They certainly don’t like it up ‘em, as Corporal Jones used to say. I noted with some amusement, but mostly disgust, that since the Express & Star was now taking it’s crusade against all things public-sector to publishing local authority councillor allowances, Walsall’s illustrious cabinet had sprung up in defence of their own generous handouts.
In a Walsall edition print-copy only item, our probing local quotes some of the recipients of Walsall taxpayer’s generosity. Like confronting an enraged Mr. Bumble, one could almost feel the spittle fleck ones face as council leader Mike ‘Blofeld’ Bird fulminated on what a deserving recipient of over £29,000 per year he is. Unfortunately, amongst Blofeld’s many claimed talents, mathematics doesn’t appear to be highly featured. In the absence of an online version, I’ve reproduced the article in question below. See if you can spot what’s wrong with the charming picture of dedication and sacrifice he paints…
First of all, Blofeld claims to be overseeing a budget of £750 million, yet when receipts went missing and millions of pounds of grants had to be paid back to EU agencies due to poor accounting practice, he claimed that council officers were responsible, not him. He’s also been known to claim that the reason Walsall Council chief executive, Paul Sheehan is paid over £200,000 per annum is that he’s responsible for all the cash. We’re to be glad, apparently, of the bargain that Mr. Bird represents, as he’d be welcomed in the private sector with a wage closer to £100,000.
What’s worrying about these claims is that Mr. Bird goes on to postulate that with the hours he and his buddies put in, he’s earning a mere £1.64 an hour. Let’s do some sums shall we?
Mike was paid £29,390.37 last year. To get an hourly rate of £1.64, by straight division, he would have had to have ‘worked’ for mere seconds short of 17,921 hours. That’s real dedication. That’s over 345 hours a week. A week that, on average, contains only 168 hours. The man is bloody superhuman, clearly.
Lets suppose that Blofeld works a hugely dedicated 60 hours a week on council business – that’s on top of marshalling his private business empire – that works out, again by straight division – as £9.42 an hour. Some mistake, surely? To save the boredom, I won’t go through other member’s earnings, but lets just say that none of them will be thinking of taking up care assistant jobs on the side to make ends meet, which is a good job, as soon the care assistants will be made redundant to save cash.
Of course, our leader is doing all this out of the goodness of his heart. If we want his job, we’re instructed to form an orderly queue. This recruitment process is news to me but explains much, as I thought the leader was elected by the controlling group, a group decided democratically as is possible in a hugely historically gerrymandered borough. Here turnouts rarely approach 40% and no candidate is selected by a majority of those entitled to vote. I genuinely thought that the leader was a product of the political process. What a fool I clearly am.
Meanwhile, we have the unseemly spectacle of Adrian Andrew grumbling about having to pay tax on his meagre commons, whilst his wife Rachel bemoans only receiving an extra £8,000 for being responsible for children’s services. It’s not recorded whether or not Barbara McCracken receives a stipend for terrifying the vulnerable, so it may have been purely community spirit that led to her making such menacing statements about social care and ‘entitlement’ – a hubristic sense of which seems to abound in our illustrious and highly dedicated cabinet.
The Plastic Hippo has also turned his scrutiny to this remarkable situation, and his similarly incredulous excoriation was published yesterday. Yet again, he hits the nail on the head. In the private sector, many of these characters would be on their way to Jobcentre Plus clutching their P45’s.
Since this is all clearly very embarrassing for the members concerned – let’s face it, we all know how unseemly it is to talk cash in public – I’d like to be first to propose a solution. In recent days, I’ve been rather taken with Mr. Cameron’s suggestion that we all join his ‘Big Society’ and volunteer our services for free to help our community. In this spirit, the one in which we apparently entrust our elderly, infirm and fallen to the hands of the well meaning, the fanatically religous and those engaged in dubious missions, it would seem nothing less than rank hypocrisy should members of the ruling party be less than keen on continuing their tenure without their formerly generous allowances. After all, it’s all about community, isn’t it? Since it’s deemed necessary to cut jobs, services and support for the needy, it would seem nothing less than churlish were the people responsible to complain about their lack of earnings, wouldn’t it?
When it’s deemed acceptable for councillors to ‘reassess’ care needs in order to save cash, to cut services for those carers who work for free, out of love and dedication to support a family member, it would seem disgraceful to hold the sword of Damocles over their heads whilst whinging about their own allowances. Indeed, it seems dishonourable, disingenuous and downright grasping. Yet still the cuts rumble on, with Mike Bird choosing to face responsibility by blaming the government.
Big society. It’s the way forward. I’ll try and get a ride down to Walsall to spread the word, let’s just hope that someone volunteered to drive the bus.