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Sunday 15 July 2012

TPA – Cat Out Of The Bag

Not long ago, I spent six months on assignment at what used to be called Cheshire County Council. This body is no more, having been overtaken by yet another reorganisation, and County Hall in Chester has been sold off, with staff moving out and dispersed elsewhere. My desk was in a building overlooking the Roodee, on what is known as the ring road.

More bore from the second floor

The decor was plain, but we did have carpets. There was no receptionist in the building – another budget cut, and in any case, we weren’t seen as needing that kind of security oversight – so you always took your electronic key when going into town at lunchtime. But we were rather more fortunate than our colleagues who worked out of Goldsmiths House.

This building, shared with the Registry Office and the Benefits Agency (BA), was in a dire state. Moves to better accommodation had been promised, but came to nothing, either because of budget constraints or proposals for new premises being rejected, usually after campaigns from the local press, who, like their national counterparts, loved kicking the council as it sold more papers.

Whenever you visited the folks at Goldsmiths, you never, but never, left by the front door. There would inevitably be someone outside who had just lost an argument with the BA staff downstairs, and they would abuse and harass anyone in a suit coming out of the building. This was the reality of local Government work in the 21st Century, and it made me glad to be a freelance worker.

Oh what a give away!

Those local Government staffers might not react well to seeing the latest invention by Matthew “Gromit” Elliott of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), who has told in his RightMinds berth the kind of whopper which anyone valuing their credibility would disown immediately. Elliott is trying to advance the idea that the public sector is given to lavish provision and waste.

He asserts that “Walking past the new Home Office each morning on my way to work, I look in through the plate glass windows at the thousand pound office chairs, the huge flat-screen monitors mimicking a City trading floor, and the 50 inch flat-screen TVs (often tuned to Sky Sports)”. Other than staff having monitors on their desks, this must be called for what it is: a blatant pack of lies.

It is also a dog-whistle of the crudest kind: “they’re getting more than you, come on, get angry”. Sadly, all it does is to show the true mindset behind the TPA: one that is more than willing to spread falsehood and misinformation if that is what it takes to do the job. Public sector workers have known for years that the TPA were a bunch of charlatans. Now the rest of the population know too.

Matthew Elliot has done everyone a service. He has let the cat out of the bag.

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