It is unlikely that Albert Einstein ever visited Walsall, but if anyone possessed the gift of seeing into the future then the cartographer of the space/time continuum must have had the current political basket case that is Walsall in mind when he said: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I`m not sure about the former”.
The shameful goings on at the meeting of Walsall council on Monday night sent the human stupidity gauge way off the scale causing it to explode into thousands of shards of what was once representative democracy. Any pretence at accountability, honour or public service has been finally shattered and has disappeared down a black hole of greed, self-interest, incompetence and idiocy. We really have fallen down a rabbit hole into an alternative universe populated by lumbering primates picking fleas out of each others` fur.
It was third time lucky for Mike Bird and his cronies in their attempt to line their own pockets as the rest of us suffer the cuts imposed by Mike Bird and his cronies. Nero fiddled as Rome burned; Walsall cabinet trouser an extra £55,000. In the great scheme of local government finance, 55 grand is a relatively small amount of money especially when the inept executive is after another £13million in cuts and is spending yet another million quid in tarting up the Civic Centre and the Council House. However, the increase in allowances by 55 grand becomes a gargantuan sum as it is the price we will pay for abject failure in office, lack of credibility and accountability, breathtaking arrogance and total contempt for the people councillors were elected to represent. That, councillor Bird, is how Relativity works. Your greed and incompetence has confirmed that Walsall is a rotten borough. As Einstein said: “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means”.
Without a shred of shame at his money-grabbing antics, Bird said: “I want to make it clear this isn`t a rise for Mike Bird or Adrian Andrew and cabinet members. This is for the position that will be in place for whoever it is for the next financial year.” Given that the electorate will not have the chance to judge Bird`s plundering of the municipal coffers until May 2014 and unless some unfortunate circumstances require the freeloaders to concentrate more on their day jobs, it is a rise for Mike Bird, Adrian Andrew and cabinet members. The Leader of a failed and calamitous executive also said: “I know what this council agrees tonight will not be popular out there. It is not easy but when you do take on the administration of the council, you do have to take responsibility, the responsibility of taking decisions that are hard, sometimes extremely hard and quite tasteless to some people.”
Responsibility Mike? Might be best not to mention missing receipts, closed businesses, mysterious fires, the ring road debacle, out of court settlements, redundancies, the education contract disaster, children`s services, safeguarding, social care, NEETS, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse and the employment at massively inflated cost of senior officers who end up resigning or suspended. Tasteless does not begin to describe the performance of you and your avaricious, inept chums. You have turned Walsall into a ghost town and have made us a laughing stock.
Astonishingly, the brazen looting is justified by something called “fairness”. It seems that the bigger boys in surrounding playgrounds get more pocket money than our Bash Street kids. Given geographical size and population, the “independent” panel bought in to give some respectability to this scam really should consider Einstein`s Theory of Relativity. The difference between a big thing and a small thing depends on where you observe the things from. The panel was made up of an Emeritus professor who writes papers criticising the previous government`s local government reforms, some bloke described as a “local government consultant” and a director of a building consultancy involved in building some dodgy islands made of sand off the coast of Dubai. One wonders if these gentlemen received a fee for their wisdom.
In a council with no overall control, incredulous voters might look to opposition parties and independents to block this disgraceful and underserved pecuniary interest. On the afternoon prior to the council meeting, Walsall Labour Group issued a press release saying that they would “oppose grotesque cabinet pay rise”. When it came to a vote, Labour abstained, allowing cabinet a “grotesque” pay rise. Later, the deputy leader of the Labour group said that Labour councillors had taken a principled stance not to support the increase. Were he alive today, Einstein`s considerable brain would have exploded along with those of Nye Bevan and Clement Attlee. In opposing such an odious proposal by not voting for or against, Walsall Labour have shown the same contempt for the electorate as their more cunning Tory counterparts and it`s press release told a massive and unforgivable lie.
Quite what Labour are playing at is a complete mystery but, for left-leaning Walsall voters, the Monday press release can be considered as a rather pathetic suicide note from the party we traditionally support. If, in the future, we wish to reward failure, we will vote Conservative or, as is more likely, not vote at all. With electoral apathy rife, the last thing that Labour should be doing is alienating its core support by allowing Bird and the rest of the parasites to award themselves more money and give the opportunist Ian Shires the chance to gloat over Labour`s self-inflicted disaster. Politics, of course, is never simple, but abstaining in a vote that gives cabinet members a 55 per cent increase and the woeful Adrian Andrew a massive 111 per cent rise is a betrayal that will not be forgotten.
It is difficult to understand how Tim Oliver and the Labour group can possibly justify this madness but having shot one foot with a misleading press release, the other foot has now been shot with another press release issued today (Wednesday). In a bizarre diatribe attacking Liberal Democrats and Independents, the Labour leader talks of reducing councillor allowances by £100,000 but gives no details as to how this will be achieved. He complains that Labour are “unable to impose our alternative allowance scheme from opposition” and talks of the reality of the council`s constitution. The real reality, as opposed to the relative reality occupied by an ineffective opposition, is that the “independent” report offers four options. The first is to continue with the current level of special responsibility allowance, known as the status quo and the second is an increase of one per cent. The third is the full increase to the median allowance in line with neighbouring authorities and the fourth is an 83 per cent target rise towards that median. Any one of these could have been adopted by proposing an amendment. Labour decided to abstain in fear of not receiving their own allowances after April. What was it that Orwell said about looking into the faces of pigs and men and then pigs again?
Labour will not win any votes by blaming everything and everyone else for this unmitigated omnishambles and lectures on political science from a group with bullets in both feet is as insulting as Mike Bird`s cash grab. Bellowing tribal insults will not win elections and hectoring anyone who offers criticism is a throw-back to the days when Walsall was a political laughing stock under a Labour administration. It will take a long time for Labour to recover from this monumental misjudgement and longer still to restore any shred of credibility. A start could be made if Labour councillors forced to abstain and party members embarrassed at rewarding Bird and company ditched the current leadership and found people who recognise an open goal and understand that baying invective and historic animosity is not a substitute for policy or public service.
Having failed to take control of the council last May against the national trend, the Walsall Labour Group`s petulant tantrums and lack of vision condemn us to more and more Bird and more and more nest feathering by greedy people who forgotten who they are supposed to be serving. Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, Walsall Labour councillors abstain. As Einstein once said:
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”