Business Eye: Affordable government

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt
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Food for thought on local government from our business brain.

Last week in The Herald, I read about AVDC Councillors calling for the chief executive of the council to be suspended, on the back of the Vale of Aylesbury Plan having been found “unsound” by the Planning Inspector.

I’m not qualified to comment on the performance of the AVDC chief executive, but it did get me wondering about the cost of local government in general.

From the 2012/13 accounts, the AVDC chief executive’s total remuneration is listed as £170,000, costs which I assume are augmented by employers’ national insurance and expenses of one nature or another–so something like £200,000 in total?

I guess this is fairly typical for this type of role. In 2012/13 there were another eight AVDC employees who also received more than £70,000.

I should make clear they are all paid more than me, an entrepreneur running a 50-employee business generating £1m taxes a year. Make of that what you will.

To steal a phrase from the West Wing, “I’m for all the good government we can afford, no more, no less,” so is it just possible that the time has come for us to consider what we can afford?

This year I’ve moved back to the shopfloor and set up my desk in the middle of our factory in Rabans Lane, sitting slap bang in the middle of the production line and with the hard working diligent team who step up everyday to create product and value which is then taxed to pay for our public services.

In the factory world, if business volumes slip, costs rise, or if the company hits hard times, which we have experienced on and off since the 2008 financial crash, you face pay freezes and cuts and the potential loss of your job.

We are told that the council’s grant has been cut by as much as 50% and services are being slashed, so perhaps we no longer need a £170k chief exec?

Could the £120k remunerated deputy chief exec do the job now?

I understand that Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils have cut their costs in half by keeping both councils but employing a single shared paid executive team.

I have half a mind to start a new “Close the Council” Party with business leaders standing on a platform of amalgamating our councils into one to save millions.

If only we weren’t all fully employed generating taxes.

Food for thought?