympathetic source within the  established political ecosystem. The only possible conclusion is: the 'leak' was not by a whistle-blower, but a dog-whistler.

As the Labour leader said, "Rather than pretending it was not happening, we decided we would not be disingenuous" - this is absolutely untrue, she has hardly contained the fact, rather she and her colleagues enthusiastically brought the matter into the open by disingenuous means.

For Cllr Lovelock some things are more important than the truth, though clearly not the jobs of council employees.

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