Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Thirteen years of New Labour rule have made our lives a misery where it matters most to us  -  on our unswept streets and in our own bin-cluttered backyards.

We all depend on the services provided by local councils, yet these days they are run for the benefit of those who work there, not for the people who pay for them.

When I started out in journalism in Peterborough many years ago, the leader of the local council was an engine driver called Charlie Swift, who ran the city in his spare time and didn't receive a penny from the ratepayers in either salary or expenses.

He wasn't universally popular. Round town he was known as 'That Bugger Swift'.

But the streets were clean, the parks immaculate, the corporation buses ran on time, the roads were in good repair, the schools had a pretty decent record, the car parks were free and the dustbins were emptied twice a week.

That was all anyone wanted from their local authority.

But where once the council chamber contained butchers, bakers and builders, we now have a generation of full-time councillors who have never held down a proper job in their lives.

They get lavish expenses and allowances, while the old breed of town clerk with a sense of duty has been replaced by 'chief executives' who pretend they are employed to run major commercial organisations and expect to be paid accordingly.

Out went frugal 'ways and means' departments, devoted to keeping costs down. The parks committee became the 'leisure and amenities' directorate. The sanitation department morphed into 'environmental health'.

There was a recruitment and spending spree, which would do justice to a sailor on shore leave.

And so we arrived where we find ourselves today  -  with grandiose council 'cabinets', vast PR departments, local authorities with foreign policies and anti-nuclear zones,'diversity' directorates and 'carbon footprint' committees.


Over the years, I've made a good living pillorying this never- ending carnival of politically motivated profligacy. I've had enormous fun with the insane jobs  -  lesbian self-defence instructors, transgender policy co-ordinators, nuclear-free zone inspectors  -  invented by councils to expand their empires and devour our taxes.

These days I tend towards rage. Now more than ever, with the economy going to hell in a handcart, we simply can't afford this circus of taxpayer-funded excess.

Skilled craftsmen, chartered accountants, chemists, bank staff, estate agents and investment analysts have all made the long trek to the job centre. But there's one lucky group of people who have no such worries about losing their livelihoods.

While private companies are either contracting or going to the wall, Britain's five-a-day co-ordinators, diversity managers, equality officers, elf 'n' safety enforcers and carbon-footprint campaigners can all sleep easily in their beds.

The public sector continues to party like it's 1999. There's been no shake-out in the town halls, no Christmas parties cancelled in quangoland.

This is what Gordon Brown really means when he boasts about 'investment'. It's his reckless spending, putting 800,000 more people on the public payroll, which has left Britain the worst equipped of all industrialised countries to deal with the downturn.



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