In this guest post a middle (I assume) manager asks why certain posts within local government are politically restricted. If you have a guest post you’d like to have on this site please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org but not before you’ve read this interesting take on the neutrality of officers.
I recently received a promotion within my local authority and now find myself in the rarefied air of a ‘politically restricted’ post. This means I can no longer do such radical things as go canvassing or speak or write in public in a way that people might perceive as expressing support for a political party.
Many people will be reading this and thinking ‘why not?’ so let’s have a brief diversion and explain.
The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (LGHA 1989) introduced the principle of ‘politically restricted posts’ (PoRPs) and of restricting the political activities of local authority employees. This was, so I am told, designed to prevent local government officers from having any lack of political impartiality, which could lead to separate loyalties and prejudicial service.
In other words, the idea of PoRPs (a horrible looking acronym) was to prevent people like me being biased in my work. To a certain extent this is not unreasonable. My job involves managing services that are managed by politicians. The services, in this case, are fairly controversial and each year a fair amount of strategic decisions are taken, usually by the Director, to the Cabinet for decision.
In addition, the councillors are then responsible, and accountable, for whatever my service does. With this in mind I can see why the politician would want to be certain that when I was at work I wasn’t doing anything to undermine them, as a local politician.
Despite this I still think the rule is bordering on the ridiculous. This is for three reasons: