We extend the hand of welcome to the SIC’s new, albeit interim, chief executive Alistair Buchan who eased himself into post at the Town Hall this week. He arrived at the start of show time when most eyes are away from council activities. That will change early next week when the Accounts Commission publishes its findings following the two-day hearing into the troubled authority in June. His main task will be reacting to those findings and following any recommendations to restore some stability and sense.
He will also have the opportunity, which he said this week he would exploit to the full, of repairing relationships between councillors and officials, and of assessing whether he has the right people with the necessary skills around him in the correct structural set-up.
Mr Buchan said shortly after he was appointed that he did not have all the answers as to how the SIC can extricate itself from the appalling mess it got itself into during David Clark’s short-lived tenure as chief executive. In part, he was sensibly playing down expectations, but the point should be obvious: it will take a collaborative effort not only to rebuild but to face the toughest public spending squeeze in living memory. While the cultural change in attitudes towards spending will be enforced by circumstances, a similar alteration in mindset towards the role of chief executive will perhaps be more difficult, if no less necessary.
His suggestion of a shift in emphasis towards policy – and away presumably from personnel issues – is welcome. But it is surely also a coded call for elected members in general, and office bearers in particular, to take more responsibility for the direction of council affairs. That is what they were elected for, after all.