If you’ve ever dealt with someone whose performance stinks, and they’re not only clueless that their performance stinks but they’re confident that their performance is good, you likely saw the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council has recently had a major shake up in its senior management team. This shake up has led to the number of Corporate Director’s doubling from two to four. Of course, with promotion comes an increase in salary. Meanwhile, the valuable foot soldiers who do sterling work are diminishing and the use of temporary staff increasing.
Including the Head of Paid Service, Dr Susan Priest the top team are known colloquially among the Shepwayvox team as the “Famous Five“.
Their leader is Dr Susan Priest (pictured) who is Head of Paid Service of Folkestone & Hythe District Council. Dr Priest took up this position on the 1st April 2018.
As Head of Paid Service, Susan has overall responsibility for the delivery of all services the Council provided. She oversees all staff and works closely with councillors to provide leadership and strategic direction. In addition, Susan also carries out the role of Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer.
In her time short tenure as Head of Paid Service and Returning Officer she has had to deal with overcharging at East Kent Housing, potential electoral violations, Cllrs leaking confidential information regarding Otterpool Park and ongoing staffing issues.
Dr Priest’s total remuneration, including pension contributions was £125, 479 in 2018/19. However, we know that Dr Priest and her senior associates all received a significant pay rise in June 2019
Under Susan come the four Corporate Directors, two of whom are new in 2020.
In no particular order, first comes John Bunnett – former Chief Exec of Ashford Borough Council (pictured). He was until recently, Corporate Director for Place & Commercial. He has since become a Corporate Director solely responsible for Otterpool Park. In 2018/19 his total remuneration, including pension contributions was £115,479. He too received a raise in June 2019.
On John’s watch four Cllrs have released commercially sensitive information into the public domain about how much the Council are prepared to pay the Reuben Brothers company, Cozumel Estates for their land.
The third of the Famous five is Corporate Director Tim Madden (pictured). His title is Customer, Support, and Specialist Services. Tim takes the lead on organisational transformation initiatives and matters relating to improvement, efficiency and organisational development. He is also the s151 officer – the person responsible for the Council’s finances. The overpayments made to P & R by the Council happened in a department Tim has responsibility for. Tim like others never spotted these overpayments.
Tim will, in the not too distant future, relinquish the s151 officer position. In 2018/19, Tim received £115,479, including pension contributions. He too received a raise in June 2019.
Tim applied for the top job at the Council but was beaten to the top job by Dr Priest.
It was recently announced by Dr Priest that two assistant executive directors were promoted to Corporate Director Status.
The first of these was Andy Blaszkowicz (pictured below) – who became Director of Housing & Operations, in January 2020. His rise has been quite meteoric given the fact he has been with the Council less than five years.
Now in his previous position Andy was responsible for: Grounds Maintenance, Property, Lifeline, Engineers, Building Control, Parking & Transport, Corporate Health & Safety, Private Sector Housing and Commercial Services.
There has we know been issues with Building Control over Ross House, and issues with property which was and remain under Andy’s control.
The fifth member of the famous five is Charlotte Spendley – who became Director of Corporate Services in Jan 2020. Now as we understand Charlotte has applied for the current vacancy for Director-of-Place which comes with a salary of £116,000. Part of the responsibilities for this position is s151 – the person responsible for the money. Now various sources have said that the job description for Director of Place was written with Charlotte in mind. This apparently happens quite a lot in local government we are reliably informed.
Charlotte began her working working life at the Council as an accountancy assistant and rose through the ranks. In 2011 she is then tupe’d over to East Kent Housing, when it was born in 2011. There she stayed until Oct 2017 as head of finance. Then Charlotte returned to the Council as Head of Finance. So Charlotte was at East Kent Housing and the Council between 2017/18, while overcharging by P & R was happening. She saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil about overcharging by P & R.
There have been, and continue to be significant ongoing staff resources issues within the Council. Areas such as finance, planning and Governance Law & Reg Services, for example, have become reliant upon an ever increasing use of temporary staff. Temporary staff costs have grown by 62% when the 2018/19 figures are compared to the 2019/20 figures. The difference in spend so far is £350,533.
Now all members of the “Famous Five” have had substantial issues while managing their portfolio’s. Cllrs who are ultimately their masters have done little to help the growing number of banana skins officers are slipping on.
The evidence set out above appears to support a plausible basis that the “Famous Five” are all suffering from the Dunning Kruger effect.
The Shepwayvox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful