Saturday, February 19, 2011

The bureaucrats thrive in broke Britain

A legacy from years of Leftist government

The larger-than-life Communities Secretary Eric Pickles hit on something earlier this week when he proposed that any council employees earning over £100,000 a year should have their salary approved by councillors in an open meeting. Or, as he put it, ‘democracy-proofed’.

The only shame is that he didn’t go far enough. Surely the best way to ‘democracy-proof’ local government pay would be to get us, the voters, to approve or reject council executives’ remuneration packages.

Can you imagine the voters of Hartlepool — the same voters who face losing their hospital, bus service, three community centres and a library — rushing out to approve the 7 per cent salary increase just awarded to the town’s chief executive Paul Walker? His annual pay next year will be £168,000 — £25,000 more than the Prime Minister, and all to run a medium-sized town in the north of England.

The pay rise is an unbelievable cheek. Last month Hartlepool’s elected mayor Stuart Drummond — who is himself on a salary of well over £50,000 — wrote to the Government to protest about the cut in Hartlepool’s grant. And yet we now learn that, while the cuts will be affecting services desperately needed by the poor, there is apparently enough money in the kitty to stuff the pockets of the council’s top brass.

I know how the people of Hartlepool feel. Two weeks ago, I studied the new county council’s budget for Cambridgeshire, where I live, and discovered that my daughter’s transport to school had been selected for the chop.

Like many disabled children, she has a long daily journey to a school which is far from where we live. The nearest special school — built on a cheap greenfield site so that the sites of the two schools which preceded it could be sold to developers — is half an hour’s drive away.

That is not such a problem if the council’s education department runs minibuses to pick up the children, as it does at present. But if the service is stopped, some families who are already at breaking point will have to spend two hours a day driving their children to school. Following an outcry, the county council now claims that the proposal was a ‘drafting error’, and that home-to-school transport will still be available for parents who want it. I’ll hold them to that.

But still £1 million is to be cut from the disability budget, libraries are to close and bus services to be axed. Meanwhile, brass-necked councillors sat down to a three-course lunch midway through their meeting to discuss cuts.

One thing they didn’t do when they eventually slunk back to the council chamber was to take a penny off the pay of senior staff — the chief executive enjoys a £196,000 salary. When I asked my local councillor why not, I was astonished by the response. ‘I don’t know. I’m not on the remuneration committee,’ he said.

What is the point in electing councillors if they don’t even have the power to control pay rises for the unelected cliques who really seem to hold sway on our councils? It is the same all over the country: the old, the sick and the vulnerable are seeing services slashed while councillors and council executives live it up at the taxpayers’ expense.

In Birmingham, dinner ladies and education support workers are being sacked, while the chief executive continues to earn £204,000 and the council leader — which used to be a voluntary position until the mid-Nineties — earns £72,000.

In Suffolk, all lollipop men and women are to go, 16 care homes are to close, 29 out of 44 libraries are to be lost. And yet the county council is so cash-strapped that it will be paying its chief executive £218,000 this year.

Perhaps rather than sacking lollipop ladies the council might just think about cutting out the £400,000 it recently spent on ‘brain-training’ for staff, and the £6,000 it spent on staff ‘team-building’ exercises, including chocolate-making.

The sheer waste of money is staggering, Yesterday, the Mail reported how the Labour government public sector jobs boom during its 13 years in power left town halls employing as many as three million workers — and that one in four of them has no link to front-line services. Worse still, councils across Britain have continued to recruit for these non-jobs despite the recession.

So while dinner ladies go, bus services are axed and disability budgets slashed, councils have been advertising for ‘walking co-ordinators’ on salaries of £32,000, roller-disco coaches to make sure children can skate properly at £7.50 an hour, and climate change officers on nearly £40,000 a year.

Yet while making these outlandish appointments and awarding themselves bumper salaries, councils are trying to shift all blame for the cuts on to the Government. What’s more: they are getting away with it.

Remember Riven Vincent? She is the mother who a fortnight ago said she was considering putting her six-year-old quadriplegic daughter Celyn into a full-time residential home because she could no longer cope with just the six hours of respite care the council offered her a week — Celyn requires looking after 24 hours a day. She blamed everything on the cuts imposed by David Cameron, saying he had promised her during last year’s election campaign not to do anything to hurt disabled children.

She could instead have blamed Amanda Deeks, chief executive of South Gloucestershire District Council. Ms Deeks is not as important as David Cameron, though she is paid more — £186,590 a year, to be precise. If Ms Deeks took a pay cut so that she was paid the same as the Prime Minister, it would free up enough money to give Ms Vincent and ten other families an extra six hours of respite care a week. Had South Gloucestershire lavished a little less luxury on its new £31 million office in the town of Yate it would have provided much more still. Nevertheless, Ms Vincent went for David Cameron’s jugular. In many people’s minds these are already the ‘Coalition cuts’.

The London borough of Newham reckons we are all so cross with the Government that we won’t notice its own extravagance. Besides spitting vitriol about the Coalition in its in-house magazine (which costs £547,000 a year to produce) the borough’s £81,000-a-year elected mayor Sir Robin Wales (who rules in tandem with the borough’s £241,000-a-year chief executive) has made a video moaning about the unfairness of his reduced budget. The video holds forth about the great achievements of the council — omitting, for some reason, any mention of the £111 million that the council has just spent buying and fitting out its own spanking new waterside HQ.

It is so luxurious — fitted out with trendy lights costing £1,800 each — that it won a prestigious design award from the British Council for Offices, beating any bank headquarters. But the cost of this temple of extravagance has nothing to do with your child’s playgroup or your meals-on-wheels being cancelled, of course — that is all the Government’s fault.

It is extraordinary how quickly councils have gone from being quietly-efficient administrative bodies with town clerks and unpaid councillors to seeing themselves as businesses, with salaries, bonuses and perks to boot.

Until the Seventies, councillors received no remuneration whatsoever. Then they were allowed to claim expenses, which at first were very modest. Then, from the mid-Nineties, they were given allowances, which have since swelled into fat salaries — £118,500 in the case of Steve O’Connell, who rakes in the money sitting on the Greater London Assembly, Croydon Council and the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Meanwhile, the town clerks who were on modest salaries have puffed themselves into ‘Chief Executives’. During the boom years they started awarding themselves vast pay increases on the conceit that they could always be earning more in the private sector (though funnily enough few seem to make this transition).

Yet when the crash came and private sector earnings started to shrink, council executives continued to award themselves big pay rises. In 1997 councils employed an average of just seven staff on salaries of more than £50,000 a year. By 2008 that had swelled to 81.

We used to call greedy and wasteful councils the ‘Loony Left’. But now senior council staff have their noses in the trough left, right and centre.

At one school in the Hampshire town of Gosport, 19 staff are to lose their jobs, some working with children with learning difficulties, while the borough council has just sent four councillors on a junket to Spain to visit a potential bidder for the town’s waste services. The council argued that the councillors needed to check out the company — which hardly required a trip to Spain, given that it has a British subsidiary with offices on the Isle of Wight.

Meanwhile in Scotland, Renfrewshire Council is closing community halls, but spent £15,000 hiring an X Factor singer to switch on its Christmas lights.

We are all supposed to be in this together. But for some reason council executives seem to think that they are an exception.

These local politburos should stop blaming all cuts on the Government and admit their own greed and waste. It is high time that we, who are paying their salaries, got to veto their obscene levels of remuneration.


U.S. Marshals Threaten, Censor Libertarian site

For the first time, in its sixteenth year of publication, this journal of libertarian views and opinion — bound by an absolute moral resolve never to initiate force against anyone for any reason, nor to advocate or delegate its initiation — has been threatened by agents of the federal government and ordered to remove content from its website.

