A Correspondent takes a look at Mark Williams’ “Morale Report”

 From a correspondent.

You just have to dip into the detail of the Staff Morale Report prepared by Mark Williams to see how opinionated and selective it is. It also paints an idealised picture of “time past” completely at variance with all the comments made in the  torrent of recent posts.

First of all he uses the personal pronoun “I” throughout.

 “If I were to compare and contrast where we are with where we were I would summarise that this time last year the following factors were noticeable and important in terms of facilitating high morale and the ability of the organisation to cope with change/additional work:

1. Mutual respect between members and officers

2. A recognition by members that officers would always do their best and work hard with the resources that they were allocated to achieve the best possible results.

3. A sense of pride in the organisation and what it was seeking to achieve for the district.

The latest survey results suggest that these 3 factors are now less noticeable and that they have been replaced by a growing recognition of an inappropriate work environment; a sense of a ‘blame culture’ with officers increasingly fearful of doing their jobs and much less likely to ‘go the extra mile’ for the organisation”

 To support these conclusions he draws on a detailed comparison between a staff morale survey conducted last “summer” 2020 and another one conducted in Jan/Feb 2021 (Appendices 1 and 2 to his report)

Unfortunately these surveys aren’t directly comparable. They are not presented in the same way and clearly didn’t ask the same questions.

But should we really be surprised that staff report more strain and stress in January and February? This strain is quite general in society with people from all walks of life having to deal with homeschooling and Lockdown 3. 

Should we be surprised to find Housing, Streetscene and Planning to be the most stressed? 

Planning has certainly been working hard and effectively in providing excellent comments on the two government “mutant algorithm” consultations, getting out of GESP, preparing for the previously neglected new Local Plan Review and getting the LORP planning application before the planning committee in short order to meet the funding constraints. Pressure on Housing and Streetscene will obviously have increased under Covid.

In the February survey 329 members of staff filled in the questionnaire (67% of total staff) (which included the specific question: “I am subject to bullying at work” which didn’t seem to feature in the summer 2020).

What is interesting is that 327 answered this question and 83% replied never, 11% replied seldom and 6% sometimes. (No specification as to where the bullying might have come from, though in the small print elsewhere it looks like four individuals mention councillors ). This is recorded on page 26 of the reference. If you study  this page you will find that all the other questions get a much more negative response, and these are the sort of questions that concern management generally e.g. “Different groups at work demand things from me that are hard to combine.”

This is also very obvious from an examination of the free text comments on page 36, the vast majority concern management issues.

The past year will have been difficult for EDDC staff. They have had to deal with providing an essential service under Covid restrictions whilst serving a new administration naturally keen to make progress on a  very different set of priorities. As someone commented yesterday, it is Mark Williams’ duty to facilitate this change. In fomenting trouble by ignoring the management problems highlighted by his staff, concentrating instead on unsubstantiated claims of bullying against the cabinet, he is failing the staff he is supposed to support; council taxpayers who pay his salary and to do his duty.

Finally, it is worth drawing the attention of Mark Williams and all Councillors to the seven individuals who commented along the lines: “There is political infighting and Councillors disrespecting other Councillors, which is stressful.”

2 thoughts on “A Correspondent takes a look at Mark Williams’ “Morale Report”

  1. Selective presentation of a loaded survey has long been part of the skill set of Williams and his close colleagues. Ably supported by the uncomprehending bleats of some of the dimmer and less cautious tories. Anyone who really believes they or a colleague has been bullied should avail themselves of the existing complaints system, as Mr Williams himself has done. With limited success on a technical point and others rejected, even with a panel including the resolute former Tory whip Cllr Twiss. Hopefully in future a competent independent investigator will be used so anyone coming forward or complained against can be sure of a fair hearing, free from the disgraceful abuse of the last 10 years.

    After Cllr Ingham split the Independent representatives in 2019 in pursuit of his personal ambitions I remonstrated with the leaders of both groups, Cllrs Ingham and Arnott. One of the bizarre justifications given by Cllr Ingham for his preference to work with the discredited former regime was that Cllr Arnott if leader would instantly dismiss a number of senior officers, Mr Williams among them. Predictably that has not been the case. The highly partisan Mr Williams has clearly been given the opportunity to change his spots and appears to have declined. I for one would have liked a number of troubling issues from the past to be investigated, which has also not happened. The new administration are clearly moving forward constructively for the benefit of all of us so although I don’t agree with every position or decision I do believe they deserve nothing but praise.

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  2. Well, what a surprise. NOT!!!

    Mark Williams has proven yet again that A) he cannot be trusted, and B) he is biased against the Independent Administration. Not a surprise to many of us.

    Indeed, whilst I am not generally one for conspiracy theories, this whole saga has the feel of a carefully orchestrated campaign dreamt up by Mark Williams and the Conservatives, for Mark Williams to produce a scurrilous biased report, and for the Conservatives (who now officially include fake Independent Ben Ingham) to use it to create a drama and call for the resignation of the Independent leadership when in reality there is nothing much to see here, and what there is to see can not yet?) be attributed to the Independent leadership and might indeed be caused by Conservative councillors.

    But perhaps, under the current administration the CEO can be held to account for his biased analysis and officially reprimanded.

    And perhaps the isolated incidents of bullying can be investigated to determine which councillors and which political group they belong to in order to see whether criticisms against the Independent group leadership were at all justified.

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