Good luck to Jane Hunt, the Conservative candidate for the Leicester South byelection on May 5th.
The same day also sees the chance for everyone in Leicester to vote in the election for Leicester City Council. All the seats are up for election in this unitary authority. Labour run the Council with a big majority. They have 39 seats with eight for the Conservatives, six for the Lib Dems and one independent. There will also be a directly elected Mayor chosen for the first time (without a referendum having been held to ratify the change.) As I understand the method of election for Mayor will be Alternative Vote – so the people of Leicester could try it out before casting their vote in the AV referendum while still in the booth.
The Conservatives have an excellent candidate for Mayor, Cllr Ross Grant. Readers will be familiar with his determination to root out wasteful spending. His election would mean the City being led by someone on top of his brief, willing and able to absorb the detail needed to ensure residents money was spent effectively. He has already got his Labour opponent wriggling over how much the Mayor should be paid.
Cllr Grant says it should be no more than what the Council leader gets at present, £47,000. Sir Peter doesn't fancy the idea of a pay cut from what he earns as an MP, £65,000. But rather than be straight with voters, Sir Peter says if he wins it should be decided after the election – by his Labour councillors. Given that he would be handing out jobs to them there would be unlikely to be too much trouble for him on that score.
Their Chief Executive took a 5.7% pay hike last year to take her full salary package to £208,127. The Council employs eight Diversity Officers. The spend £174,000 funding trade union officials. They spend £1.9 million on propaganda – one of the highest spending figures per head in the country.
Scroll down the budget plan to Appendix Eight. What do we see? Human Resources spending runs at £4.451 million – no reduction is planned in the total despite claims elsewhere of savings. "Information & Support" spending runs at £9.587 million – again total spending to be maintained. "Strategic Asset management"? Untouched at £8.529 million.
An extra £287,000 is being spent on De Montford Hall – due to an ideoloical refusal to allow a private operator to run at substantially lower cost.
This is a Council with 340 empty Council homes an unusually high proportion.
All this spending will be helped along by £6.6 million on "quasi-borrowing".
Meanwhile the council is cutting front line services like street cleaning and help for the vulnerable.
The Council employs 15,000 people – 34% of the working population of Leicester work for the public sector. Council spending is actually rising from £278.7 million this year to £283.6 million next year.
This is a council beset by mismanagement, waste and extravagance.