Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Control Freakery, Bullying, Arrogance and Malpractice; ...What Troubleshooter Uncovered at [Pounds Sterling]1bn-a-Year Tory Council

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Control Freakery, Bullying, Arrogance and Malpractice; ...What Troubleshooter Uncovered at [Pounds Sterling]1bn-a-Year Tory Council

Article excerpt

Byline: Katharine Barney and Paul Waugh

A TROUBLESHOOTER uncovered a culture of bullying and the worst case of financial mismanagement he had seen when he was called in to oversee a Tory council.

Michael Frater spent six months as interim chief executive at Surrey county council and exposed a catalogue of malpractice at the authority, which spends about [pounds sterling]1billion of taxpayers' cash a year. Council bosses were found to be "superior and arrogant", with relations having broken down between officials and within political groups.

One councillor told Mr Frater the last four years had been "hell". Mr Frater, who has 15 years' experience as a chief executive, was asked to help Surrey recover from dire official ratings after it was found to have failed 4,000 vulnerable children. Ofsted said the authority's children's social services were "inadequate". Children's Secretary Ed Balls threatened to intervene unless improvements were made over two years.

Another report raised concerns over the performance of one in five social workers. Mr Frater, who arrived at the council in January, laid bare the failings of the authority in a document delivered to councillors as he left.

He said the council was "self-serving", with difficult issues being swept under the carpet and an "obsession" with bureaucracy. There was an absence of good working relations with the county's 11 district councils and its MPs, even though some such as Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and Philip Hammond could form the core of any future Conservative government.

Mr Frater's report said: "The blaming and bullying, the arrogance and remoteness, the associated inability for the organisation to learn, have in combination created a situation where it seems that almost everyone in the organisation could see what was wrong, but no one felt able, empowered or safe enough to articulate it. …

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