We have done so. When you learn, in a general way, what that content consisted of, you will be perplexed, at first, then angrier and angrier as you see what has been done to what was once a free country, and realize precisely who is most responsible for having done it.

Last August, TLE ran a piece by our frequent contributor Jim Davidson about the hypocrisy of the federal judiciary. Three federal judges had just authorized a practice in which armed government agents could feel free to trespass on a citizen’s property without a warrant or probable cause, in order to affix a GPS tracker to that citizen’s car.

Our columnist’s natural and logical response was to deprive these judges of privacy the same way they were allowing the privacy of the individuals who pay their salaries (however involuntarily) to be violated. Using only publicly available sources, he published their names, addresses, and other information. Let me state that again, so there can be no mistake: he published their names, addresses, and other such information which he had obtained from purely public sources.

This week — six months later — we have been notified, first by our domain registrar, then in an e-mail from the U.S. Marshals’ “service” that we must remove the offending article from _TLE_’s website, in order to assure the safety of the judges and their families. (This, of course, begs the question, why in the hell their information is publicly available if it constitutes a threat to their safety.) has refused to answer reasonable questions about this affair — such as precisely what Terms of Service we were in violation of — instead simply repeating the order to remove the material.

We have complied.

I used to have a little respect for the U.S. Marshals’ “service”. They had a long, distinguished history, and for some reason, they seemed cleaner to me, nobler, better than the bottom of the barrel scrapings infesting other federal “law enforcement” agencies, like the ones, for example, that disgraced themselves at Ruby Ridge and Mount Carmel.

I wonder if any of them ever thought, when they were growing up, dreaming little kid dreams of being the “goodguys” and saving folks from the “badguys”, that they’d end up merely doing the bidding of corrupt and irrational federal judges, thuggishly intimidating the very folks they once dreamed of saving, helping a new and unAmerican aristocracy to establish themselves as an elite with rights — like simple privacy — that ordinary individuals are no longer allowed to enjoy.

But we have complied.

And yet, our compliance is not without its cost. Everyone who reads this will now understand a little better what those who wish to rule their lives are made of. And they will know — as if they didn’t know already — that these distinguished, cleaner, nobler keepers of the peace are nothing more than a cruel myth. And that knowledge — enough of it — will be all that it takes to change the course of history.

Meanwhile, whom do we hold responsible for this unjustifiable violation of the First Amendment? The Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln was probably not the first, but was by far the worst of its time. Presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt began to see the people as their property and treated them accordingly.

The RICO Act was specifically designed to deprive the accused of representation in court. The authorities and their stooges in media work overtime to convince us that anyone who “lawyers up” is guilty. Agencies like the FBI and CIA are not authorized in the Constitution. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have ever said a word to stop these practices.

Now we have the Department of Homeland Security which officially regards the average American wage earner, homemaker, student, hunter, sportsman, scholar of the Bible or the Constitution as an uncaught criminal. The so-called Transportation Safety Administration shakes down just as many inmates of this nation-sized prison as it can every day.

So who is to blame? Those who do the shaking. Those who abuse their fellow citizens for no other reason than that they can. Or because the sociopaths in power have paid them to do so. And we, the abused, are forced at gunpoint to give them half of everything we earn.

And we have complied.


A voice of hate from the Australian media

To the supercilious Mike Carlton it's all obvious and anyone who disagees with him is stupid and evil. See the highlights in red below. He would be struck dumb if you took his hate language away. In good Leftist style, rage and self-righteousness is all he's got. Most of his articles are like the one below but I thought that it was time for someone to point out what they are

Bruce Baird did 20 years as a Liberal MP, in Macquarie Street then Canberra. In 2007 he retired as the member for the federal seat of Cook, which takes in Cronulla and much of what the locals like to call The Shire. People will remember him as the NSW minister in charge of Sydney's 2000 Olympic bid. Baird was a voice of decency in the Liberal Party, one of the so-called gang of four (the others were Petro Georgiou, Russell Broadbent and Judy Moylan) who had the guts to take on John Howard in 2005 in the hope of moderating the cruelty of his asylum-seeker policies.

