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."

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?

A guide through Tunbridge Wells Local Press since January 2003 - "Failing Council"