Tackling the Bureaucracy

Changing the culture of the Council required a big restructure of the mechanisms of decision making. The goal was to get the officers and councillors working more closely together, but with the elected Members in control rather than rubber stamping the advice of chief officers. This chapter details the complex restructuring of the committees, sub-committees, working parties and departments to serve them.
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Wanting Elected Members to Lead
Changing the Committee Structure
Labour Group Meetings
Relationships with the Trade Unions
Chopping Chief Officers
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Editor’s Comments

The editing of this chapter has involved layout and typographical corrections with a few minor deletions of asides that seemed unnecessary. This was a chapter that I put on the site early on and at the time I didn’t feel it needed sub-headings, but I have come back to it after all of the chapters have been done (1 May 2016) and decided to add sub-headings to format it in keeping with the other chapters

This account feels paradoxical. On the one hand the idea was to challenge the bureaucracy, but it feels to me that a greater degree of it was introduced if you equate bureaucracy with complexity and delay. There was also the idea of being more collaborative with the officers and workers, and the electorate, involving them in the processes and having more dialogue directly with councillors. But at the same time this was designed to make the Council more Member led than Chief Officer led, so my interpretation is that it was really about getting rid of the old guard and managing a process of change.


[1] Up to 1980, all senior posts were interviewed by the whole employing committee.

[2] When Pat Karney took family leave of absence in October 1985, he stood down as Chair, and his deputy – Basil Curley was elected in his place, with Ken Barnes as the new deputy.

[3] The Chairs and Deputies group was – Val Dunn (Chair), Tony Burns (Deputy Chair), Nick Harris (Chair of Education Policy Sub), Pete Keenlyside (Chair of Schools Sub), Ronni Myers (deputy), Winnie Smith (deputy), Richard Leese (Chair of FE Sub) and Gordon Conquest (deputy). Although Gordon Conquest was on the Right, he had been the previous chair of the committee and was included as a gesture of goodwill).

[4] The four chairs and deputies were Tom Egan (Chair Leisure), Marilyn Taylor (Deputy), Mike Harrison (Chair of Art Galleries) and Brian Harrison (Deputy).

[5] Irene Walton was later pushed into resigning (1987) – see chapter 11 – which led to five to ten years of instability within the department.

[6] Some of those militant NUPE activists are now to be found in very senior positions in the council!

[7] Patrick Cornwell eventually got the HMO co-ordinator job.

[8] Paul Lowenburg later became the Chief Executive of Edinburgh Council, but left there when the Tories took control.

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