I think Tony Flaig of Big News Margate will be very interested to see how informed KCC are about reputational management in this guest blog from Dr. Mike Eddy, Leader of the Labour Group on Kent County Council (KCC):
"Kent risks being left out in the cold after the hasty response of Kent County Council’s Conservative administration to the Audit Commission’s recent report on councils’ Icelandic bank deposits. The report – Risk and Return – listed KCC among seven authorities that, according to the Audit Commission:
‘negligently deposited money after credit ratings for Icelandic banks were downgraded below acceptable levels’.
KCC’s Conservative Leader and Chief Executive responded by writing a letter on 25th March to the Chairman of the Audit Commission, accusing the Audit Commission of
‘unprofessionalism and inaccuracy’
and of acting in
‘a cavalier and unprofessional manner’.
This was followed up by another letter to the Audit Commission’s Chairman dated 27th March from the Chief Executive of KCC, Peter Gilroy, making demands including that the Commission should
‘issue a retraction of its statement about Kent being negligent’, ‘take all possible steps to achieve a media profile for the retraction and apology which equates that produced by the criticism’, and ‘propose how it intends to compensate Kent for the damages it has suffered’.
The reaction of KCC’s leadership to this report is absolutely astonishing. It has the reek of panic about it. On the one hand, you have blistering letters being fired off to the Chairman of the Audit Commission.
On the other hand, you have the Chief Executive at Cabinet, saying that local government and the Audit Commission should
‘come together and start to think much more creatively and dynamically about the future’
– whatever that means – and the Conservative Leader of KCC saying
‘let’s draw a line under the criticisms and move on together constructively’.
The biggest obstacle to KCC and the Audit Commission moving on together constructively is KCC’s own leadership. The latest we hear in the press is that they may be considering legal action and a judicial review. How on earth can a positive relationship be rebuilt with that kind of threat hanging in the air?
I urge KCC’s leadership to stop putting their bruised pride and their media profile first, and to start thinking about the damage they’re doing to the Council’s previously excellent relationship with the Audit Commission.
I urge them to think very, very carefully about spending public money on legal action in the hope of repairing their dented reputation. KCC is, after all, supposed to be a four star authority. You’d think its leadership would be more confident about their ability to ride this storm out. "