The Plastic Hippo

November 2, 2010

Qu`ils mangent de la brioche

Filed under: History,Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 1:39 am

There is absolutely no evidence that Marie Antoinette, at the height of the bread riots during the French Revolution, ever suggested that baguette-less citizens should eat brioche let alone cake. Reports of her mocking cruelty were pure invention unlike in Walsall where there are sticky fingers kneading the dough.

Needing to save £65million even before the coalition government cut local authority funding, the ruling elite at the council house would like to award themselves more money to compensate for the stress involved in cutting just about everything else. After increasing council tax and reducing services, imposing a wage freeze for council staff and issuing dark threats of redundancy, the cabinet will be allowed to vote for a sizeable increase in their own allowances.

Leader of the council Mike Bird claims that he and his eight fellow flour graders in cabinet do a 365-days-a-year, 24/7 job and so deserve more bread. He justifies this amusing stance by claiming that the increase is to bring Walsall council “simply in line” with other neighbouring councils regarding the benefits paid to elected public servants with a seat at the top table or, in this case, a snout in the trough. This would seem a reasonable argument if it came from a leadership that actually displayed any competence or had not dragged its feet and finally kicked into the long grass the issue of single status for underpaid women working for Walsall council.

His other argument is that the recommendation comes from an “independent” panel appointed by the council monitoring officer. It is interesting to know who the members of that panel were. The Independent Remuneration Panel was chaired by Ben Reid OBE, chief executive officer of Mid counties Co-op. In a former life, Ben was chairman of the Walsall Regeneration Company – you remember – they were the folks who delivered the ring road under budget and ahead of schedule and promised us a Gigaport. He resigned from WRC in October 2009 due to “work pressures” and the WRC itself is now history. Mr Reid has a teaching block at the new Walsall College named after him.

Another member of the panel was a Mr Richard Hood (oh if only he were called Robin), head of member services at Stratford-upon-Avon District Council. He previously acted as monitoring officer for that council which has a large Conservative majority and not a single Labour councillor. His role was to “guide and advise” rather than “police” the activities of elected members. The third person seems to be a Mr Paul Jay of Absolute Deliveries, a small, local vehicle delivery company. He might be the chap you see holding red registration plates as you join a motorway.

In their report to full council, the three wise men recommend the increase to Special Responsibility Allowance to cabinet members and to cabinet members only. Intriguingly, the report kicks off by stating that all councillors have a “personal” interest under the council code of conduct but that there is no “prejudicial” interest in any decision they may come to in a vote. So, as long as cabinet members declare a “personal” interest in terms of “well-being or financial position”, they can vote in favour for more money for themselves. The bases are covered – democracy in action.

Cabinet are also allowed to claim for main meals not taken in their usual place, mileage, telephone bills and a carers allowance. It is good to know that the very people cutting care have protected their own needs. They are also entitled to a generous local government pension. It seems likely that cabinet will enthusiastically join the torch burning procession to cap benefits to the poor and the vulnerable. Perhaps the council tax payers of Walsall should consider a cap on the benefits paid to the incompetent and greedy who claim to represent them.

Marie Antoinette never said “let them eat cake”. The “brioche” quote comes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his 1769 autobiography Confessions in which he attributes the words to “a great princess” and not Marie. She was 13 at the time and just a year into her marriage with the 14-year-old Dauphin. She realised, though, the consequences of cuts when she made her rendezvous with Madame Guillotine in 1793. Bon chance, Conseil General Monsieur Oiseau.

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8 Comments »

  1. If these people are in charge then there is no need for a phalanx of executives and directors. So, when they go there will be a seven figure saving and the five figure cumulative increase to Bird & Co will be good value. Of course, if exces don’t go then there is no need for a cabinet and a saving results that way. Somerset CC (Tory) have started down this road nad cut the number in the cabinet.

    Comment by Andrew — November 2, 2010 @ 7:55 am | Reply

  2. I’m insulted that you make references to pigs in this post: “snouts in the trough” for example. Pigs are pleasant, intelligent, social animals.

    If it’s a 24x7x365 job, why do many, if not all of them hold other positions? Have they done a Dilbert?

    Comment by stymaster — November 2, 2010 @ 8:19 am | Reply

    • “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” GBS

      Comment by MarkB — November 2, 2010 @ 11:08 am | Reply

  3. […] surely wake up and sniff the coffee… See this beautiful piece by the Plastic Hippo…Qu`ils mangent de la brioche. Marie Antoinette never said “let them eat cake”. The “brioche” quote comes from […]

    Pingback by Over to you, Monsieur Oiseau | Councillor Bob Piper — November 2, 2010 @ 5:48 pm | Reply

  4. will Walsall labour party come to Pheasey to help us claim Bird by using his own words, I won’t hold my breath !

    Comment by ianrobo — November 2, 2010 @ 7:30 pm | Reply

  5. […] the Plastic Hippo exposes the panel as being not worthy of the term independent then the voters should exact their […]

    Pingback by Mike Bird and the hypocrisy of ‘all in it together’ #labour #condems #tory — November 2, 2010 @ 9:22 pm | Reply

  6. […] There have been a couple of really good blog posts on this subject since the story broke on Monday. The Plastic Hippo and The Mushroom both took highly principled and thoughtful positions on this. They did a splendid […]

    Pingback by If you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention. « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog — November 3, 2010 @ 8:49 am | Reply

  7. […] are planning to trouser even more money, as mentioned by The Bookworm Turns, BrownhillsBob, Plastic Hippo, and The Mushroom, who also mentions the latest in the saga of the Mellish Rd Methodist Church. […]

    Pingback by PigBlog » Blog Archive » Local Catch-up — November 4, 2010 @ 8:12 pm | Reply


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