Ms Penny James, Chief Executive of both Taunton Deane and West Somerset councils, has decided to cash in her substantial retirement package and declare herself redundant. This is represents no real change. There will be few tears. Ms James has an extraordinary record in local government. She was one of the principal advocates of South West One, the failed outsourcing firm that cost Somerset £70 million and is partly responsible for the financial crisis that now engulfs Somerset County Council. She swallowed the ludicrous arguments that a link-up with IBM would change the world and enable local government to go “beyond excellence”. IBM could not have wished for a more glowing fan even if they had been paying her! She has presided ever since over a badly run council and organised another potential disaster by merging  Taunton with West Somerset and relying (once again) on untested IT. In addition to these achievements she also holds the unofficial English record as a senior officer who has taken more time off due to sickness than any other. We wish her, of course, a long and healthy retirement during which she may develop new skills as a writer of fiction packed with meaningless hyperbole. Witness her email tthis very week!


Applicants for Ms James’ job have less than 24 hours to apply. The handful of staff who remain in their jobs will not be at all happy if the vacancy goes to Shirlene Adam, who is the current Director of Operations for both councils. Ms Adam was another keen champion of South West One and is the only one still in a position of any responsibility.