Last week in a quiet police station in Bury St Edmunds, a phone rang. It was a man well known to the police, a section one offender (a sex offender to most of us) calling tosuggest that the newly bought and equipped children's home that Suffolk County Council were about to open next door to him might not be such a great idea, given his history of multiple rape, long-term imprisonment etc.
That this gentleman made the call should be applauded. That Suffolk County Council didn't do the usual reckie to make sure that the children in its care were being placed somewhere safe is, let's say, a rather large mistake. One in the eye for multi-agnency working (the police sort-of knew where he lived, apparently).
Those four children all currently live in my Division. I am their Councillor. My job at these times is to speak for their interests to those in control - their `corporate parent', Suffolk County Council.
So I write a fairly nice letter to the Cabinet Member for Children's Services. No reply. Another to the Director of Children's Service. Same. To the Leader of the Council. Zilch. I write to the local paper. No, they won't run this story. Half a million quid wasted (they can't sell the house now, of course). Kids made vulnerable. Massive management failure. Sorry, not interested. Spooky. Are they all Masons, I ask myself.
In despair, I contact the Chair of Children's Scrutiny Committee. Can I raise this at our next meeting? I ask. She's not sure if the rules allow this.
Local democracy in action. Had I been ranting and raving I might have understood people going to ground. But my letters were, if anything, understanding and placatory, suggesting system-failure not blame.
As those kids' Councillor I now feel, after pretty much a week of silence, angry and ignored. Parties with 55 of 75 seats don't need to listen to Opposition Members. Scrutiny is sidelined and chaired by their own side. Resultingly the Council becomes, more like a private members club than a representative body.
And when this kind of culture is modelled at the top, in which other views are ignored and the usual checks and balances are disregarded, it easily takes hold lower down.
From which arise the kind of royal fuck-ups that see us opening children homes next door to serial rapists - then acting like nothing happened.
Bad? It's disgusting.