The Mission to Explain

Local Government is very good at getting “stuck on the complicated side of the argument”, and sometimes you just have to let criticism slide because it’s not worth having the fight. A good example is the FT’s recent story about how Essex County Council were delaying a decision on outsourcing – it had been expected on May 1st, but Councillors would not in fact make a decision for “five weeks or more”.

Now I am entirely open to the suggestion that Essex is in turmoil, Lord Hanningfield’s authority has collapsed, and nobody is capable of pushing a decision through the Council. The Council’s pedestrian line that “the delay is so that the prospective partners can have more detailed discussions on the IT element of the outsourcing contract” also seems quite plausible to me.

An alternative explanation, however, is that there are County Council elections on the 4th of June, meaning the Council is in what used to be called ‘purdah’, and I think is now meant to be described as ‘the closed period before elections’.  Someone probably realised that, within these rules, it is almost impossible to make, say you have made, or say you are going to make, a controversial decision of any kind.

That would fit neatly with the “five weeks”, and in fact it will be ‘shockingly’ delayed again since I assume it will take a little while to get the votes counted and the Councillors assembled for an inaugural meeting, although technically the Cabinet could probably meet and take any really urgent decisions before that, assuming they have all survived the vote.

It would be a boring story, though.


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