The announcement that Bristol has recruited Max Wide to become the city's 'Strategic Director for Business Change' raises some alarming questions. Not so much about the new man, but on the agenda of those who chose to recruit him.
It doesn't look good. Mr Wide has history, inside and outside local authorities. His CV shows he has 'worked with over 60 local authorities delivering change programmes' either as employee, on secondment from BT Local Government (the IT services arm of BT), or with consultancies such as iMPOWER. There's one constant theme running through the lot – outsourcing and privatisation.
Local government watchers will be well aware of 'Broken Barnet', the London borough whose political leadership has gone to unprecedented lengths to cut services and farm out what's left to expensive and inefficient 'services' companies. Mr Wide was very deeply involved in making it happen.
Then there was Suffolk CountyCouncil, with much the same agenda (since abandoned) . And the West Midlands borough of Sandwell, where the management of Children's Services was contracted out to Mr Wide's iMPOWER, led (oddly enough) by their newest employee, Suffolk's director of Childrens Services. After that it was Doncaster, where the government insisted that management of the failing Children's Services be privatised – and iMPOWER got the contract, at least until an 'independent' trust can take over.
So that's what Max Wide is about. Privatisation and outsourcing is what he does. And now he's been invited to take up a lucrative post in Bristol.
But the real story, surely, is to ask who chose him, and why... what's the political programme he is to carry out?.
It's inconceivable that his record as an arch-privatiser is not the reason.