Sunday, August 22, 2010

There is another option

Apparently councils are being told that they aren't going to get so much money from central government.

Now, when funding is being cut, there are two routes that organisations could take:
  1. raise more money
  2. 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.


Oxbridge said...

I was surprised to read that Oxford is thinking of introducing these schemes; actually they have been running them for the last three years.

Pogo said...

john b... That may be the case.

However, it tallies with the anecdotal evidence that's been given to me by past and present local-authority employees. It's also reinforced to a lesser extent by the stats for sick-leave of public v private employees.

Davieboy said...

I would think that over the years most council employees have granted themselves free parking spaces; I know my council has a huge car-park, "for employees only" of course. What's the betting they'll exempt themselves from this parking tax?

Anonymous said...

I read recently that Norfolk County Council is making some 40 senior managers redundant. But it turns out this is from a pool of 600!!! And no mention of how many less senior managers there are.....

Then the other day I read that County Hall has a staff of 2000. Granted there are other NCC offices through out the county, but I'm left wondering just how many "workers" (and I use the term loosely) there are???

We complain about having 650 MP's, yet one county has almost as many senior managers....

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"I don't really see how any council can be allowed to dictate the uses to which anyone puts their own, private land"

You mean, you have never heard of Planning Permission?

I must say I find that surprising.

Scary miner said...

I recently heard an interesting development in the Home Office. Whilst it is very hard to get rid of employees, if you can get official complaints registered against poorly performing staff, it is much MUCH easier to sack them. Particularly if you can prove they lied on their timesheet or overtime (criminal offence no less).

In a situation where a friend of mine was in a team (paid £25-30kpa) had a task to perform around 40 "processes" per week (or 8 per day), they were brought in to work on the weekend on doubletime, and he managed no completed tasks during the day.

She complained, itemising why. He was removed from duty the next day.

Now, if the Daily Mail ran a £1k reward programme for successfully grassing up council staff.. I am not joking you could clear 5% of them in a week.

john b said...

Ian - I'd say the same thing about the Mirror. The Grauniad is pretty straight in its news reporting (as is the Times on the other side), much as many of its commentators (especially the CiF rather than print ones) are gibbering fruitloops.

Traction Man said...

Back in the late 1980s, Bristol's Labour Council threw out the Advanced Transport for Avon plan to put trams in the city because it was funded by private money and its chairman was the local Conservative MEP Richard Cottrell.

Steven_L said...

Council's haven't been told how much grant they are getting yet.

Mind you, that hasn't stopped UNISON winding up their members by telling them a 25% budget cut is imminent. I'd guess it'll be anything from a cash freeze to 5% cut in 2011/12.

However, a lot of councils have:

1) Spent next years money last year on Alistairs PFI 'Keynsian stimulus'.

2) A workforce that is 20% 55+ that can't wait to be offered redundancy and a pension that is not 100% funded.

3) Old fogies on 2 or 3 day weeks (we're talking people who HAVE retired and TAKEN their pension) sitting around on 'flexible retirement' where they roll over their 40 years redundancy rights.

4) High structural inflation due to NJC payscales and 'career graded' posts.

Anonymous said...

My sister works in the environmental department of a council in the north and she has told me of many similar cases. A former colleague took six months off every year through 'depression' until he was able to take early retirement.
Another former colleague who worked full-time managed to hold down another part-time job (his other employers thought he only worked part-time for the council) because he could get away with such late starts and early finishes.
There's hordes of them I'm sorry to say...

Simmo said...

I work as a civil engineer for a county council, and although I work my arse off for the county, my managers (none of whom are qualified or experienced engineers, but are excellent "policy makers") continually do their best to unravel my and my associates hard work through sheer incompetence, and are still able to draw wages double, or triple mine (£28000, less than I was paid in the private sector).
The culture of sickness and slackness is gradually being replaced by people such as myself who have an inbuilt need to feel that they have earned their pay each and every day.

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