ANNUAL REPORT – ‘National Challenges, Local Opportunities’

 By Emma Dent Coad
ANNUAL REPORT – ‘National Challenges, Local Opportunities’ by Emma Dent Coad

Where to start for a personal and political review of the lowlights of the past 12 months? Well, we can judge organisations and people by the targets they set themselves. 
So let’s kick off with a look at Coalition government pledges ‘kept’, ‘in progress’ and ‘not kept’ (with thanks to The Guardian). 
Yes, there are quite a number of pledges in the ‘kept’ column, but many of these are easy-peasy crowd-pleasers. So, achieving ‘banking freedoms’ will win City support, ‘review of workplace laws’ will help businesses sack without scrutiny, adopting the National Minimum Wage was frankly a no-brainer, and planting trees is franky ironic given the failed attempt to sell off the nation’s forests. ‘Simplifying the benefit system’ is beyond a joke as we already know this is going to be an utter disaster and end up costing more, financially and socially. ‘Stopping unfair competition with local authority newspapers’ just hasn’t happened as two have closed in the past year, likewise claiming success on the pledge that anyone paid more that the PM is having their salary signed off by the Treasury, nor scrutiny over fatcats earning 20x more than their lowest earning employee, given the sickening amounts paid to our own double- and treble-jobbing politicians.

Pledges ‘in progress’ include just about anything to do with equality – no surprises there – action on lobbyists, third world debt, cutting parliamentary perks, improving access to dentistry and dementia research among others issues it is clear they would prefer to bury in bureaucracy. ‘Not kept’ include all those commitments about green issues and employment, and of course the NHS – all issues the Tories were so overheated about before the election.

When Sebastian Coe tells us he wants the Olympics to be like Halley’s comet we must all start worrying. The comet that allegedly foretold the assassination of Julius Caesar, the death of Harold and consequent Norman Conquest in 1066 (which brought some Dents to England, so not all bad), the return of the Black Death and countless other historical nasties should not be conjured up – will someone give Coe a history lesson? Meanwhile hundreds of Londoners responded to Coe’s comments along these lines:

‘Coe is as deluded as he is unprincipled. These games are out of control. 

Not content with riding roughshod over local people and turfing them out of their homes, he then proceeds to hire one of the world's most pernicious companies - Dow chemicals. Makers of Agent Orange, napalm and other horrendous child-burning weaponry, owners of Union Carbide, responsible for perhaps the worst peacetime civilian atrocity at Bhopal, whose people have still not been compensated properly. And what's Coes' response? He doesn't care. Not bothered. Not interested.

And now London is set to look like a militarised war-zone, with more troops than Afghanistan, drones circling overhead, thousands of armed-to-the-teeth CIA and other Secret Service operatives and enough weapons to launch a small war. This is about Games, is it? This is about brotherhood and coming together in a spirit of friendship? I scarcely think so. This is about Coe's ego, his games-at-any-cost. I need hardly add that all the promises of local people getting tickets and being first in line were all a hollow sham. They haven't had any, and they're complaining. The lies, the anti-democracy, the grotesque waste of public money, the disdain for human rights and human values, the war posturing - it all adds up to one miserable, sick, corrupt and venal fiasco.‘

Sad to say I am also quite unexcited by the prospect of the Olympics.

Meanwhile, looking at ‘local opportunities’ in Kensington and Chelsea, our own politicians must be laughing at us, taking credit for making ‘efficiency’ cuts while pouring more and more of OUR hard-earned cash into their own pockets. Thus our part-time MP Malcolm Rifkind supplements his MP’s allowance thus:

MPs salary plus extra as chair of select cttee - £80,000
Journalism 5,865 
Then there are his directorships-
AAM (10 meetings a year) 56,000
EE CFG (6 meetings a year) 45,000
AdamSmith Inst 35,000
Unilever (8 meetings a year) 32,000 
LLP (4 days a year) 25,000

If this is correct (gleaned from ‘Theyworkforus’ website) Rifkind is creaming in over £331,650/year, DOUBLE the PM’s salary (and we’re not counting allowances, expenses and second homes). No wonder his attendance at parliament is barely over 50% and ‘well below average’. 

Passing by our senior officers for today, let’s look at our senior Tory Councillors – whose income comes from various sources. A Councillor’s allowance is NOT supposed to be a salary but to cover any loss of earnings plus expenses, though of course many hard-pressed back-bench Councillors rely upon it as a major part of their income. Cockell of course took the ‘local opportunity’ in 2007 to convince his fellow Councillors that being Leader of the Royal Borough was a full-time job so he should be recompensed commensurately. So currently our ‘Leader’ is supported by the public purse thus:

Leader’s full-time allowance £65,000
Chair of LGA (3 days/week) 52,000

This bring a hefty £117,000 without all the fringe benefits of luxury travel and feasting. We now face the prospect, if rumours are true, of adding a peerage into the mix which, if he attends regularly, could net an additional £42,000 TAX-FREE. This could also bring the Leader’s income to £159,000, well over that of the PM for three ‘full-time or almost full-time’ jobs, which brings the issue of ‘local opportunities’ into very sharp perspective, though it must be said that Rifkind’s nose-in-trough prowess cannot be beaten. 

‘The savings go right to the very top’ Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell

All this opportunism and self-servatism, of course, bodes very ill as we enter a long period of economic stagnation and belt-tightening. It also threatens to bring all public servants into disrepute, which makes life very difficult for those of us with more ambitions for others than for ourselves.

Bring on the revolution!
 Emma Dent Coad is a  Labour Councillor for the Golborne Ward. She has her own blog at http://emmadentcoad.blogspot.com  
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