Two years ago, I was on a panel appearing on the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire edition of the BBC Politics Show. We were discussing the state of the economy, and crucially, how the Government could save money. One of my fellow panellists was a union representative who boldly stated there is no such thing as a non-job in any council. Everyone employed by councils had a vital role to play. To make any of them redundant would mean a poorer service for residents.
You would think we would have moved on from that rhetoric now, but thanks to a supporter who spotted this week’s non-job, we can see we have no not.
The London Borough of Sutton, whose corporate strap-line is “take part, take pride” is looking for a new Community Involvement and Innovation Officer paying £30,987 – £33,510 per annum. Here is part of the job description:
Sutton takes pride in its strong reputation in community involvement and the innovative approaches used to ensure local people are able to have their say on important issues which affect them and their borough. We are looking for a creative, outcome focussed person to join our Community Involvement and Innovation Team, which is part of the Chief Executives Directorate.
As part of a small and dedicated team you will be involved in delivering excellent engagement opportunities to our residents and partners, from developing our first ‘Sutton Question Time’ events to managing our online resident’s panel. You will work closely with colleagues to involve the local third sector as well as ensuring young people are actively engaged. You will also have the opportunity to develop and support innovative approaches to working across the council, in particular through running our internal ‘Innovation Challenge’ programme.
My initial question when reading that was: what are local councillors doing with their time? Finding out residents’ views is traditionally part of their remit. They hold regular surgeries and are elected to represent the people’s views to the council – not the other way around. Having a local ‘Question Time’ event is not a bad idea, but why does the council need to organise it? There are many voluntary residents’ groups who would organise similar events. If that happened though, the council would not decide on who appeared on the panel.
Either way, why do council taxpayers in Sutton have to pay for a ‘small and dedicated team’ to supposedly listen to their views? This is the job of councillors. Or are councillors, along with the Community Involvement and Innovation Officer, merely representing the council to the people?