Saturday, 21 July 2012

On Reflection, It Wasn’t Such A Good Idea, Was It?

Stoke-on-Trent City Council scrapped its subsidy for beverages after the authority's 44 councillors downed 10,800 free hot drinks in the members' lounge in the last financial year. A drinks machine was provided free by a private firm, but the council was forking out more than £3,400-a-year for an average of 900, 32p deluxe beverage sachets each month.
Leaders admitted an 'honesty box' next to old machine was rarely used.
*chuckle* Who’d have imagined that, eh?
The council said it has now installed a new machine for members who have to pay 40p a cup. But a staff coffee machine located nearby in the Civic Centre offers hot drinks for 15p.
*gasp* What could explain this discrepancy?
It is understood the staff machine dispenses inferior coffee in slightly smaller cups, which is why there is a discrepancy in price.
Ah. And, showing the financial acumen I really, really wish they’d show when ordering and approving huge taxpayer-funded white elephants and vanity projects…
Councillor Dave Conway, leader of the City Independents, said: "They're charging 40p in the members' lounge but if I walk down the corridor and use the coffee machine for council staff I can get it for 15p.
"I'm not going to pay a quid for a couple of cups of coffee or tea when I can get two for 30p around the corner.
"I can't understand what they're up to. This is another fine job they've done."
Yeeeees. It’s different when it’s your own pocket you’re dipping into, rather than the poor long-suffering taxpayer, eh? Then you’re quite happy to settle for smaller cups of inferior coffee!

The poor long-suffering taxpayer is overjoyed:
Alan Joinson, chairman of East Bentilee residents' association, said: "I'm over the moon that the councillors are having to pay for their coffees.
"If we go into Hanley we will pay £2.50 for a cup and I don't see why they should get it for free.
"Given the economic situation we're in ,there are too many people who still have these perks."
Well, quite! Not that that’s reached the Southend area where they are busy installing an extra trough:
Councillors could soon be tucking into free meals before major meetings, despite slashing £12million from public spending. Bosses at Southend Council have agreed to pay for a two-course meal for all councillors and senior officers attending Thursday’s full council meeting for the first time in three years.
Tory chiefs argue the move lets councillors, who have to come straight from work to satisfy their hunger, as well as allowing different parties to mingle informally before official business begins.
Oh, so it’s got social benefits as well? I’m surprised they didn’t demand a dance band too…
The move has been criticised by Labour councillors and campaigners, who called for the council to show “a little humility” .
Because when Labour are in charge, they are all about the humility. Obviously.
Nigel Holdcroft, the Tory council leader, said he decided to reintroduce a meal before the meeting after discussions with the three other group leaders and the chief executive, Rob Tinlin.
The meal will be used to gauge its popularity, and a decision will then be made as to whether to continue the practice for the rest of the political year – a total of five meetings.
Mr Holdcroft said there was a chance councillors could be charged for any future meals. He said: “My own view is that some suitable catering should be on offer to members and officers, and, in particular, those who have no opportunity to return home because of the length and timing of the meetings.
“However, assuming we can deliver a reasonable quality and choice, this should be subject to a charge.”
It shouldn’t be ‘subject to a charge’. It should be ‘subject to the price you’d have been charged if you went to an equivalent restaurant’.


Anonymous said...

This is the basis of Freidman's 4 Laws of Expenditure.
1. If you spend your own money on yourself, you tend to watch what you're doing, pay as little as possible, and seek real value for money.
2. If you spend your own money on someone else, you want to be assured about the quality of the item yet still remain careful about the cost.
3. If you spend someone else's money on yourself, then the value for money thing remains in the back of your mind but you're not too bothered about it.
4. If you spend someone else's money on someone else, you don't care how much it costs or what the quality of the result is as you know there will always be some more of somebody else's money remaining.

John Pickworth said...

"...some suitable catering should be on offer."

Seems fair enough. We don't expect the good officers to sit through important meetings feeling starved. But the council doesn't pay for my meals when I'm at work so why should we pay for theirs?

