All honeymoons end, even the one enjoyed by the Blair government ended, at some point in 2000 (about the time of the fuel protests and the slow handclap by the WI). But the current SNP/Lib Dem administration in Renfrewshire, it is safe to say has reached the end of its honeymoon, even if there are some who said it ended just after they took office.
On Thursday 26th June, the ruling SNP/Lib Dem coalition awarded pay-rises to the directors & heads of services at Renfrewshire Council well in excess of inflation. The 20 heads of service will receive rises of 17%, up to £78045, while the directors will see their wages rise by a measly 6.7%, up to £101985. That's a total of £2172810, or 4/10 of a PPP repayment.
In the current economic climate, this is simply offensive, for an organization in debt, this is madness. Remember that not so long ago, Renfrewshire council were in trouble with our elderly for increasing warden charges in sheltered housing areas, on top of the myriad of cuts to community services. Our rulers are asking us, the plebs, to tighten our belts. Meanwhile at Mill Street its trebles all round, and that's just the cuts to the library service! (Presumably to make way for these wage increases, and not just to service Renfrewshire's large PPP debt). I don't normally see eye to eye with Terry Kelly, but he more than has a point when he says "The rise of more than £11000 is more than some of our lowest paid workers get in a year and quite frankly, I feel that is obscene".
The leader of the council, Derek Mackay, in response said something about paying the going rate for staff. You know, the stuff that Michael Heseltine, Brian Mahwinney, Peter Lilley and other right wing members of the Major Government used to trot out when the bosses of (recently privatized at the time) utilities got criticism for their fat cat pay. Interestingly, the fat cats remain, but the current (New Labour or SNP) government(s) don't criticize them for their inflation busting, economy wrecking largesse.
To come back from that tangent, Mackay went on to say "What should we do, bury our heads in the sand and wait for this mystic time when people are going to jump for joy at the news that highly paid officials are getting an increase? We cannot hold off any longer on this or we will find that we have lost all our good staff because we were not willing to pay them what they are worth"
This would be great, if the majority of staff were getting the same increases, or if the staff getting the increases were any good at their jobs. As far as I can see, Paisley's still going down the pan, we still have feral teenagers rampaging through our streets at night, with nothing to do. We are supposed to have community wardens, for all the good it does. They and their bright red uniforms and their fleet of red mini-vans should be the first thing to be axed instead of putting charges up for wardens at sheltered housing areas. Paisley town centre is still a mess, with empty shops. Littlewoods is still empty, as is the area where Arnotts used to be, 5 years ago. Can you tell that I think that they're simply not worth it.
The pay rise really does smack of the new British disease, the one of 'rewarding failure'. And is something that cannot go on. New Labour do it at Westminster by saying nothing about the bonuses that the bosses of the High Street banks get, even though it is their failures & hubris that have caused the credit crunch. Our devolved government here are not any better in this respect, and it would appear neither are the nearly new brooms in Cotton Street. With the difficulty in squaring the deficit bequeathed to them by the previous administration, this potentially could be a "jump the shark" moment for the SNP/Lib Dem. The problem is, if they sink, what are the alternatives for 2011.