Archive for October 24th, 2012

A brown envelope dropped through my letter-box last week.

Its contents concerned the woman on the far right of this picture.

Her name is Murziline Parchment and she is the “Head of the Mayor’s Office” at Tower Hamlets council, a job she landed soon after Lutfur Rahman’s victory in October 2010 largely because of her connections to Ken Livingstone.

She used to be Ken’s director of “major projects and service delivery” during his time at City Hall. Andrew Gilligan has written extensively about her, for example here.

Since then she has gained a reputation at the town hall for being Lutfur’s political brains. She’s also the person who signed off those dodgy-looking invoices from her political friend Gulam Robbani.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about her. Some tell me she is very able and I’ve no doubt she’s very suited to her current politically appointed role. But I’m also told some senior council officers view her with deep suspicion, that she sees herself as the real boss of a borough that still has no formal chief executive.

So perhaps it’s a touch ironic that she once harboured ambitions of becoming Tower Hamlets’ chief executive (and maybe still does).

Well, when I say “harboured ambitions”, I underplay it slightly: she actually applied for the position after Lutfur, then the council leader, sacked Martin Smith in 2009.

Here’s the first page of the document that arrived last week.

Her CV makes for outstanding reading on paper: student union president, barrister, Ken crony at the GLA, career break, boss of Lutfur’s office…

But there’s also a rather damning assessment of interview with headhunters. It’s a comprehensive rejection, scoring 7 Cs and 3 Ds in her 10 assessment tests.

The recruitment consultants described her performance as “very unconvincing”. They said she demonstrated good administrative skills but her “responses lacked substance” and that “she tended to deal with the issues at a process level but said very little about the issues themselves”.

“The responses were all fairly basic,” the report’s summary continues. “There was little analysis and she offered no meaningful insights. She showed little awareness of the political, managerial or partnership context. There were several items where it was not clear whether she had understood what the issues were but her responses were so general that it was difficult to be certain. There were some items where she appeared to be on the right lines but she did not follow her approach through or there were aspects of the scenario that she did not address.

“In summary, this was a disappointing performance.”

The overall summary concludes: “Based on her performance at interview, Murziline showed little that convinced she was ready for this level of role. Her lack [of] operational leadership experience makes her unsuitable for the role at this stage.”

Oh dear. Maybe she’s now gained the “experience”.

I guess the question is: was Lutfur aware in 2009 she had applied for the job  (when Kevan Collins eventually secured the role)? And was he aware of the above assessment when he appointed her reportedly without any formal interview of application process to head his office in early 2011?

Are there lessons to be learned about how these pork-barrel roles are dished out in future?

Here are the links to the assessment, Murziline’s CV and her cover letter to the recruitment consultants.

(On page 4 you’ll also read that she “finds Tower Hamlets to be an exemplary borough”. I know we all say things in interviews, but… .)

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