Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Snouts in the Trough

MP's rightly got a lot of flack for abusing their expenses, but regrettably they aren't alone in this, the practice seems to be quite common these days throughout the higher levels of our public services. Now it is not as if people at these levels are not well paid, salaries in the higher echelons of public services have risen far faster, percentage-wise, that at any any other level over the past ten years. So what is going wrong?
One thing seems to be that many of those concerned don't seem to appreciate that they are doing wrong. Sir Paul Stephenson, for example, apparently considered it perfectly in order to accept free hospitality at a convalescent home, and even when resigning firmly insisted that he'd done nothing wrong.
Andrea Hill, the Chief Executive of the Suffolk County Council saw nothing wrong with accepting hospitality from various companies in spite of receiving a salary of £216,000 pa. Does she get fired for abuse of her office - no, she "resigns" and gets another year's salary.
Inspector Gadget points out that two of Wales’ police forces spent more than £1.1m on top-of -the-range cars in the past four years for the personal use of senior officers and their partners. Chief Officers at Dyfed-Powys Police and South Wales Police were given cars worth up to £45,000 each on top of their annual salaries.
And of course, the latest is that Cleveland Police’s chief constable and his deputy have been arrested in an investigation into allegations of fraud and corruption.

The problem with any form of indiscreet behaviour at the top is that it becomes endemic throughout the organisation  If the Police Chief can accept a fortnight's hospitality, why shouldn't the copper on the beat accept a bottle from the local publican? Both might be perfectly innocent events without strings attached, but that is not how the public sees it. Was the provision of cars for personal use part of the salary package for the post or an extra sneaked in afterwards, as they can hardly be regarded as essential to the job where no doubt they would use a police vehicle and driver. (I wonder if the Tax Man is aware of the situation?) If its OK for a Council Chief executive to "discuss business" in exotic locations at someone else's expense, well why shouldn't a planning officer discuss the details of  a proposed extension at  our local bribing dining place.

Fortunately we have not yet reached the situation that a friend found in Brussels, where he had to pay a pourboire in addition to the fee in order to get his residential parking permit stamped at the Marie. But I just wonder how long it will be before this sort of thing becomes the norm and we accept it without question.

Of course I haven't mentioned the NHS which seems to provide a never-ending benefit package for incompetent administrators who take a pay-off from one NHS trust, only to move on to another one near-by. That would provide a whole blog in itself were I were able to find time for the necessary research!

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