Rein in spending

PUBLISHED: 12:15 07 February 2008 | UPDATED: 12:57 06 May 2010

SIR, — I am becoming concerned by the early whingeing coming from our council leader at the prospect of the 2008/09 grant from Central Government falling below expectations with the consequence that our councillors will have to rein in their profligacy an

SIR, - I am becoming concerned by the early whingeing coming from our council leader at the prospect of the 2008/09 grant from Central Government falling below expectations with the consequence that our councillors will have to rein in their profligacy and cut their coat according to their cloth. But knowing their record, my concern is they will not do this but go ahead willy nilly with whatever plans they might have at whatever the cost to council tax payers.

Not only is this attitude irresponsible, it is totally unacceptable and should not be allowed to happen but I would not bet on it. In any sensibly-run unit, be it a family of four or a major company such as Shell, outgoings have to be kept within the total incomings and Mr Micawber has told us the consequences of not doing this. So I would say to our LibDem councillors to scrutinise with the utmost care any proposals which might take expenditure above income levels and to reject them.

St Albans residents are among the most highly-assessed council tax payers in the country. I myself have to pay twice as much as Mr & Mrs Blair even though their property is valued at more than seven times mine, and we have reached the point where any further increase becomes unbearable. So my message is that if we do not have the money now, do not spend any more.

Which leads on to the question of how are we to economise. For a start we can freeze councillors' allowances - only a small drop in the ocean but reducing them would help a bit more and abolishing them altogether would make quite a large contribution.

There are other ways too. I saw a council advertisement recently for an "Equalities Officer" on a salary rising to £31,133 plus benefits which include 26 days annual leave, free life assurance etc - and even a bicycle loan. Looking at the duties involved I just wonder why we need such an appointment at all. One would have thought that best practices in all companies would encompass these activities and there is absolutely no necessity for such a specialist when we already have a personnel manager (whoops, sorry, I should have used the now grandiose title of human resources director). But perhaps we have had a directive from above that these non-jobs must be created in order to follow the whims of bureaucrats in Whitehall or Brussels or Strasbourg or even Timbuktu and those non-accountable dictators who must be obeyed.

If we do go ahead with such an appointment I only hope that the successful applicant will pay more attention to detail than Herts County Council in their official announcement in your pages last week giving notice of the temporary closure of the roundabout at Folly Lane/Verulam Road. They tell us that the alternative route will be via "Chequer Street, St Peters Street, Harpenden Road, BatchWORTH Drive, Bluehouse Hill etc. How many other errors of detail do they make that do not come into public view?

A recent report in the national press revealed that Herts is the third highest-spending authority in the country on employees earning above £50,000 a year. Readers may wonder if they are worth it. For my own part I have to wonder if we have councils who are "sub-prime", not fit for purpose", or is it a combination of both?

PHILIP WEBSTER,

Townsend Drive, St Albans.

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