That did him no good. His successful ministerial career in Macquarie Street cut no ice with Howard, who viewed him as a trouble-making Costello supporter and kept him in the outer darkness of the backbench. Come the 2007 federal election, Baird found that Liberal Party branches in Cook had been stacked against him, with a sudden influx of 400 new members. He saw the writing on the wall and at the age of 65 finally pulled the pin.

What a shame that his successor in the seat has plunged into the sewer. Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott's feverishly ambitious spokesman on immigration, is the man who disgraced himself and his party this week by whipping up that furore on the cost of the asylum-seeker funerals.

It was filthy politics, initially supported by his leader, of course, although public disgust eventually forced the two into a backdown for going, in Abbott's weasel words, " a little bit too far".

But the stench lingers. As the Herald's national affairs correspondent, Lenore Taylor, revealed on Thursday, Morrison was pushing the Coalition shadow cabinet to adopt an anti-Islam line as long ago as December. And he has no shortage of support. Abbott's recent proposal to cut $448 million in funding to Islamic schools in Indonesia was another blast of racist dog-whistling.

Kevin Andrews, the dolt who brought you the Mohammed Haneef fiasco, was bleating the other day about "ethnic enclaves" in Australia. Last week the ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries tabled a petition in Parliament calling for a 10-year moratorium on Muslim migration to Australia.

Then there is the South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, a persistent Muslim-baiter, with his demands to ban the burqa and a recent tirade against the halal slaughter of animals. "I, for one, don't want to eat meat butchered in the name of an ideology that is mired in sixth century brutality and is anathema to my own values," he said. (Bernardi will get a shock if he is ever invited to a bar mitzvah, where the kosher meats will have been prepared in exactly the same way.)

This is One Nation stuff with a Liberal Party blue ribbon wrapped around it. As Bruce Baird said when I called him on Thursday: "There's no doubt the party has shifted to the right. It seems like One Nation is calling the tune. They are going for the blue-collar, right-wing vote. Moderate views in the federal party have largely disappeared."

Not quite. Joe Hockey spoke up for decency on the asylum-seeker funerals but then, for his pains, found himself under savage attack from a blog run by a Bernardi staffer. Baird rang me back to assure me that Julie Bishop, too, is on the side of the angels. But that's about it. We now have a federal opposition so shamelessly unprincipled that it will play the card of racist fear and hatred to claw its way back to power.


Australia: Druggie Muslims must not be arrested

A FORMER role-model for young Muslims who was arrested for cocaine supply yesterday won another court case, with the state failing in its bid to have her $18,000 payout for unlawful arrest overturned.

The State of NSW had appealed the payout awarded to Iktimal Hage-Ali in October 2009, arguing that the judge wrongly rejected the evidence of her arresting officers.

Judge Michael Elkaim originally found the arrest unlawful and officers wrong to have resorted to an arrest for such a small scale of supply when they knew Ms Hage-Ali was a person of good character with strong ties to the community.


Background from 2008

Eight days before she accepted her award at the art gallery, police had knocked on the door of the Hage-Ali family home at Punchbowl. They had been tapping her phone calls for the past three months and had taped her coded conversations with her childhood friend and cocaine supplier, Mohammed "Bruce" Fahda.

For their part, the police will argue they had a reasonable apprehension from their phone taps that Hage-Ali was involved in drug trafficking, even if there turned out to be no such evidence. She had told Fahda that she needed more drugs to supply to others, but Hage-Ali argues this was a lie and they were all for herself.


It seems to me that the police had ample reasons to arrest her and that the arrest was entirely proper -- JR


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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