Monday, 19 July 2010

Local Government: Waste Disposal

Local government is squirming. Chancellor George Osborne wants our views on how to reduce the current £156 billion budget deficit. Recently he said every public spending programme must be scrutinised to determine whether it's essential and if so, how it can be carried out more economically.

As part of this initiative, local government is under the microscope. Often out-of-step with the communities it serves, tardy and wasteful, the public sector is about to take a well-deserved shoeing. But this need not lead to further service cuts. Before we get started on big salaries and payoffs, here are some examples of the sort of local government profligacy you'd think might be reined in.

£5 million a year - spent by several councils on permanent staff and offices in Brussels, to liaise with MEPs.

£1.65 million
- the total cost to several councils for 'topple-testing', to ensure gravestones are safe.

£1.4 million
- spent on 'morale-boosting' trips. Staff from Lewisham stayed in a spa hotel in Kent which cost £10,635. Richmond spent £85,980 on thirteen staff away days. Mansfield Council found £17,066 to send staff to a ‘senior management team workshop’. Forest Heath Council in Suffolk likes to ‘integrate' new staff at Center Parcs, while Windsor Council preferred a £2,100 ‘team-building’ trip to Legoland. Gedling Council in Nottingham paid £1,000 for go-karting, archery lessons, and Laser Quest.

- blown by Cambridgeshire Council on additional staff, leaflets, a hotline, promotional DVDs and coffee mornings, to find out whether residents wanted to switch control of their properties to a housing association. Just 269 people replied, which makes the cost of each response £2,788.

£501,000 - the bill for emergency IT work and lost revenue, after a member of staff at Ealing Council accidentally plugged an infected memory stick into the work computer.

£500,000 - the total amount spent by several councils hiring 'celebrities' to make appearances and give awards to staff. Chef James Martin received £15,000 from Tewkesbury Council in Gloucestershire to appear at a food festival. Two X-Factor rejects, Diana Vickers and Ruth Lorenzo shared £11,000 from North Devon Council to appear at a sports event. Barbara Windsor was paid £6,000 to hand out awards to employees at East London's Newham Council.

- spent by one parish councillor in Somerset in pursuance of 177 complaints against colleagues over eighteen months.

- spent by Bournemouth Council on an employee earning £50,000, to fly him to and from work because he lives in Scotland and they couldn't find anyone nearer.

- the total annual pay and bonus of an electrician working for Birmingham City Council, including more than £90,000 in overtime.

- cost of Wirral Council's scheme teaching the public how to catch a bus. This is an annual scheme.

- spent on a wind turbine that didn't work, after Ipswich Borough Council placed it in a valley surrounded by trees.

- wasted by Kirklees Council taking a teenager to court over a dropped sweet wrapper.

- the bill for putting members of Oldham Council up in a luxury hotel so they could discuss budget cuts.

Not included in the above is the sum Portsmouth City Council spent producing a taxi-driver licence application form in Braille. Unsurprisingly perhaps, they weren't keen to disclose the amount.

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