Thursday, 15 April 2010

It’s time to take to the streets and protest

I have posted here and here about East Riding Council’s decision to award Sue Lockwood’s pension fund a discretionary payment of £364,205. On Tuesday 13 April the cabinet made a final decision to go ahead with the award. Ms Lockwood will take early retirement from the council with the taxpayer over a third of  a million pounds worse off. Only one cabinet member, Matthew Grove, had the good sense and courage to speak out and vote against this decision. For this he deserves our admiration.

Apart from Cllr Grove, cabinet members have showed how out of touch they are with their constituents. I challenge those members of the cabinet who agreed to this payment to stand on the doorstep and explain this away. They can’t. Everyone knows you can’t justify the unjustifiable, and all they want is for this to go away. Well, I have news for them; it won’t.

Although we have lost this battle and Ms Lockwood will receive her cash, Cllr Parnaby and his cabinet will realise very soon what the public think of them. A few years ago people marched through the streets of Beverley in protest against an excessive pay rise awarded to the then chief executive, Daryl Stephenson, who is also the husband of Sue Lockwood. On May Day, Monday 3 May, at 2.00pm, you can join us for a protest rally outside County Hall in Beverley. This is not a personal campaign against Sue Lockwood. That would be wrong. We are protesting against the policy of offering discretionary payments to already well paid staff on very generous pension plans paid for by us. We are protesting against the secrecy in County Hall. The leadership never wanted us to know about this payment. If the story hadn’t been leaked to the Yorkshire Post, would we have found out? We are protesting against the £1.4 million already paid out in 2008/9 to those seeking early retirement. All of these payments were made on a discretionary basis, and we are protesting against excessive pay rises and excessive salaries for senior officers, particularly at this time when the government is borrowing over £5000 for every second that ticks by.

If you can join us in our protest, then please drop me a line at If you are a Facebook user, join the Hull & East Riding Group and click here to confirm you are attending. We need to send a message to the ruling elite we are not prepared to be treated as though we don’t matter. We elect them and pay their wages. We can also vote them out and send them packing.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

One question voters should ask at this election

The starting gun has been sounded and now we have a month of politicians dashing around the country, trying to secure our votes. This is the season when politicians will promise you the earth, but at this election there is one question everyone needs to ask: How are you going to pay for it?

Public spending is not spiralling out of control; public spending has spiralled out of control, and if action is not taken immediately, whoever resides in Downing Street after May 6 is going to preside over the effective bankruptcy of UK PLC. Over the last decade or so, almost one million more people now work in the public sector. Not only can we not afford a civil service of this size,  we can’t afford the gold-plated pensions they will eventually receive. The public sector has too many workers either doing very little or duplicating the work of others. Every week the Taxpayers’ Alliance publishes its non-job of the week, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Public spending can be cut, and it does not require drastic cuts in essential public services.

In the East Riding of Yorkshire, residents were told the council couldn’t cut back any further and it levied a 1.5% rise in council tax. I said at the time there are savings to be made by cutting the amount of managers in County Hall. Just a few weeks later, the cabinet agreed a discretionary payment of £364,205 to the pension fund of a senior manager. This is precisely the type of payment we cannot afford, but once again the many pay for the excesses of the ruling elite who spend our money as it if was confetti.

We have published our manifesto, detailing how the deficit can be reduced by – to give one example – reducing the number of Quangos. There are many other practical, common sense measures that the new government can implement. One thing is for certain, if we sit back and do nothing, things are not going to get better, they are going to get worse.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Town Hall Rich List: A view from Hull & East Riding

Today sees the publication of the TPA’s new Town Hall Rich List. When you look at the list, you will see that although many of us are having to endure pay freezes and pay reductions, some senior council officers are living in a land flowing with milk and honey.

Here in Hull and the East Riding, it is a tale of two councils. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Hull City Council has reduced the number of senior officers and mangers at the Guildhall. In 2009/10 (not covered in our report), a new chief executive was hired on a salary 25% lower than the previous incumbent, and the post of deputy chief executive was axed too. There is still more work to do, but Hull City Council is heading in the right direction, cutting costs and getting a better deal for the taxpayer.

In the East Riding of Yorkshire, life is very much different. Recession? What recession? As previously reported, some senior officers received massive, inflation busting pay rises in 2008/9 in order to retain their services. Two have since taken early retirement, with the enhanced pensions the pay rises gave them. A third, Sue Lockwood, will probably have a whopping  £364K paid into her pension fund because she wishes to take early retirement too. Her total remuneration for 2008/9 was £135,646; a 17.2% increase on the previous year. The chief executive, Nigel Pearson, also saw his pay increase by 10% to £176,374.

There has also been a knock-on effect. Some employees immediately below director level have seen their pay move into six figures. I fully expect more to reach this ‘milestone’ in 2009/10.

When a chief executive is paid not far short of the prime minister’s salary, and council directors are getting what a cabinet minister earns, something is deeply wrong. Hull City Council has shown it is possible to reduce senior officers’ pay. East Riding of Yorkshire Council doesn’t seem to care, but the voters do and they are sick and tired of seeing their hard earned cash subsidising high salaries and gold-plated pensions for senior council employees. The local elections next year could be very interesting indeed.