Bumbledom humbug

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…

From the Walsall Express & Star, Wednesday 21st July 2010. Click on the image for a readable version. Look guys, if you put this stuff online, I'd be feeding you readers... think about it, will ya?

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.

Looks like cheap catfood again, kitty...

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.

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  • I’m really starting to fear for us all with this ‘Big Society’ bullshit. I suppose we need a phrase for ‘offloading the responsibility for things to charity while lining our pockets’.

    I’ve worked extensively in the public sector and Mike’s comments are just the sort of crap that offends me because it makes people think that public sector = easy life, big salary, big pension. It isn’t. At least, not for all.

  • Yes, the Big Society is very, very alarming, particularly for anyone who relies on the social care system. The concept seems to be that there are huge charitable organisations just waiting to take responsibility from local councils and do the work free of charge. This is incorrect, specious and dangerous. Like ‘Care in the Community’, it is more about social engineering that any economic need. The government are playing politics with the lives of the disadvantaged.

    I feel for those in the public sector who are currently being vilified by the media – the vast majority do not earn huge wages, work hard and are dedicated people doing essential jobs.

    When I see our leaders whinging about their allowances whilst not raising a single complaint about the cuts they’re making, with the leader almost seeming to delight in every new announcement, I fear for the future and worry for those whose lives they’re playing with.

    This circus is neither dignified nor honourable. These hatchet-men are using circumstances as an excuse to dismantle a social state that took years to build, and what is more, they take us all for fools.

    Best wishes


  • If Mike and his mates were seen to be taking the pain as well this “big society” bollocks would be more palatable and that wouldn’t be a good thing at all.

    This hypocrisy makes the whole thing repugnant at face value which makes wider public “soft” support for resistance to it much more forthcoming.

  • Andrew

    What about arranging for a queue to form at the council house. It would make a good photo opportunity and test the chap. Whilst many of us know that he is somewhat trigger happy with his phrases if 80 – 100 people could turn up and say “I will do this for less than £29,000 p.a.” he may turn pink for a minute or two (mind you – we are coming to Remembrance Day so more chances to issue parking tickets).

  • I think the best approach is blog posts like this. The information presented by local people from the perspective of local people.

    There’s public meetings going on all over the country about resistance to the coming cuts. The greater the ratio of members of the public to politicos (of whatever party or ideology) the better.

    This “big society” idea is nasty in the extreme. It’s a concerted kick in the teeth of the most vulnerable by the most powerful and privileged.

  • Just to add. We’ve never seen anything like this before in this country. There’s comparisons made to the IMF bailout/restructuring in the 70’s and Thatcher in the 80’s.

    Throughout the 80’s, which were bad by any measure, public spending increased on average every year. In the 70’s there were no actual cuts, just cus in real terms as the deficit was inflated away.

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