Fewer than a fifth of Birmingham City Council staff have any confidence in chief executive Stephen Hughes and his senior management team, according to an employee survey conducted by pollsters MORI.
The workplace survey contains unwelcome mixed messages in the run-up to the harshest public spending and job cuts for decades.
Three-quarters of employees said they accepted the need to save money by modernising ways of working, but only 17 per cent believed that Mr Hughes and his management team were the right people to bring about radical change.
A third of respondents had no confidence in the chief executive, while another third couldn’t decide.
By contrast, the average response for local council surveys is a 41 per cent confidence rating for the chief executive and top directors.
MORI noted in an executive summary: “Support for change, the strategy and goals of the council in particular compare favourably.
“However, employees are not optimistic about the future of the council and have little confidence in the way the chief executive and his team of directors are running the council.”
Just under 20 per cent said they were confident the Tory-Liberal Democrat cabinet had a clear vision of what it was trying to achieve, while a similar proportion disagreed with the statement that the council communicates openly and honestly with staff.
Forty-five per cent actively or strongly disagreed that the council’s communications strategy was honest and open.
Only a quarter taking part in the 2009 Ipsos MORI Employee Survey had confidence in their line managers and the same proportion felt the council had any interest in the wellbeing of its employees.
Just over half said they felt uninformed about council targets and priorities.
Just under a quarter of the council’s non-schools staff returned the MORI questionnaire.
The results indicate that while there is broad support for the principles behind the council’s business transformation scheme, which aims to save £1 billion over 10 years, most staff either don’t understand what is trying to be achieved or have no confidence in managers and politicians.
The gloomy responses may have been coloured by increasingly doom-laden pronouncements by Mr Hughes, who recently warned the council must think the unthinkable when it comes to making £230 million savings and added that no job could be regarded as safe.
When the survey was undertaken, in autumn last year, the council had just announced its first significant phase of compulsory redundancies.
A very high number – 86 per cent of respondents – said they regularly worked more hours than they were contracted to do, although at the same time 56 per cent said they achieved a good work-home life balance.
MORI commented: “Job satisfaction is above external benchmarks for local authorities. People clearly enjoy what they do, get a strong sense of purpose and challenge and their jobs make strong use of their skills and abilities. Innovation and creativity need to be harnessed and used more.
“There is a high stated willingness among employees to do more than is normally required at work, although there is a feeling that the organisation is not necessarily getting the best out of them.”
Opposition Labour councillors criticised the delay in publishing the staff survey, accusing the Tory-Lib Dem coalition of attempting to hide bad news.
But human resources cabinet member Alan Rudge blamed the delay on the “massive amount of information” that had to be studied. Coun Rudge (Con Sutton Vesey) insisted there were “many positives” to be drawn from the results including a high level of understanding of, and support for change within the council; and staff willing to do more than is expected or required of them.
Coun Rudge said it was understandable given the government’s need to tackle the huge public deficit that concerns would have been highlighted.
He added: “We are committed to taking on board all of the points that have been raised.”