If the Lib Dems lose the Eastleigh byelection then they may wonder where they are safe. Eastleigh Borough Council has four Conservative councillors – the other 40 are all Lib Dems. No other local authority has that scale of Lib Dem dominance.
In Sutton the Lib Dems have more councillors, 43, but that is against 11 Conservatives. The Lib Dems still have strongholds in South Lakeland and in Oadby and Wigston.
But nowhere else in the country do they wallow in the sort of landslide dominance they enjoy in the Council Chamber in Leigh Road in Eastleigh.
Yet while they swank and swagger, have they actually done a good job?
They strike me as a left wing council with a casual approach to wasting their residents money – not least on politically correct gimmicks. Also an extravagant council with a culture of entitlement.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the situation is with some examples:
- Employing a Community Climate Change Co-ordinator on £47,544 a year with a brief to "raise awareness on climate change issues" – while working alongside two Sustainability Policy Co-ordinators.
- £500 for staff flights to attend arts and tourism training.
- Loaning Hampshire Cricket Club £32 million to build a hotel. If it is a solid investment why couldn't finance be raised commercially?
- Spending £141,000 on communications.
- Employing someone to work for Unison – at a cost to Council Taxpayers of £12,000.
- Debt interest payments of £736,000 on its £8 million of borrowing – excluding the money poured into to the pension scheme.
- Wasting money on a huge sub to Chartered Institute of Housing – plus subs to an array of other outfits, as well as thousands on hotels, chauffeurs, agency staff and a staggering £25,458 a month on LexisNexis.
- Holding meetings at the prestigious Concorde Club – at £591.85p a time. A great venue famous for its jazz. But why not use the Council offices?
The Council leader Cllr Keith House claims allowances and expenses of £28,231, plus another £25,000 from Hampshire Council. He is "Deputy Chair" of the Local Government Association's Environment and Housing Board for which he gets another £7,778. He is also a Board member of the Homes and Communities Agency, for which he gets another £13,000 a year.
Then his partner Cllr Louise Bloom, whom Cllr House has appointed as a Cabinet Member, collects another £14,018.66.
So that comes to £88,027.
Cllr House used to get another £5,000-£10,000 to sit on the South East England Development Agency. But this has now been abolished. Still, when you keep in mind the gold plated pension subsidies the total remuneration package must be worth well over £100,000.
Does Cllr House have entirely the right attitude towards civic duty?
No wonder Cllr House was happy for his underling Cllr Mike Thornton to fight the byelection for the Lib Dems. After all, an MP is only paid £65,738. Could Cllr House have managed the pay cut?
One of many reasons for voting for the Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings is to ensure that those presiding over Eastleigh Borough Council are a bit less cocksure in their behaviour.