Edna Mopbucket, who rings me whenever she hears a bit of gossip, has been on the phone today. She was ringing about a highly confidential rumpus at yesterday's Executive Board meeting at Powys Council HQ. Fighting like cat and dog she said they were, with political groups in disarray. The issue was how to deal with the dreadful consequences of the Assembly Government's slashing of further education budgets. Powys County Council is getting a real bum deal from the Assembly Government at the moment. Edna tells me that so much money is having to be 'vired' (Edna thought this was a very clever phrase) into the schools budget that a Special Council Meeting is being called for next week to approve it. She doesn't know whether it will be a public meeting or not. Whatever, Edna's promised to man the keyholes. This is really big stuff, but it wasn't the 'juicy bit' that really caught my ear.
Edna and I were chatting ever so casually about the need to maintain public investment at 'the sharp end' and make at least some of the inevitable mega-cuts that are about to detonate under local authorities, when she told me that discussions are going on about a joint Chief Executive for Powys County Council and the Powys Local Health Board. I nearly dropped the phone. "You must be joking" said I. "How on earth could a 'healthcare' executive run a local authority" I added. "No reason why not" she said. "After all, the only thing the last Chief Executive had run was a ship, and Powys hasn't even got a coastline". Must admit I was a bit stumped by this.
The more I think about this, the more I like it. I'm sick of just reading about cuts in public services. The top tier must take a share of the pain as well. The main requirement to be a Chief Executive is the ability to manage, and to squeeze the best out of people, whether that's a Council or a LHB. And why not take it further. Why not have the LHB contract with the Council for HR services say - or vice-versa perhaps. Or some other administrative function. Or if this doesn't work, why don't two or three councils share a Chief Executive. They expect schools to share a headteacher. I think Edna could have opened a major public debate here. And not for the first time. But I'd wager a dead rabbit and a lame cat that the answer will be "No comment" if the media ask if there's any truth in this. But don't worry, Edna will divulge the secrets.