In February the Mayor of Derby was congratulating me and a number of other colleagues for twenty five years of loyal service to the city. In return for the certificate, I thought I'd give him a small package containing just a few examples of the work that I was proud to have done here over that time.
|Appreciated: The Mayor of Derby, Councillor Amar Nath acknowledging|
staff commitment at a recent long-service award ceremony.
Then yesterday afternoon, after an appalling eighteen day wait following an interview on March 11th, I was told there was no job for me at Derby Museums any more. That left me just 24 hours to sign up to a local government redundancy package and vacate my office for good.
They'll tell you it's "voluntary redundancy", but I can assure you it is anything but.
Oh, the memories in that office. (Unfortunately most were still there in the form of piles of untouched paper going years back, so they soon found their way to the recycling bin!) I even unearthed a formal letter of apology from our previous Chief Executive, Ray Cowlishaw for the time back around 1997 when I spent 18 months facing redundancy in the same post before finally being reprieved. On that occasion I was saved, thanks to a massive outpouring of public support for my post and the award-winning work I've done for Derby. I've felt in debt ever since to the public for their support for me, but was nearly broken by the experience of the prolonged, relentless strain.
But that was then and this is now. Today, everyone expects public servants to do their bit for the economy. (By leaving quietly and turning out the lights as you go, please.) This time around there could be no thirteen year old girls writing in to the papers to save my post, as actually happened. No mass of committed Derby people lobbying ill-informed councillors, or people from organisations around the country putting on the pressure behind the scenes. This time public servants are all expected to go quietly because, after all, "we're all in it together", aren't we?
If, like me, you're foolish enough - or maybe committed enough - to let your work become your life, and to let your life revolve around your work, then you'll probably understand my predicament yesterday. How do you disentangle the various bits of that life from your workplace in the space of just a few hours, and vice versa?
I did manage to find a moment to send out an email to all my local, national and international contacts over the years, informing them of the loss of the last skilled natural historian at Derby Museum, and have so far had 75 responses expressing shock, regret and support. But our museums have least retained three staff with archaeological experience on its staff, maybe four, though in these times when subject specialism is no longer a priority for Derbys museums, that shouldn't matter one bit.
|Redundant: Outside Derby Museum on my last day with just a small sample|
of some of the work I've done for the city.
I'm sad to be out. But what a relief too. Relief from shabby management techniques and treatment that I and my colleagues have experienced right across the Council. The appalling disregard for people's sensitivities, the ineptness of some of their actions or inactions which are excused by "oh, it's policy from HR" And of course the platitudes of some of their management speak. This redundancy process has not been handled well. We hear from the unions that management recognises this. They accept mistakes have been made and that lessons have been learned. They've promised they'll do it more sensitively next time around. Next time around? Yes, you heard right.
So, this evening as I browse through some of the amazing, supportive emails people have sent me today at the news of my sudden departure, I appreciate how lucky I am that people in Derby and right around the world can express their thoughts to me for some of the more visible work I've done for this city. I hear that maybe around two hundred of my fellow council colleagues will also have gone, Many may not be such in such a lucky position as I to receive those direct messages of appreciation or a chance to speak politely on local radio or in the newspapers as I have done. I hope you will recognise how much everyone in Derby City Council does for its citizens, and how much we all care.
Better get to work on it right now!
Media coverage of this story for Thursday 31st March:
Derby Evening Telegraph
Radio Derby (Listen Again) (drag slider to 1hr 4mins in)
Derby Evening Telegraph Soapbox (a letter from my former boss)