Courier 7 January 2005 Editor's Column and Front Page

Kent and Sussex Courier - Editor: Giles Broadbent
Longfield Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 3HL,

Shakespeare in the Town Hall

Plots are afoot to dethrone the chief executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

According to a number of leading sources at the heart of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, it appears that the wolves are circling around chief executive Rodney Stone.

As we report in some of our editions this week, there is significant talk of moves to look for a replacement figurehead for a council that has been battered more than once in recent years.

Mr Stone must feel somewhat beleaguered at present. And the atmosphere in the Town Hall must be tense as reformers gauge the level of support for their action.

One can only imagine the awkwardness in the corridors of power where one group of players is conspiring in the downfall of someone who has been a good colleague and friend to many of them for years. With whispers and plots and power as the prize, it has a Shakespearean air to it. The word "scapegoat" will be bandied about by Mr Stone's supporters who recognise that the problems that beset this council do not fall into the lap of one man.

Setting aside personalities - and Mr Stone is undoubtedly an affable and well-intentioned man - he must have always known that, like a football manager, his departure carried such symbolic baggage that it was a tempting option for those who wanted to signal to irate taxpayers that change was imminent and meaningful.

The relationship between officer and council is a curious marriage and we may never know the full secrets, should a divorce ensue.
The officers would argue they are hampered by councillors in their quest for reform while the councillors would pass the blame the other way towards the slow-turning wheels of officialdom.

An honourable man, Mr Stone would put his hand up and declare that he must take an appropriate share of the blame. He has done so in the past when discussing specific failings. But he would surely look to others to take a similar position of self-flagellation.
If it is the case that Mr Stone finds himself eased away from the boss's chair - either happily (with dignity and a bumper sum in his back pocket) or unwillingly - there will be time to speculate on a successor.

And, should that recruitment process get under way, the Cabinet may take the time to take a good hard look at themselves and their fellow kingmakers and powerbro-kers and wonder to what extent Mr Stone took the rap for collective failings and, in doing so, let them off the hook.
Already there are the rumblings of disunity among the plotters and this can only be exacerbated by a ruthless decapitation.

If Mr Stone is to be sacrificed - and we have no wish to precipitate his departure - maybe it is time for others to reflect on their capacity to govern.
In doing so, they may consider the best course of action at such a time of change and upheaval is a clean sweep. In which case, they should step aside and usher in a new generation of councillors and stakeholders with a vibrant vision of the borough's management and future.

A new chief executive must not be hampered by old thinking.

and - The Courier 07.01.2005, Front Page,
By Mary Harris -
"Knives out for Council's Chief
The Chief Executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council could lose his job at the helm of the crisis-hit authority."

Sponsored by the Municipal Journal
10 January 2005


by Nicola Carroll

Pressure for the chief executive of poorly-performing Tunbridge Wells BC to quit is mounting.
Insiders told the local press that councillors at the Tory-led borough, which was placed in the 'weak' category at the last CPA inspection, were calling for Rodney Stone to stand down.

Mr Stone, a lawyer by profession, has been chief executive for 18 years. The Kent and Sussex Courier ran an editorial (Friday 7 January 2005) saying he was to be made a 'scapegoat' for problems besetting the council.

The Audit Commission's last CPA report identified lack of political and managerial leadership, lack of clear priorities, and lack of clear decision-making as the root of poor performance in the affluent borough. The council has 48m in reserves and its council tax for band D is 70, the lowest in Kent. But it had not made the best use of its resources to improve services for residents, according to inspectors.

An improvement plan has been drawn up, but it is looking unlikely that the current chief executive will be in place to see it through. Rumours are rife within the town hall that the chief executive will be offered a payoff. Mr Stone was on pre-planned leave for a fortnight and unavailable for comment. The council leader Melvyn Howell was also on holiday and unavailable for comment as The MJ went to press.

Tunbridge Wells BC is said to be split apart over the chief executive's position. Mr Stone's supporters argue that blame for the council's troubles cannot be laid in the lap of one person when there was strife among its political leaders and backbencher councillors felt disenfranchised. But others consider getting rid of the current chief a starting place for much-needed change.

The CPA report said: "Due to weak leadership, both politically and from the corporate management team, the council has yet to form an effective partnership with key stakeholders, and the community, to set a shared long-term vision, or an agreed set of aims for the borough."

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's cabinet met on 6 January 2005 and proposed a new set of priorities for the council and established a budget for the forthcoming financial year.

TWBC Chief Executive's and Senior Officers' Attitude towards Residents and Rate Payers

What went wrong with the Telephone House Planning Applications ?
The uneasy questions to the Chief Executive Rodney Stone and other senior officers of TWBC

2005, the questions are still unanswered - they are as intriguing as in 2001.
April 2002 - CALA Homes bought this planning application.
With an ever increasing awareness of the flaws in the design? - Foundations for sustainable and viable development?

The Telephone House Neighbours Association, Tunbridge Wells
The aims are to heighten peoples' awareness and concern for the high-density development on Telephone House site, Church Road / York Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1.