Diary - Season of the merger

Bridget McElroy

Well, we all knew it was coming. Strategic defence and security review, comprehensive spending review, review of council services (again) and a review of reviews. Who's not reviewing the situation?

The council is in meltdown. The thought of all those disappearing responsibility payments, allowances and expenses has forced many of our elected members to call the Samaritans.

The merger season is with us. Who would have thought that LTS and HMIE would tie the knot? Given that the respective offices have merged, are we looking at the Learning Office And Teaching Her Scotland Office Majesty's Education? Maybe not. "I'm from L.O.A.T.H.S.O.M.E. and I'm here to help you." It just doesn't ring true.

Our new council leader is Willie McFadzean, wit, orator, raconteur and failed window-cleaner. Willie wants a wee cooncil for a muckle society. And why not? I am only one of two directors left since the last ritual slaughtering took place. The blood on the carpets in the council chambers is not quite dry, even as I write.

Willie asks me if I can take on Peter's role as he is cheaper to pay off than me. A good selection criterion, Willie boy. Willie needs language that he understands. I told him that my bucket was full, the water was hot, the squeegee was lathered but my ladders were not big enough for tall buildings. I told Willie we needed fewer storeys on our council services building.

Willie looked perplexed and bemused. It came easy to him. "But hen, we've nae libraries left." I tried again. And again. Eventually, I told Willie we would need to get rid of some services and shorten our "round". The poor wee soul was lost. I agreed to take on education, recreation and social services. All other council services were to be outsourced, whereby former directors who had set up their own companies and consultancies could bid for their old job back at twice the price.

I was appointed to take charge of Education, Recreation and Social Services as its Executive. I was a proud wee E.R.S.S.E.

Would I be in a professional association? Would my colleagues be E.R.S.S.E.s too? Would there be a Cosla committee for E.R.S.S.E.s? Will the Scottish Government have an equivalent of an E.R.S.S.E. at ministerial level? How would the L.O.A.T.H.S.O.M.E.s evaluate the work of an E.R.S.S.E? How does the career of an E.R.S.S.E. pan out? No pun intended.

My head was spinning at the possibilities. A few days later the remaining senior officers in Scotland all met in Glasgow. We only needed a wee room in a Travel Inn. The six of us exchanged sorrows. We refrained from comparing the sizes of our remits. After all, who wants to be the biggest E.R.S.S.E. in the country? The future of the country was in our hands. Just as well we had washed them.

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Bridget McElroy

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