|Dave Smith: Waste of space parasite
Sunderland City Council’s chief executive – currently Dave Smith – takes home an annual wage of £175,699 before tax, while a cleaner earns £12,435 per year for a 37-hour week. In justifying the salary level, "a report" says "the post is in line with a large city authority, with responsibility for the provision of wide-ranging services to 275,743 residents and a £678.8million service budget. It reads: “The chief officer pay policy is designed to be easily understood and be transparent to the post holders, key stakeholders and the public. The structure and level of the pay arrangements is designed to enable the council to attract, motivate and retain key senior talent for the authority.”
These same weasel words can be found in the bowels of any council website, which I believe to be derived from the same Hays Group report that gave way to this master-stroke of policy, whereby Rochdale Council awarded it's own executive parasite a pay-rise of £40,000.
As a meritocratic minded person, I am not fundamentally opposed to high pay. The issue here is whether the taxpayer gets value for money. In case you were wondering what we pay them for... take a look at this.
Cut-price parking has not helped to fill spaces at the barely used £1.2 million park and ride site in Stoke Gifford. In September the Post reported that the weekday fee was being slashed from £5 to £2 a day if paid by mobile phone to encourage more drivers to leave their cars in the bays off Hunts Ground Road. But a Freedom of Information request submitted to South Gloucestershire Council has revealed that it is still mostly empty - with an average of just 10 motorists a day using the car park. The BBC, who made the request, are reporting that the council said the car park, which opened in Spring 2011, was used by only 139 motorists in its first three months and raised £13,899.74 in revenue last year.This is one of the more egregious examples of how these out-of-touch clowns spend our money, and it's my favourite go-to example (since it's on my own doorstep). But you won't need to be a super-sleuth to find such idiocy in your own back yard. And not for the first time has such a venture in my neck of the woods been a total flop. "Councillor Pat Hockey, in charge of environment and transport, admitted that the scheme had been a flop. "We got to the point when it was suck-it-and-see or abandon it." The suggestion was it would work, but it hasn't, so we discontinued it and we'll be reviewing the lease on the car park".
So you can see why "the level of the pay arrangements is designed to enable the council to attract, motivate and retain key senior talent for the authority". How could we possibly manage without them? Who could have imagined that drivers would not wish to abandon their cars, miles from the city, to take expensive and oversubscribed public transport into town? (keeping in mind that Bristol Temple Meads is actually nowhere near Bristol City Centre.) It will comes as no surprise that Ms Amanda Deeks, South Gloucestershire Council CEO, goes unpunished and remains in her overpaid role.
But back to Dave Smith. As the Guardian notes "Dave has worked in a variety of roles including social care, housing and economic regeneration. He has a particular interest in the use of new technologies to support more effective, efficient and joined-up public service delivery and has been involved in the IBM Smarter Cities programme since 2009."
So in effect he is a typical example of our revolving door public sector aristocracy, who has navigated the game, hopping between managerial posts to clock up a nice tidy little pension, having spent not a day in the private sector. A cosy little carousel that has been widely reported over many years, and yet nothing is done about it.
So if they lack the commercial experience to avoid these blunders, it must surely be that we keep them to take the tough decisions like this one, whereby councillors objected to the sale of electoral role data. Dave Smith, (coincidentally electoral registration officer for Sunderland City Council), said it had no choice over releasing the data. “The council has no discretion in this matter,” he said. “It has a legal and statutory duty to supply the information." Yet another example of our councils being toothless policy implementation agencies of Whitehall.
I can only conclude that is not that we pay these individuals too much. It is that we pay them at all. If an elected council is not its own executive, and council executives have little or no executive power (just as well in the face of what happens when they do), what, dear reader, is the point of having them? Sunderland Council claims the pay policy is designed to be "easily understood and be transparent to the post holders, key stakeholders and the public". It is beyond my comprehension, so I guess this blogger must be a bit thick.
If the salary of the post is "in line with a large city authority, with responsibility for the provision of wide-ranging services to 275,743 residents and a £678.8million service budget", then that begs the question, why is Sunderland Council (of all places), providing for 275,743 residents, and why does it have a budget of £678.8million? No entity of such scale could be considered a "local" authority in any sense of the word.
And therein lies the problem. We cannot speak of local democracy until we reacquaint ourselves with what the word means, and while we have these parasites at the top, we cannot speak of democracy either.