“If you open it to me it will be like a stick of rock, you will see a ‘civil servant’ inside,” says Cambridgeshire County Council’s new chief executive.
But with growing demand and dwindling funding, Shire Hall’s Stephen Moir has a challenge ahead. The county council is tasked with balancing the books amid significant financial pressures while improving the quality of life in a county with ‘deep-rooted inequality issues’ and tackling ever-growing problems with change climatic.
Mr. Moir tells Cambridge Independent: “Cambridgeshire is not unique – county councils are generally under significant financial pressure. This is because we have many demand-driven services: social care and health are areas that come to mind especially in mind.
“In some ways, although Covid may have reduced demand for a short time, we know full well that there is a level of unmet need that has increased during the pandemic and we are going to have to deal with it eventually. ”
Mr Moir has been in the role for almost two months after taking over from former chief executive Gillian Beasley, who has been in the role since 2016.
He is solely responsible for the County Council after the decision was made to break the previously joint role with Peterborough City Council.
Mr. Moir was a director of the departmental council between 2005 and 2011 before taking a voluntary departure and moving on. But, he had always felt a sense of “unfinished business”.
Explaining his desire to return, he describes Cambridgeshire as a place he knows and loves, and a place with family ties.
But Cambridgeshire has been hit by ‘over 10 years of austerity’ and funded using a formula based on ‘outdated information’, he says, with the government relying on Office data for National Statistics 2013.
“Cambridgeshire has always been a rapidly growing county with more demands on key services. It is really important that the government base its funding formula on accurate data. We are very keen to try to work with the government and others to put in place a fairer funding rule.
“I think it’s also fair to say that we know the government itself is going to find this difficult, particularly because of the costs of Covid. But frankly, it’s the government’s responsibility.
“My responsibility and the responsibility of our politicians is to get the right deal for the people of Cambridgeshire and to make sure we can deliver the best possible services.”
Mr Moir says he is excited and enthusiastic about the joint administration’s program for Cambridgeshire.
He says: “I am very clear that if we are to deliver on our joint administration’s political mandate of a fairer, greener and more caring Cambridgeshire, it comes at a price. It’s not just about doing more with what we have now. It is also about needing better funding to come into place.
But with multiple authorities across the county – parish, district and city councils, the Combined Authority and the Greater Cambridge Partnership – could public money be saved and decision-making made more efficient by easing this bloated structure? ?
“We have a fairly complex system,” admits Mr. Moir. “If I’m being honest, it’s probably no different to other parts of the UK.
“In my experience, that’s how you work. How do you work to get the best results by working well with others? We cannot do everything as a county council.
“One of my top priorities is how to make the system work better together to get the right results.
“What is the perception of members of the public? The honest answer is that I don’t think the public really cares who does it as long as it’s done. We can talk about bureaucracy, we can talk about having complexity on different levels, but the reality is that if we’re making it work, how we’re organized shouldn’t matter to members of the public. I think that’s the main thing. »
Mr Moir previously held several senior positions in local government and the NHS. He joins Cambridgeshire from Edinburgh City Council, where he was executive director of corporate services, and previous roles have included director of human resources at NHS England and deputy chief executive at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
Mr. Moir is also keen to bring municipal services closer to the communities they serve, especially in the wake of the pandemic.
“How can we make sure they can access it? And I’m not just talking about using digital. I mean, how do we get in touch with a general council staff member who can report them, who can give them advice and help.
“We have a number of buildings across the county that are great examples of rooting in communities. I’ll use libraries as obvious examples.
“Libraries and schools, frankly, are hubs that are at the heart of this community. So what can we do to use these facilities and the people we employ there to better help and direct people to what they need rather than having to find their way there on their own? »
Using these community centers and also considering flexible working models, the council will need to strike the “right balance between using council premises” and working from different locations.
Mr Moir says: ‘We are doing quite well in terms of bringing in money – on our rural estates, our county agricultural estates, we earn income from our tenants and there are a number of other things we do around our real estate portfolio in terms of leases. It is important to consider how we can generate funds for public services in a slightly different way. At the same time, I think it’s also about how we manage our money.
It was during Mr Moir’s first week in the role that the ‘Farmgate’ report detailing code of conduct breaches by former councilor Roger Hickford was published.
Among the failings were found that the former deputy chief had intimidated officers and used his position to receive concessions which the county council would not otherwise have accepted, in relation to a communal farm lease.
Mr. Moir says that upholding strong Nolan principles in public life (altruism, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership) accompanies him in his role.
Mr. Moir says, “We have a zero tolerance approach to bullying, harassment, victimization, bullying. When we have issues that people want to speak up, raise concerns or speak up about, they need to feel safe, they need to feel supported to do so, but they also need to know that if they raise those concerns, we will treat properly and vigorously.
“Do I think this was dealt with as quickly as I would like? Absolutely not. I recognize that it was a complex situation, but I am truly aware that we have a duty to support our staff.
“We also have a duty to the public to ensure that public policy is put to good use. And above all, our politicians have a duty to ensure that they function and behave in a way that matches the way the electorate and indeed the way we as staff want ‘they act.
“So that’s an area we will continue to focus on, but I’ve been very clear from the start that that’s not the type of organization we will be.”
Mr. Moir concludes: “The pandemic is an issue that we must continue to address. We may be out of the restrictions, but we are far from out of the pandemic. This still has a profound impact on individuals, on families and on our services.
“So balancing this whole big agenda around a fairer, greener and more caring Cambridgeshire, we still have to tackle the pandemic and make sure we manage it properly too.”
He adds: “Having a fresh perspective is a good way to see how we can do things differently, how we can do things better and, more importantly, how we can deliver better outcomes for the people of Cambridgeshire.”