The Independent London Newspaper
17th August 2017

Leaked emails on management style add bitter edge to council leadership contest

    Sarah Hayward has been challenged by Sally Gimson

    Published: 22 April, 2016
    By RICHARD OSLEY

    LEAKED emails questioning Town Hall leader Sarah Hayward’s personal management style are set to provoke a bitter row in the final two weeks before Labour councillors vote on who will lead their ruling group.

    The internal private documents were written by a now-former member of council staff soon after Labour emphatically won the borough-wide elections two years ago. 

    They include references to Cllr Hayward’s angry rebukes to staff, “furious rage” and a chaotic set-up in the leader’s office.

    Copies were sent to the New Journal this week and are understood to  have been shown to some councillors who will vote at next month’s annual general meeting, at which Cllr Hayward is being challenged for the leadership of the council by social services chief Councillor Sally Gimson.

    Cllr Hayward said last night (Wednesday): “As anyone who has ever worked in a political private office will know the nature of the challenge makes it a high-pressure environment. 

    “For some time the structures in the office were not adequate to meet the demands of the political administration or the organisation. This put pressure on all concerned, including me. 

    “Since September 2015 new arrangements have been in place to support me and the deputy leader. These arrangements are working well.”

    No formal complaints have been made against Cllr Hayward.

    Sally Gimson

    The emails sent from a council staff member to another said the way the office was being run was “a pointless waste of time”, adding that staff were “not being in any way productive, which is a waste of tax-payers’ money.”

    Another added that officers were shouted at “face to face and over the phone” and strongly-worded messages texted to personal mobile phones.

    Asked about the emails, Cllr Hayward added: “I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that anyone who has concerns about the behaviour of Camden councillors, officers or contractors should use the appropriate channels for making a complaint. Raising issues from years ago via the media, and without the consent of the individual involved, suggests more concern for political ambition than the welfare of staff.”

    Privately, Cllr Hayward’s supporters are describing the circulation of the emails as “dirty tricks”, opening up a gloves-off battle in the final fortnight of the leadership campaign which ultimately comes down to a secret ballot of Camden’s 39 councillors.

    Cllr Gimson would not comment on the emails, although one of her supporters said that councillors would be “very concerned” to read the content.

    While disagreements over policy decisions have always been a feature of internal Labour politics over the years, the move towards an attack on personal management style has been largely unheard of.

    The leadership contest had been in the pipeline since January but was confirmed earlier this month when Cllr Gimson made a declaration that she would stand against the council leader. Both sides are reportedly confident of a winning outcome. 

    Cllr Gimson’s original pitch to members on changing the style of leadership at the Town Hall said: “We now need a big-tent approach and an inclusive leadership which makes use of all the talents we have at our disposal.”

    She has also emphasised the need to build alliances with residents, members of other Labour councils and MPs for a united opposition to Tory government policies. 

    Cllr Hayward said: “Camden faces unprecedented threats at a time of massive upheaval in financial and policy terms. We have an excellent team of councillors and officers who are determined to deliver for Camden and I am confident that together we can rise to the challenges ahead.”

    Comments

    Cllr Hayward

    Having worked very closely with this setup, I know that the latest round of 'new arrangements' in the leader's office can only be another futile attempt to tame one of the largest egoes in North London's loopy Labour diaspora (similar reorganisations have happened before without success). 

    Confidentiality in the delivery of council services

    The reference to 'big tent' reminds me of a statement attributed to Pres. Lindon B Johnstone on his appointment of rabid anti-Communist J Edgar Hoover as head of the FBI. Johnstone said that it would be better to have Hoover 'inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in'.

    But as a recipient of council services I am reminded of lack of sound insulation in the customer-interfacing booth the last time I had a face-to-face meeting in the Housing Benefits Dept some years ago. I could hear quite clearly what was being said in the adjoining booth.

    Oh, diddums

    Surely those banker-salaried Town Hall directors are paid enough to tolerate an earful every-now-and-then! Fair enough if it’s junior staff, but why would they be dealing directly with the leader - thought that was the big-wigs’ jobs. Suggest the staff get out more and talk to residents to get them more used to telling offs.

    Bi tent?

    It would take a marquee the size of a circus to turn the mess around. Camden is a failing council and must seek help from specialist civil servants outside the borough now to deliver to residents.

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