Come on, don’t do a ‘Donald’

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

If you were visiting a homeless charity, you wouldn’t dress in Armani and Gucci, or turn up in a chauffeur driven limousine.

You wouldn’t flaunt your wedding ring in front of your newly divorced best mate or start drinking Jack Daniels in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting; why? Because it would be insensitive and tactless, people might think you were heartless; I believe the Americans call it being a right Donald.

Most of us would look at the bigger picture and think about how our actions could be perceived by others; most of us.

It appears that the majority of councillors at the Town Hall think that perception is somewhere you walk through, on the way to the council cash machine.

Former councillor Charlie Swift, talking to me on the Big Conversation on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, called their decision, to vote through a huge increase in allowances, immoral.

Charlie pointed out that most councillors were actually waste of space and that thanks to the outsourcing of almost everything, from peanuts to parkways, there is precious little for them to do these days anyway.

The independent panel that recommended the inflation busting increase (20% for normal councillors, 40% for the leader, John Holditch) has made Peterborough’s councillors the highest paid in the county.

This at a time when we are being forced to cut back on most of our services - Sorry, “restructure” most of our services – whilst staring into the largest black hole this city’s finances have ever known.

Is this really the moment to dig even deeper, adding £186,000 a year to the ever expanding chasm?

Just think of the care home places that money could secure or the extra help that could be given to those that need it the most.

We were told that our council tax had to rise to safeguard our services, we were not warned that a large chunk of that rise was going straight into councillors’ back pockets.

With the weakening pound, prices are set to rise quite steeply – Oil, gas, electric, food and clothes are amongst the items that we will all be struggling to afford this winter.

Unfortunately, we will not be getting double digit pay increases to cover this increased cost, most of us will be lucky to see a rise at all and many will just be grateful to have a job.

I am aware that Peterborough is a unitary authority and that there has not been a pay rise since 2009. I am also aware of the argument that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, which doesn’t say a lot for those currently in the job.

But does throwing money at something guarantee a better outcome?

If it does, maybe we should install an independent review panel for nurses, carers, firemen and the like; if it’s good enough for councillors surely it’s good enough for those professions, too.

Many of them work long hours and have seen their real incomes drop dramatically over the last five years; some will be earning little more than the new councillor’s allowances and flogging themselves to death for the privilege.

You might think that some councillors are worth their weight in gold and deserving of a pay rise, but it isn’t about worth or money really, it’s about how it looks, whatever the justification.

Perception is not a film by Christopher Nolan and those that voted for this rise (Conservative mainly) would do well to remember that fact.