Observers of the local government scene, as well as readers of 'Private Eye', will be aware of events at Suffolk County Council since the 2009 county elections.
A controversial proposal, badged as the 'New Strategic Direction', recommended that the Council divest itself of virtually all of its staff, leaving a core team of contract managers to supervise (and I use the term loosely) the delivery of services ranging from libraries to social care, waste disposal to highways. Under the leadership of the now notorious former Chief Executive, Andrea Hill, it was seen as a radical change of a local government model under genuine financial pressure.
I admit that, at the time, I wasn't opposed to the concept necessarily. I tend to the view that whether a service is provided by the public or private sector is unimportant relative to its accountability and efficiency. What worried me was the ability of the Council and its leadership to manage contracts and protect service provision.
This was mostly because;
a) Andrea appeared to be out of control, and;
b) The people who should have been controlling her, the Conservative Group on the County Council, were utterly useless, and for the most part willing to delegate authority to a small core group, most of whom weren't much better
In truth, the experience of government control and supervision of contracts has not been an entirely happy one at any level, but a high level of engagement is essential if you are to have any hope of positive outcomes.
Luckily, that lack of engagement was not matched by the media, or by bloggers across the county, and with district council elections to be held across Suffolk in 2011, pressure was brought to bear, culminating in the resignation of then Council Leader, Jeremy Pembroke, and his replacement by Mark Bee, on a platform of rowing back from the proposals.
Andrea didn't last much longer, although she did pocket a morally undeserved payout for her troubles.
And the New Strategic Direction was trashed, with various comments designed to reassure Suffolk residents that their valued public services would be safe. Well, safe-ish, unless you relied on public transport (grant cut by more than 50%), or used a mobile library (service halved), or used a county-run nature reserve (all divested).
But you may be able to make a Conservative stop, but you can't necessarily make them think. And the same people who either thought that the New Strategic Direction was a good thing, or were too feckless to question it, have now concluded that, for all intents and purposes, a somewhat pared back version is still fit for purpose.
So, what are they up to now?...