Monday, January 30, 2006

A brush with the tabloids

No, not the Daily Mail doorstepping me again, but waiting to have my hair cut gave me a chance to read the Mirror, Sun and Express in the barber's shop.

In The Sun an article that referred to 'pop pervert Jonathan King' curiously omitted to mention that the convicted paeodophile is a former Sun columnist.

In the Express there was an opinion piece by right-wing commentator Leo McKinstry bemoaning the high salaries paid to local authority chief executives.

Ho hum! I am not one who thinks that all criticism of bloated bureaucracies in local councils is just right-wing propaganda. And it is frustrating when people who have conspicuously failed in one high-profile role go on to an even higher-paid job.

But even shorn of the empowerment executives and community cohesion co-ordinators that McKinstry bemoans, local authorities are still significant organisations because they collect refuse, clean streets, mend roads, run education, social services and planning departments etc. The extent of the frilly bits is often exaggerated. I imagine it would be pretty hard to find anyone remotely capable of doing the job to be willing to run, say, Birmingham City Council for the average national wage, or whatever similar amount McKinstry thinks is appropriate.

Of course, McKinstry's view will be coloured by his period as a member of the majority Labour group on the appallingly-run Islington Councilin the early 90s. Freed of his responsibilities by the electorate (he lost his seat to the Lib Dems) in 1994, I imagine he is not really in touch with how local government has changed in the last decade – in Islington more so than in most areas thanks to Steve Hitchens and his Lib Dem team.

1 comment:

Angus J Huck said...

The outgoing Chief Executive of the London Borough of Ealing, Gillian Guy (Bishop), was useless. So useless, in fact, that the ruling Labour group (whose orders she had obeyed with utmost servility) was ultimately forced to get rid of her.

Guy is best remembered for the folliwng: (1) getting the Council to spend £150,000 redecorating her office; (2) making her husband Head of Property Services; (3) skiving off at 3.30pm every weekday afternoon while her staff had to work to 5.00pm or later; and (4) wasting vast amounts of public money in a failed attempt to suppress an Audit Commission report.

Now, Guy's departure should be a cause for unreserved celebration, you might think. Well, it was. Expect that the joy was muted by the Council's decision to raise her salary postumously from £150,000 pa (more than a High Court judge, incidentally) to £195,000 pa, thus landing her a final salary pension of £60,000 pa (the average public sector pension is £5,000 pa).

All right for some.

Not long before Ms Guy/Bishop got her marching orders, senior Labour councillor Phil Portwood was suspended from the Labour Group when it was discovered that his Council provided computer hard drive was bung full to overflowing with pornographic images he had downloaded from the internet.

On the basis of her record, one would have expected Mrs Bishop to cover this up. But she didn't. Why not? Was this her revenge?

Not that she need feel bitter. On top of her £60,000 pa pension, she was recently appointed Chief Executive of Victim Support.