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20 November 2020

Publish date: 20/11/2020

I delayed writing the blog this week due to my attendance on the Panel at the LGA's Making Democracy Digital- Hybrid Meetings webinar, which examined common themes on remote meetings and looked ahead to a hybrid/blended provision. Expertly chaired by Cllr Peter Fleming, we heard from 12 speakers in total including case studies in just over an hour. The webinar and a host of other resources can be found on their dedicated webpage.

My delay meant that at the time of writing, the news was breaking on the resignation of Sir Alex Allan. For those of you who haven't caught up yet, the long-awaited inquiry report on the home secretary Priti Patel, concluded with a finding that she did breach the ministerial code by bullying civil servants. In response, the Prime Minister took a different view, deciding the code was not so breached due to the 'inadvertent' consequences of the behaviour complained of. It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves here that the forward to the ministerial code signed by Boris Johnson last year includes overt prohibitions on bullying and harassment, together with a reiteration of what we broadly recognise as the Nolan principles; integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty, and leadership in the public interest. It will be interesting to see if the Committee on Standards in Public Life, who have previously raised concerns around ethical standards by letter, make further representations in consequence.

Sir Allan was a senior career civil servant and the Prime Ministers independent adviser on the Code. Prior to that he had an impressive history as the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and Head of Intelligence Assessment for Her Majesty's Government.

Looking ahead next week we are expecting the Spending Review with reports that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, looks likely to announce a pay freeze for all public sector workers save for NHS frontline staff. A nod towards this was outlined by the Chancellor back in July when he said in the "interest of fairness we must exercise restraint in future public sector pay awards…..". This expected outcome, coupled with the Exit Payment Cap regulations affecting something like 86% of over 55year olds facing redundancy, doesn't make for the most encouraging news as we hurtle toward a long winter.

If, like me, you could benefit from something cheery to lift the mood, why not join the Association of Democratic Services Officers for their Virtual Awards next Thursday (26th November) at 5.30pm. It promises to inject a bit of fun and happiness into your working week! You can register here

Best wishes

Helen McGrath