Scilly’s Interim Chief Exec Talks About The Challenges Ahead

New interim chief executive, Barry Keel

New interim chief executive, Barry Keel

The interim Chief Executive of the Council of the Isles of Scilly says the authority needs to make cuts swiftly so they won’t run out of cash for services.

Barry Keel has started a thorough review of services to see how money could be saved and how delivery could be improved.

By next April, the Council is expected to be £1.4m over budget and the reserves are now being used up. That money runs out in March 2016.

Mr Keel says that balancing the Council’s books is ‘do-able’ but savings will need to come by smarter working, as the authority can’t expect government grants or handouts in the future.

From Radio Scilly

Hear the full interview with Barry Keel from Radio Scilly

But he says the longer the authority delays it, the worse it will get. He wants to talk to staff, councillors and council partners and work with them to identify what needs doing within a short space of time.

Staffing accounts for 70% to 80% of costs and there will need to be changes in working. Barry says it’s too early to say whether restructuring would mean job losses and he’s aware of how that would impact on the wider community.

But he says councils across the country are having to make hard decisions about what they do, and more importantly, what they don’t do. We can’t necessarily carry on doing everything we’ve done in the past, he says.

Barry feels that if staff are involved in the process, they’ll back it and everyone will be able to work towards the same goal – improving services while reducing costs.

Mr Keel says he’s also looking at whether Scilly needs six Director-level officers. Plymouth operates with three and Devon has just two, but he says geography and circumstances differ in each area. There’s no set formula and further work needs to be done.

Barry has taken the position for around six months and while the work may take a little longer, he says he doesn’t want a full-time role here.

Some councillors have questioned whether there’s any need to hire a new Chief Executive in the future as many councils now share theirs with other authorities. This isn’t Mr Keel’s favoured option and he says the trick is to pick a new Chief Executive who’s right for the authority and can deliver on the agenda now being set.

Barry says you have to be clear to employees about where you’re heading and says most people in any organisation just want to do a good days work and get credit for what they do.

And he says everyone needs to be involved in the change – the members, the staff and the community. If it’s just him on his own trying to change, he says, it’s doomed to failure.

The key in the next few weeks is to agree the issues facing the authority, identify the priorities and get action plans put in place so staff can deliver.

“It’s about putting the organisation back on the rails,” he says. “Once there’s some momentum, it’s difficult to stop.”

10 Responses to Scilly’s Interim Chief Exec Talks About The Challenges Ahead

  1. louise graham April 19, 2013 at 8:41 am

    This must be a worrying time for council staff, as it is for all of us with businesses. Times are hard- its a fact but by working together to find solutions we will get through it.
    What is refreshing and offers some hope is Mr Keels wish to engage council staff in the process of cutting costs and improving services.
    There will be some staff approaching retiring who may be able to take earlier retirement and/or others who can take voluntary redundancy.
    Posts which were created with the help of grant funding will be coming to a natural end soon. There is a need for common sense decisions and a rationalisation of the workforce in the council. Having spent a couple of years working there myself I know just how hard many people work – especially at the lower end of the pay scale and these are the people who actually do the ‘real’ work.
    Maybe it is time to take account of where the greater proportion of salaries are spent and look at reducing these before the actual ‘workers’ are culled.

  2. Nobby Nobbs April 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    When you het elected Adam , you can kick some serious butt
    Can I suggest you start with the Technical dept

  3. Scillyme April 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    As a retired Management Consultant, who spent several years with both Somerset and Devon County Councils cutting out the dead wood, and saving them many thousands of pounds, I would be only too pleased to offer my services free of charge to Barry Keel to achieve the same objective.

  4. Adam Morton,St.Martins April 18, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Don’t forget there are plenty of people who also work hard who won’t get paid at all in the private sector and who actually lost their jobs or went bankrupt. No one cares till it affects them! We have seen two major businesses out of four or five go bust on St. Martins losing a good percentage of island income. We hear lip service about austerity from the council yet their workforce grows relentlessly drowning us in bureaucracy. You can’t blame some of the wider community for feeling that the only way the council will act on anything meaningful is if they feel some of the pain. Possibly unfair but the only way the message gets through. Personally I have been waiting four months for a simple notification from one department, that I need to run my business!

  5. jenny green April 18, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Hard workers, a good work ethic and a sense of community does not protect jobs. If they did then 1,000s of miners, car workers and manufacturing jobs would not have been lost and the communities they support would not have been devastated. Economics determines jobs. The I.O.S Council have continued to recruit unchecked, for years. I, like many are sympathetic to those who feel their jobs are not valued and may be lost.
    Six I.O.S Council Directors for a population of 2,200, is unsustainable. This is not about work ethics, it is about what is affordable. I would question whether the Islands can sustain these highly paid jobs, even the CEO post, just in case their is a crisis.What is probability of a crisis, what sort of crisis and why do you require a highly paid figure head to front such a could be, would be, may be, crisis. I doubt very much that the Director of Finance, has referred to in Kerri’s interview with the new CEO is the only I.O.S Council employee claiming expenses in excess of £1,000 per month. Worrying time for Local Authority employees, yes, an uncomfortable wake-up call to the real world.

  6. Bill Hiner April 18, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Time to concentrate on doing the basics well and forget all the “nice” and “trendy” initiatives!
    Sort out the waste disposal, roads, water, care for the elderly and the other essentials.
    The rest can wait until we have some more cash!
    PS. If it helps, why can’t we all pay a little bit more in Council Tax?

  7. Nobby Nobbs April 17, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    I was chatting to a freind on the mainland today and I said to them……
    “bearing in mind there are 2200 people on the islands,
    how many people do you think are employed by the council”.
    They thought about it for a few moments and then said
    “about 15?”
    When I told them the answer was over 320, they almost fell off their chair.

    No one want’s to see job losses,
    but the levels of staffing at the council are just unsustainable
    There are over 60 people earning £40plus

    • IanT April 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      The obvious solution, as I have stated before, is to merge the ioS Council with Cornwall County Council. This would probably cut the employee numbers by at least 50%. Sad for those losing their job but when you consider that a lot of workers are ‘imported’ from the mainland and further afield every year many of which need accommodation provided, there are surely plenty of opportunities for local people. True they may not spend their day sitting in front of a computer screen and have a fancy job name, but at least some of the housing problem could potentially be resolved.

  8. pat hicks April 17, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Hi worker bee. I think you will find alot of the community respect most of the staff in the council. but as you must be aware. the whole country is in a mess and having to make cut backs. the islands are no different. the jobs are not here like they use to be. and as someone said to me the other day. the council have been a joke where jobs are concerned. anyone who wanted a job was told to go to the council and you’d be sure of a job. well those days are no more. we have no money!!. so the council have to do something about it. hopefully mr keel is a smart chap who will know and suss out what is what. and hopefully there wont be alot of job losses. !! but we all need to be prepared. for changes… we managed years ago , we’ll manage again. roll on summer.. peace to all.

  9. A worker bee. April 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Good luck and welcome to the islands Mr Keel.

    I hope you leave us with the same kind endorsement ringing in your ears, but that’s upto you!

    In all this, I hope that the staff are not forgotten. Too quickly criticised by the community, not many of which are earning massive amounts, and all living under the cloud of potentially losing their job.

    It’s been a turbulent couple of years, it’s about time that the community and Members remembered this amid all the headlines and war cries in the lead up to the election. Nobody is coming to work with a big grin at the moment, but we’re still doing our jobs to the best of our ability.

    Sorry to humanise a process that many of you would rather was not.