Still trying to remain relevant, despite most of the public now being wise to them, the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance has once again turned its attention to local Government in the only way it knows how: deluge them with wasteful FoI requests and then use whatever information they receive to support the conclusion that they had already decided. The latest target is to attack the Lord Mayor’s car.
Not for the TPA, though, to undertake any kind of benefit/cost analysis to show whether a local authority having such a vehicle is worthwhile - that would be too much like hard work. Instead, we get the usual rubbish suggesting that councils with budgets totalling hundreds of millions would profit from doing away with something that accounts for rather less than one-tenth of one per cent of that total.
And in the TPA firing line is Cheshire East Council, which includes the town of Crewe. What have they done wrong? CEC’s mayoral motor is a leased Bentley. Cue shock and horror at Tufton Street! This costs around £18,500 a year. To bin it would not even pay the salary of one of CEC’s 4,100 employees.
Moreover, there is a good reason it’s a Bentley - they’re built at the Pyms Lane complex here in Crewe, a site that employs more than 4,000 people, many of them highly skilled men and women who contribute massively to the local economy.
But the TPA is not interested in the wider picture, but merely scoring lots of column inches in supportive newspapers and getting its tedious taking heads on the TV. So they will have been ecstatic to see the Murdoch Sun howl “CASH-STRAPPED councils splurged a whopping £4.5 million on luxury cars for mayors over the last three years, shocking figures have revealed … Three town halls even own a £132,800 Bentley Continental Flying Spur”.
CEC doesn’t own its mayoral car, but hey ho. Moreover, the press has happily churned over the sick-making drivel from TPA CEO John O’Connell, who has claimed “families who struggle to pay their council tax bill will roll their eyes at the thought of their hard-earned money being spent on Bentleys and Jaguars for politicians to attend functions”.
Except that O’Connell wouldn’t know what those families think, because he and his pals have canvassed the views of none of them. Nil. Nix. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bugger all.
Worse, he and his colleagues couldn’t give a flying foxtrot about those hard-pressed families - had they done so, the TPA would not have advocated abolition of both the minimum wage and the NHS. When O’Connell sneers “Every penny wasted on excessive travel expenses is money that could be going towards social care or bin collections”, he has proved no excessive spending, and doesn’t care about other council spending.
If he and his pals did care, they would work with local Government. But the TPA, in the entire history of its existence, has never worked with local Government. All it does it to churn out a constant stream of knocking copy. Its modus operandi is to attack, discredit and thereby diminish any kind of Government or public project.
It’s only a pity that John O’Connell and his colleagues weren’t capable of getting themselves real jobs and contributing to the economy. No surprise there, then.
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