Middlesbrough Council is now on notice that unless the ship is turned around in double quick time the government will take over and run the town directly.
This is yet a further condemnation of the incompetence and toxic culture that is embarrassingly the hallmark of Middlesbrough Council under Andy Preston.
What is staggering is that Mr Preston appears to think that the demands for corrective action made by external auditors and now central government, can either be blithely ignored or somehow don’t speak to his own conduct.
What has been exposed is a total failure to either comprehend or adhere to the rules of good governance.
Mr Preston has openly dismissed the established principles of best practice for public life, namely the Nolan principles founded on Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership.
To this Mayor the Nolan principles are an inconvenient brake on his freedom to do as he wishes without accountability or consequence.
Mr Preston also appears to labour under the misapprehension that Middlesbrough Council is some distinct mysterious entity that has nothing to do with him. It really shouldn’t need saying but he is the elected Mayor of that very council.
For the avoidance of doubt, he and the elected councillors ARE the Council. The excellent officers and members of staff are not the Council. They are it’s employees.
But with power comes responsibility and Mr Preston and those councillors, who have hitched themselves to his wagon, cannot behave as they wish without consequence.
There are rules and there is always a higher authority, which on this occasion is central government.
Civil servants and Ministers are in no doubt about the endemic dysfunctionality and toxic culture at the heart of Middlesbrough Council and they will not stand idly by and allow this situation to continue or deteriorate further.
Of course on any rational assessment Mr Preston would do the honourable and sensible thing right now and step away.
This is probably not the job he thought it was but in any event, it is beyond any doubt that he is totally unsuited to discharge the function of leadership of a local authority.
It needs to be spelled out in the plainest terms.
Middlesbrough is in chaos, in utter meltdown.
If this situation isn’t arrested as a matter of supreme urgency, and given all the previous behaviours and current indications, it is highly unlikely that the necessary corrections will happen, then local government in our town will collapse and the running of the town will be taken out of the hands of the elected council and Whitehall will takeover.
I have no doubt that Mr Preston cares deeply about Middlesbrough but he simply doesn’t have the ability, the attributes or the capacity to do the job.
I say this more in hope than expectation, but I urge him to protect the town and let it start down the long hard road of recovery which is only going to be possible without him in post.
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