Among this mornings emails was one pointing me at this Daily Mail article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1357034/Councillors-payouts-soared-local-services-face-savage-cuts.html you will notice that Thanet gets a mention.
I have mixed feelings about this one, I suppose on the one hand we have some councillors just doing the bare minimum to get their allowances and I suppose it’s inevitable that some of the councillors have come to rely on their allowances to make ends meet.
Occasionally I hear of councillors using their positions in a way that benefits them financially, this usually involves councillors buying property from the council or getting planning consents that could be construed as dubious.
Over the years the council has attracted a few dodgy individuals like any other part of government, probably best not to go into detail.
I think what The Daily mail is saying is something on the lines of, “is there any relationship between how much councillors are paid and their benefits” well something like that.
Perhaps the way local authorities work is the key to the problem, the change from borough councils to a district council, had certain problems here in Thanet. Not the least of which is that Margate and Ramsgate have a history of being rival towns, that extends back hundreds of years. Having the seat of government in one rival town, governing the other rival town isn’t necessarily a recipe for success.
Possibly the number of councillors that I think was probably carried over from the old borough system is part of the problem. By this I mean would fewer better paid councillors be the answer. Perhaps some sort of test should be applied to those seeking to hold the office of councillor, intelligence or something I don’t really know.
Perhaps part of the problem, that is if you see it as a problem, is the way that councillors are trained to their job, there is a bit of a sense of the foxes running the chicken farm here. The idea of the system we have, democracy that is, is that people have some say in how they are governed. At the moment we keep hearing about the big society, I can’t help Orwellian coming into my mind every time the phrase is mentioned, and not just the farm. So we elect ordinary members of the public to control the way the civil servants run our community and the first thing that happens when the new councillors turn up to represent us, is that these civil servants train the members of the public in how to control the civil servants. Well of course I lied, they must be shown where the toilets are and so on first.
One thing I find when I post this sort of thing is that there seems to be some confusion, among some people between, pay, allowances, expenses, council officers and councillors.
The councillors are our elected representatives and they get a basic allowance plus allowances for added responsibility, like cabinet membership, or even being the leader, not to be confused with the chief executive who is the salaried civil servant. So two chiefs or leaders and then a lot of senior Indians, some elected some not.
Keeping to the Orwellian theme for a moment, here in Thanet we are on the beginning of a great experiment in Conservatism, we have Conservative control at national, county and district level.
This is doubly interesting if you live in a part of Thanet where all of your active councillors are Labour, a very large part of the Animal Farm is the excuse game. Ask a Labour councillor and they say the can’t do anything because the Tories are in charge, this used to be translated to ask a conservative councillor and they would say the can’t do anything because of the Labour Government. Perhaps if we have continued Conservative government at all levels, there will be no more excuses.
The sign of this Brave New World – sorry wrong author – at the doors of perception – damn done it again – you will wake up in the morning to, yes, the sign, and it will be that senior elected members have sent emails to senior civil servants saying. “You’re fired.” While we wake up in the morning to news headlines, saying, senior civil servants have sent emails to front line workers, saying, “You’re fired.” I think this is becoming increasingly less likely. Makes one wonder what happened to our new MPs after being shown where the toilet is and so on.
The problem we have is that we have to get rid of masses of civil servants and essentially the only people who can decide which civil servants to get rid of are other civil servants.
Perhaps this is the time for the Conservatives to look to private enterprise, the problem here is that the civil servants have created a whole sector within private enterprise called the government contractor.
Anyway I will digress for a moment and use my old standby the Pleasurama cliff as an example, I have had a long term disagreement about the state of this cliff with various members of the council, even normally reasonable councillors like Simon Moores get annoyed if I mention the cliff, indeed Simon recently asked me not to mention it on his blog.
One aspect of this cliff that all of the engineers agree on, is that it is dangerous for heavy lorries to drive on the footpath next to the cliff edge. The councillors senior engineer agrees, the councils supervising engineering contractors engineer agrees.
However despite agreeing with me for several years now that we need a sign at each end of this footpath saying “NO LORRIES” the actual business of translating this into a frontline worker putting up a sign, never happens.
So I put the sign business to the health and safety executive, this was several months ago, still no sign, of a sign, no one disputes that we need signs, and my thoughts about this have gone up the lines from inspector, to senior inspector, to principle inspector, all referring back to the same engineer.
Anyway in between writing to various civil servants about Pleasurama and writing the blog post, I performed two small miracles here in Thanet. One was working as a shop assistant in an independent shop, in a Thanet town, I still know a few other people who do this. The other was I took ink, paper and card, and used machinery to turn it into books, some of which will sell outside of Thanet and some even outside of the UK. this is called manufacturing and I am wondering if the fact that I hardly know anyone else who does this could have something to do with the problem.