Courier 25 April 2003 Front Page


By Mary Harris

Top jobs at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council are to be axed in a bid to save money and flatten the management structure. Six posts will be scrapped - four high ranking and two support jobs - if proposals by chief executive Rodney Stone are agreed by councillors.
He wants to improve the quality of the decision-making processes and admits that the council handled the PR side of the brown bins introduction badly.
He estimates the redundancies will save the council approximately 200,000 a year and strip it of a "layer of management".

The measures described as phase one, mark the end of a 14-week internal investigation during which all departments went "under the microscope".
Staff are bracing themselves for an announcement but it is believed those in the frame have already been warned.

Mr Stone told the Kent and Sussex Courier the re-organisation was long overdue but admitted it was an unsettling time.
"The budget said we should be trying to save 250,000 this year and in the future and clearly in an organisation whose 70-80 per cent costs are people-related we can't try to save without looking at layers of management.
"It was right to look at senior posts first - the last thing we want to cut down on is frontline services. I have tried to follow judgments raised in Best Value studies," he said.

Remaining managers will then scrutinise their own staff structures to see if further changes can be made and some strands, for example sections of the housing department, may be contracted out. Cabinet councillors were due to discuss the recommendations yesterday [24 April 2003] and Mr Stone said he was eager to implement them.
"I would like to get this done and settled and anyone who is going, gone and any new posts evaluated and the managers appointed. We want an individual expert in each area rather than someone trying to do both."
But he said he wasn't expecting immediate results from the paring down of the senior workforce.
"I am not looking at any significant things happening until probably 2004.
"There won't be changes in terms of departments, except perhaps where we will split them into two. We will be able further to improve our performance and at the same time deal with some of the criticism that has been around.
"For example, I think our public involvement on phase one of the brown bins scheme was seriously inadequate and we genuinely learnt lessons from that."

Mr Stone said the borough council was never going to have "an easy ride" because of the nature of Tunbridge Wells people, who are "hungry for information and want to be involved".
"That's a good thing. People in the borough are also more articulate and knowledgeable than most and we are conscious of that and doing more consultation and more market research. But we are never going to please everyone because a lot of our work is about disputes.
"Some people want Tunbridge Wells to be a nice, sleepy town and others want it to be economically thriving."

After the Telephone House Public Inquiry, during summer/autumn 2001 :
The attitude of TWBC Chief Executive and Director of Operational Services towards Residents

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