We are all familiar with the arguments for austerity. There’s no money left. The deficit, while drastically reduced, is still far too large. Taxpayers bear a large enough burden as it is without piling more taxes or debt onto their shoulders. Each of these remains relevant, even as some talk as though responsibility in the public finances is something that should be measured by length of time rather than the numbers on each side of the balance sheet.
For Conservatives more than any other party it is important to be careful with taxpayers’ money, and to repeatedly make the case for doing so.
So why is it that yet again there are headlines about a Tory council leader voting to pay himself more money? This time it’s Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex, who has opted to support a 37 per cent increase in his own allowances, but he is far from the first to do so.
The headlines, and the opposition press releases, write themselves. The pay of council employees is still capped. Inflation continues to outstrip wages for many taxpayers. The Conservative Government – and, presumably, Cllr Glazier’s own administration – has spent years reminding everyone of the tough fiscal conditions, and the reasons why they are necessary. So why is a Tory councillor voting to give himself more money?
His explanation doesn’t help matters:
“The job is a 24/7 hour position, and comes with a lot of stress; we manage over 870 million pounds and I’m the leader which is the same as being the chairman of a business. You would never see the chairman of such a business on £30,000 a year now, would you?”
This is all-too reminiscent of the University Vice-Chancellors who tried to compare themselves to bankers and footballers. A council is not a business – not least because its ‘customers’ are not giving it their money by choice, and it does not make a profit. Leading a council is a public service, not a City job.