Former chief leaps out of the frying pan

I CAN'T help wondering if there are times when one senior figure at the Home Office wishes she was back in Suffolk doing a job she seemed to excel before her career went to London.

I CAN'T help wondering if there are times when one senior figure at the Home Office wishes she was back in Suffolk doing a job she seemed to excel before her career went to London.

Lin Homer was a highly-regarded chief executive of Suffolk County Council for five years from 1997.

She was one of the first female council chiefs in the county and did much to transform County Hall (as it was then) and modernised the county's organisation very effectively while carrying the staff with her.

While work practices changed significantly, she managed to take the staff with her - no mean feat in itself.

So it was no real surprise when she was headhunted to take over as chief executive of Britain's largest local authority, Birmingham City Council, in 2002.

She soon found that life in England's second city was more lively, getting caught up in all kinds of problems.

Most Read

It started when Labour lost power at city hall and she found herself running an authority led by Liberal Democrats who had not appointed her and did not share her vision of the future.

Things got a lot worse when the council was caught up in a vote-rigging scandal and its attempts to establish exactly what had happened were criticised by a judge.

So it was no real surprise when Mrs Homer moved on - this time to the Home Office in Whitehall where she took over as director general of immigration and nationality last August. Talk about jumping out of the frying pan into the fire!

She's now at the eye of the immigration storm, and frankly it's difficult imagine a more difficult boss than new Home Secretary John Reid when he's in a strop!

When he appeared before a House of Commons committee the other week he was backed up by a raft of civil servants who all looked pretty uncomfortable.

None looked more ill at ease than Mrs Homer who had to listen to her new boss criticising his department and especially her section.

It was never like this at County Hall. You never heard Chris Mole, when he was council leader, slagging off his senior staff.

Then again, while she was at County Hall Mrs Homer never had the problems she does now.

When she gets ready for work at her south Suffolk home, I wonder if she ever wishes she could put the clock back and drive the 15 miles to Ipswich rather than facing the commute to Whitehall.

SO after punching a voter, having an affair with one of his secretaries, and generally getting up the noses of his political opponents could John Prescott really be forced out of his job by a game of croquet?

That would frankly be ridiculous. Anyone who has been on a management team-building session knows you don't spend all your time in office meetings.

Frankly I would rather have Mr Prescott and his civil servants team-building on a croquet lawn than out of sight in the bar.

And what was his crime? Being outside on one of the few fine days we've had this spring, or the fact that he was playing the “upper-class” game of croquet.

Would it be better if he had turned the croquet lawn into a rugby league pitch?

Mr Prescott's role as deputy prime minister should rightly be under threat for a number of reasons - the fact that he's been relieved of his department, his judgement about his private life, and his combative approach to the public among them.

The fact that he enjoyed a friendly game of croquet with his staff should not really be sufficient to see him off.

WHEN I first heard the idea of installing a monorail from the Waterfront to Ipswich railway station I thought it sounded like an interesting solution to the traffic problem in the town centre.

And the more I thought about it, though, the dafter it seemed.

We certainly need to keep as many cars as possible off our town centre roads - otherwise congestion will strangle the town.

But a highly-expensive hi-tec solution like this is absolutely bonkers. It's as realistic as a tram system or an underground network for Ipswich. It doesn't make sense to waste officers' time looking at these expensive ideas.

What is needed to bring the Waterfront, town centre, and railway station together are well-lit, attractive walkways - preferably separated from the road but open enough so people feel secure.

This would be much cheaper than these extravagant flights of fantasy and would have the added benefit that walking half a mile to and from the station every day would help people get a little more fit.

And frankly the idea of just whisking people straight from their Waterfront flat to the railway station to get out of town as quickly as possible seems a daft idea.

Surely the idea once you've persuaded people to move into Ipswich is to get them to stay in the town, spend their money here, and feel some connection with the place.

The last thing we want is for Ipswich to become nothing more than a London dormitory town.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter