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A gold mine

My friend Mike is lucky. He lives on Dartmoor; if he lived just a little further east he’d be in South Somerset, the smallest district council in England, which has just paid its outgoing chief executive a severance package totalling £569,000, enabling him to begin a new career as a ‘consultant’ to other local authorities. On what? Downsizing the senior staff payroll? At around the same time, South Somerset dispensed with two ‘corporate directors’, (What are they, pray, in a local government context?) handing each of them a going away present worth over £300,000. Only 162,000 people live within the council’s area; to save you doing the sum, it means that every one of them has kicked in £7 to the pay-off pot. In return for this compulsory generosity, their council tax is going up by 3.75%, and a range of popular services are being cut. The final irony is the justification for the CEO’s redundancy: it allowed South Somerset to appoint a joint chief executive with the neighbouring East Devon council, indicating, surely, that the newly liberated ‘consultant’ was doing only half a job. I’m wondering, does Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary of State in England have the power to remove from office the district councillors who signed off on these outrageous pay-outs? If so, he should use it.

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