Shame on you Mr Count

shameThere’s a County Council meeting next week. It’s notable for a motion from the Council’s leader, Steve Count, about the decision to require council employees to take 3 days’ unpaid leave between Xmas and the New Year. I’ve posted about this before. Click here to read my opinion.

Steve’s motion is bizarre. It ignores the history that has led Cambridgeshire County Council getting into the financial mess that it’s in today, it paints a picture of the unpaid leave decision which would have you think that it’s evidence of the Council’s excellent management of its finances, and then suggests that all councillors should take cuts in their allowances and that those who don’t should be publicly shamed!

I will be on holiday so I won’t be at next week’s meeting. I’m therefore writing to Steve and sharing my opinion with him.

Dear Steve

I’m sorry I won’t be at December’s County Council meeting because I would have liked to speak on your motion. I’d just make three points:

  • the only reason why you even need to consider making Officers take unpaid leave is because you and your party refused to raise the basic rate of council tax over the last 5 years despite funding from other sources going down and demands for council services going up. This has deprived this council of over £25 million this year and is gross financial irresponsibility;
  • OK the Council is ‘facing a difficult financial situation’ but whose fault is that? It’s certainly not the fault of the Officers who have been under tremendous pressure to deliver cost savings and themselves work in difficult circumstances. You say that ‘the decision  (to force the unpaid leave) was fair and is supported by us as Councillors, made necessary under the present financial circumstances’. I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t support it; and
  • you have the cheek to suggest that Councillors should be named and shamed into giving up a part of their own allowances without giving any reason why. My guess is that you think it’ll show some solidarity. I don’t need to to support your motion and to reduce my allowance by £10/month to show solidarity with Officers. I do this by treating them with respect, by championing their rights to a decent working environment and by challenging a system which is unable to properly fund the jobs which we ask them to do.

And by the way let’s remember that it was you and your party which yanked allowances up well in excess of the level recommended by the independent review body (about £870 thousand more), set up an extra committee with associated costs and drain on officer time, and established five more positions with special allowances.

Shame on you!

Because I will not be at the meeting I will effectively abstain but I will not go along to Democratic Services when I return and ask for my name to be added to your list.

Some have suggested that, instead of participating in your outrageous scheme, councillors like me simply make a £120 donation to charity. I’m sure that there are many in Cambridge that would appreciate a little extra funding over Xmas. I may do that but I will not tell you whether I have or not.

Merry Xmas!


David Jenkins

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