Its a little too much like those London transport workers getting Olympic bonuses because it might be a tiny bit busier than usual. Excuse me, but will they be driving two buses/trains at the same time? No. And if I were in charge I might have reluctantly agreed to these bonuses on the strict understanding that we could reduce their pay in future if London had a quieter day.

Its about time these 'special needs' public sector workers were treated like the rest of us... and the vast majority of decent public sector workers who get nought. You go to work, get paid and go home. If you want some little treats in your life like not answering the phones, free meals, 4 hours a day with your feet on the desk, bonuses for failing to provide the minimum... well, do like the rest of us, put your hands in your own pockets!

Noggin the Nog said...

Let them eat cake!

Anonymous said...

Er, just a pedantic aside, but, being a naive muggins and bearing in mind all that guff spouted about how the level of allowances paid to councillors is set to provide a financial reward for public service but also to include covering the cost of incidental out of pocket expenses, such as these public spirited souls having to pay for a meal or refreshments when attending meetings taking place when they would otherwise be eating a meal at home, means that the Southend crew will not only be getting a free trough, they will be getting it twice - once as the actual trough, and then again because they have already been given the money to pay for it in their allowance, and will be not have to use it and can spend it on something else. Which means the more of those "free meal" meetings they can arrange the better the holidays they will be able to afford at local taxpayers expense to get over the strain of them. A win win for the councillors then ..

Forest said...

There is an open invitation for everyone to turn up for a pro smoking protest march on sunday 29 july, washingborough Road Lincoln, we are hoping for a couple of hundred to turn up with local press and local radio confirmed, drinks and nibbles laid on.

53.21965,-0.52227 copy and paste those coordinates into google maps

see you at st swithins at 1pm, for a march down washingborough Road from st swithins to toll bar lodge.

Anonymous said...

Rochford District Council in Essex had the biggest rise in its allowances bill - of 110 per cent over the four years. Although it is still well below the level of many other councils.

The leader of the council Terry Cutmore was paid almost £10,000 in allowances three years ago. By March 2009, his allowance had gone up to £25,500.

"The reason it's so high is we have actually gone to the average of Essex councils," Councillor Cutmore said.

"That's done through a remuneration panel which is totally independent and the rise has gone through because we were paid so lowly to start with." 2009

Councillors are not paid a salary or wages, but councillors receive an annual allowance and are entitled to claim a travel allowance when attending meetings and their allowances are also intended to cover subsistence expenses like the cost of meals taken whilst carrying out their official and public duties.

Which means the Councillors are about to arrange themselves a "a double bung" - they already get T & S incorporated in their allowances but are about to arange for free meals. Nice one !

PJH said...

Do these places not have a room - lets call it 'kitchen' to differentiate from other rooms such as 'office', 'toilet' and 'watercooler' - where they could supply electricity to appliances such as, I dunno, lets call it 'a kettle.'

I sure a 1kg can of nescaf, along with sugar and daily milk deliveries, costs less than renting one of these machines.

This method certainly works where I am. (We even buy PG Tips for those who think there's less caffeine in tea than coffee.)

Anonymous said...

I suggest they delay meetings by say an hour so that hungry members can sort themselves out. That may sort the wheat from the chaff.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 1952. 'Wheat', 'Chaff' My goodness, you're making me hungry. I wonder if I can claim it on expenses?
Anon 2

banned said...

Then there is that Ken Clark failing to show leadership by demanding the return of BISCUITS at Cabinet meetings. There used to be a word for his type, "Squanderer"!

Anonymous said...

as long as it's a taxable benefit like it would be for the rest of us then fair enough. Somehow though I don't think it is...

JuliaM said...

"But the council doesn't pay for my meals when I'm at work so why should we pay for theirs?"

Spot on!

"Which means the Councillors are about to arrange themselves a "a double bung" - they already get T & S incorporated in their allowances but are about to arange for free meals. Nice one !"

And I didn't think it was possible to loathe them more!

"as long as it's a taxable benefit like it would be for the rest of us then fair enough. Somehow though I don't think it is..."