Monday, March 15, 2010

The trials of getting the job done

It's two years since pressure of work and the limitations of my ability to be helpful in a difficult situation led to me taking a Lenten break from helping with the administrative side of running Cardiff Business Safe. I've kept in touch with director Ashley Hopkins since then, because he was 'hotdesking', as business slang describes it at the City Centre Manager's officer in Southgate House, where I am a frequent visitor. I have continued following developments with interest.

This time last year a new digital radio communications network was established using state of the art equipment to serve the business crime prevention needs of city centre retailers. It's the first of its kind in the commercial sector in the U.K. if not in Europe. This kind of equipment is used for secure communications by the police, prison service and others involved with public security, because it cannot be eavesdropped upon.

Getting the organisation to run properly as an instrument of partnership on crime reduction and public safety in full co-operation with the police and the Council as well as retailers and licensees, has proved to be far from straightforward, and full of frustration. The technical side of the operation, and the servicing of RadioNet system subscribers, albeit complex, has proved much easier to set up and run than relationships with public bodies. When the City Centre management office moved two weeks ago over to the Old Library, Ashley and CBS didn't also move. No provision had been considered to support his work, which is acknowledged to be a vital part of making Cardiff as safe place for trading and leisure activities. Something taken for granted when it works well had fallen down the cracks in the channels of Council bureaucracy.

Aware of this, I paid Ashley a visit in the huge empty office on the ninth floor where he is for the moment a 'grace and favour' guest of the St David's Partnership team, now winding down its activities, with the work of overseeing the redevelopment project coming to its natural end. It's quite a bizarre situation, but Ashely labours on stoically, determined to let nothing get in the way of maintaining this prestigious new communications system, despite the odds. By the end of our chat, I offered to help clear some of the paperwork backlog, as time permits for the moment, and more so once I retire.

It will be nice to have a little project to which I can contribute and keep in touch with City life and activity without being a nuisance to the diocese as the process of appointing my successor hopefully gets under way. Last week's PCC meeting decided to write and ask the Bishop to get a move on and advertise without delay. I know he is keen to do so, but it seems to me that having made early moves to formulate a Parish profile with the Archdeacon back before Christmas, inertia has now set in for no good reason.

It is embarassing for me to be quizzed by all and sundry about who my successor is, when they start work and will there be a handover period, and be obliged to say "I don't know." Almost universally the response is "What on earth is the matter with your bosses?" There's no point in explaining just how far into the rural past the mindset of the Church in Wales is stuck, even with the modern organisation and communications resources it uses.

I went on from visiting Ashely at work to Tredegarville School for 'God on Mondays' - this week on Judas. The head related the latest exchanges on financial planning with County Hall, and a spat with a company pursuing the school for payment after delivering faulty goods and services. All this, and teaching too. Our school is a place of educational excellence with the highest standards of care and dedicated service by the entire staff team. The system that is meant to be there to support this essential purpose can be said to be good in parts, but in many ways exhibits less zeal and dedication to than is found in school.

Are people employed in public service less committed to their work today than their forebears were? What has made such a difference? Is it the size of organisations, or the way they are structured, leaving so little room for real responsibility, judgement and personal initiative? Or is the nature of work today less condusive to stable commitment?

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