Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Trams - a leadership gap

Here are three of the key failures of leadership which have contributed to the current parlous situation.

  1. The case for the tram project has not been made effectively to the city.  There was, and is, a disconnect in understahnding between a large proportion of the electorate and those who took the decision.    An example is the myth that the tram was not going to the airport.  That canard was never true yet it is even now easy to find people who think the line is planned to stop well short of the airport. That constant drip was not, and has not, been plugged.  The political leadership allowed the facts to be dimmed by rumour and the siren voices of those who wanted to believe otherwise.  With the failure of the publicity resources of tie, that also constituted a failure of political leadership.  Such a major project needed leadership able to identify such issues and to respond to the challenges such as these to the project.
  2. The divided nature of the administration meant the council was open to exploitation.  Certainly the SNP were entitled to oppose the project and their opposition was part of the coalition agreement from 2007.  Notwithstanding the political legitimacy of such opposition, it weakened the major party in the council and encouraged challenges to the project at a number of levels which undermined negotiations and the credibility of the Council.
  3. The third failure of leadership was a failure to intervene.  Cllr Gordon Mackenzie was moved to lead the ailing project in May 2009.  It was too little, too late.  The collegiate nature of Lib Dem internal governance does not give their leader the authority to appoint spokespersons and the paralysis lasted too long.  Intervention was also required to remedy the ineffectiveness or failure of tie ltd, the arms length council company charged with delivering the project. It is easy to see in retrospect that it was a half way house which ailed and failed.  The directors (non executive, political, industry experts) failed to raise the alarm.  Most importantly, nor did the leadership of the Council - whose intervention in favour of direct negotiations was too little, too late.
I should say that up to a point, as one of the 58 councillors I consider myself part of that failure.  Nonetheless, in terms of access to accurate information, my ability as an opposition councillor to find out the real story which is now emerging was limited.

This is the fourth in a series of tram posts: tram Thursdaythe compelling case and what went wrong

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