TROUBLED times at the top of a council are over, its leader said, after a critical report on its leadership.
Gloucester City Council was rocked by allegations of nepotism amongst officers which saw sackings and resignations just over a year ago.
A peer review conducted by another council found things were not all rosy at the council’s top table.
Now with chief executive Julian Wain expected to leave the council soon, council leader Paul James sought to draw a line under the affair.
“The council went through a very well documented difficult period at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013,” he said.
“It was around staffing issues and when these things happen it does take time for the organisation to fully recover.
“But the peer challenge team did acknowledge we have come a long way since then, although there is further work to do.
“As things stand now the cabinet and the senior management team have an extremely good relationship and are working well in the best interests of the council.”
The peer review, drawn up by councillors from five other local authorities said ‘strategic and organisational capacity is stretched and things are beginning to creak‘ – the risks around this need to be monitored and a revision of capacity might be required in some areas in response.’.
“The council was in a very difficult and challenging situation in late 2012,” it read.
“A series of issues came together which culminated in a number of officer suspensions and some people subsequently leaving the employment of the council, with the approach that was taken to address the situation causing further unease. The ‘issues of 12 months ago’ (as people refer to the situation) have had a major impact on the organisation and led to matters of trust and confidence within the council.
“This is still having an adverse effect on the functioning of the authority.
“As an example, one of the consequential impacts is staff being apprehensive and reluctant to take decisions for fear of getting them wrong and undermining their future with the organisation as a result.
“They instead escalate them up the organisational hierarchy, with bottlenecks and slowed decision-making resulting.
“Day to day relationships between people across the council and the general atmosphere as people go about their work are good again following a significant dip when the issues arose twelve months ago.
“However, relationships within the collective senior leadership of the council, politically and managerially, are clearly still tense, albeit less so than in late 2012.”
The council has had to make £7.5million-worth of cuts over the past four years, and faces another £3million-worth over the next two years - it’s lost a quarter of its budget due to Coalition Government cuts.
“Whenever organisations go through periods of change - and it has been almost constant since we have had to make savings - it’s important that these changes are communicated well.
“I acknowledge that perhaps more should have been done in that area.”
As the Gloucester Citizen revealed earlier this month, Mr Wain is expected to depart soon. The council is holding a special meeting of its organisational development committee tonight, where arrangements for how the council will be run at the top are likely to be approved, ahead of a full council meeting on Thursday.
A move to ask Gloucestershire County Council to share its chief executive role is not believed to be likely.
A council spokesman said Mr Wain did not wish to comment.