Now, when funding is being cut, there are two routes that organisations could take:
- raise more money
- stop spending so much money
Which route do you think that our local councils are going to take...?
That's right: they are going for the raise more money route. And one of the ideas that they have come up with is that private businesses should pay for any free parking that they supply to their employees.
Initially, the parking levy was seen as a way to tackle congestion and cut carbon emissions. Now, there is growing evidence it is also being seen as a source of extra cash. Nottingham City Council will be the first council to impose a £250 levy on local employers, from 2012. Within two years, the bill will rise to £350 and will target all companies with 11 or more parking spaces.
A Daily Telegraph investigation found many other councils are now preparing to follow suit.
Bristol City Council, for example, in its draft strategy, describes the levy as a "revenue stream" to help fund other transport initiatives.
Under proposals being considered by York City Council, the charge would be paid "by the employer or charged to the employee".
I absolutely cannot see how York City Council could possibly charge employees for parking on their employers' private land; sure, they could charge the employers, and the employers could pass that charge onto their employees, but that's not quite the same. But again, I don't really see how any council can be allowed to dictate the uses to which anyone puts their own, private land.
Hampshire County Council, meanwhile, is considering a "modest"—but unspecified—charge for the south of the region, including Southampton and Portsmouth, to, says a consultation document, "redress the imbalance between free commuter parking for some staff at office complexes" and "parking for other staff in public spaces where payment is required".
Yeah, well, the public spaces can be charged for by the council because the council owns the public spaces. It does not own private land.
Further, if Hampshire County Council really wanted to "redress the imbalance between free commuter parking for some staff at office complexes" and "parking for other staff in public spaces where payment is required", then it could simply stop charging for the public spaces, couldn't they?
But no, that wouldn't work, would it? For how else would councils be able to employ people to sit around on their arses all day, or go off sick for six months at a time?
Here, one employee for a large inner London authority lifts the lid on the culture of inertia and incompetence at his workplace. The Mail knows the true identity of the man - a graduate who has been a planning officer for eight years. But to protect his job, he is writing under an assumed name.
Monday morning, it's 10am and I'm late for work - but there's no point hurrying because even though I should have been at my desk 30 minutes ago, I know I'll be the first to arrive at the office.
Our department has 60 employees and—until last Tuesday—a budget of £22million.
I've been there for two years and in that period the only time I've ever seen every employee present and correct was at the Christmas party.
At least ten people will be off sick on any one day. The departmental record holder is Doreen - she has worked a grand total of eight days in 14 months.
Doreen must be the unluckiest woman in the country.
In the past year and a half she claims she has: fallen victim to frostbite; been hit by a car; and accidentally set herself on fire.
But she's really pulled out all the stops with her latest excuse: witchcraft. That's right, Doreen believes somebody in Nigeria has cast a spell on her and that it would be unprofessional of her to attempt to do the job she is paid £56k a year for while under the influence of the spell.
She has already been off for four months on full pay. I've no idea how long this spell lasts, but my guessing would be six months to the day - the exact amount of time council employees can take off on full pay before their money is reduced.
But having just eight weeks of full pay left won't be a problem for Doreen and the rest of the council's sickly staff - they'll simply return to work when the six months is up, put in a day or two's work and then go off sick for another six months on full pay again. Easy.
All credit to the bright-eyed young HR manager who, last year, wanted to dismiss a senior employee who had been off sick for three months.
The employee had still been using his company mobile phone, from Marbella.
However, the employee was able (with a little help from the mighty Unison union) to argue that there's no reason why 'sick' people can't rent villas in the Costa Del Sol.
Back to the day's business. Jerry is the next to arrive at 10.25am - before he takes his jacket off he performs his morning ritual of taking both his phones off the hook.
God forbid that any resident and council tax payer should be able to speak to him and get some of the advice he's paid £64k a year to dispense.
Jerry is 63 and two years from retirement. He is what is known in the civil service and local government as an 'untouchable' - he's been at the council for more than 40 years, does no work, but would cost an absolute fortune to get rid of.
So he's left alone to play online poker, Skype his daughter in Florida and take his two-hour daily snooze at his desk, no doubt dreaming of the day when his gold-plated public sector pension will kick in.
If you think Jerry's pay is generous, consider this: the head of my department is on an annual salary of £170k plus bonuses, his deputy nets £99k and even the office PAs are on a very respectable £38k - just two thousand less than I get.
Although it's two years since I started working for this authority I've also worked for two other London boroughs in various capacities over a period of 12 years. In that time I've never known anybody be sacked, no matter how inept and unprofessional they may be.
Next week there is a two-day course on 'letter writing skills' - I dearly hope that Jackie, our departmental PA, will attend this one. I've given up using her and now type my own correspondence and reports.
The last time she typed a letter for me (to an architect) she misspelt 'accommodation' and 'environment' throughout.
I gently pointed this out to her and asked her to redo the document. But she went sick for two weeks with stress, complaining that she was being bullied.
When my boss called me in to discuss this I, jokingly, said: 'Well I'll just let her misspell everything in future, shall I?' To which he replied: 'Yes, I think that's best for now.'
The cuts and pay freezes are desperately needed, but the one thing Mr Osborne will never be able to control is the culture of inertia and inefficiency that is rife throughout the public sector.
Of course, when I tell my friends in the private sector about my working conditions, they can scarcely believe it. As the recession bites, they consider themselves lucky to be holding on to their jobs, and are willing to work extra hours or take a pay freeze to ensure their firm's survival.
In the public sector, though, there is no competitive edge; no incentive to cuts costs or improve efficiency. Few genuinely fear for their job security, protected as they are by threats of union action every time the axe looks likely to fall.
In my authority's borough, the average householder pays £1,330 a year in council tax. I'm sure they'd be thrilled to know that they're funding Jerry's internet gambling and Doreen's never-ending sick pay.
Indeed. And now anyone who parks at work will be paying extra for council workers to sit about and do fuck all.
I defy anyone to read the above-linked article (of which I have only quoted the highlights) and declare that councils have no room to cut budgets; they do and they could do so, if the people at the top were not just as corrupt, venal, lazy and stupid as their overpaid, ignorant, work-shy underlings.
And supporting all of this waste and venality, of course, are the trade unions—most especially Unison. Who are, it seems, are continuing to be paid millions of pounds in "re-structuring" funds. This is, in itself, a very bad move for the Coalition: you don't make pacts with crooks, or try to buy off these devils—their power needs to be strangled and their funds destroyed.
Then, if anyone has the will, we can start going through these public bodies and sack 90% of the staff and whittle their responsibilities down to the bare essentials and nothing more.
Something, as they say, has got to be done. And that something does not involve levying yet more taxes on an already over-burdened population in order to piss it away on useless, feckless wastes of space.