No sense of priority in county hall

June 16, 2011 5:04 PM

TPA supporter John Martin remains unhappy with Norfolk County Council’s approach to spending its residents’ money.





Some months ago, we endured “Norfolk’s Big Conversation”. This was the formal title given to the consultation exercise carried out by Norfolk County Council (NCC) before making a series of savage cuts in frontline services with a view to saving £155m over three years. Needless to say, the exchange was a bit one-sided and those who put in their four cents’ worth didn’t expect much notice to be taken.

One of my suggestions was that the NCC Chairman’s budget of £68k for “civic and ceremonial duties” should be scrapped. It may not amount to much in the grand scheme of things, but I find the idea of spending money on pomp – even low-level pomp – a bit offensive in these difficult times. Nothing happened, save possibly the gift of an index linked uplift for the current year.

Then, a friend of mine decided to ask a question of the NCC Cabinet at its last meeting. She was curious to know the cost to us all of the “Chairman’s Summer Reception”. The answer given was “around £4,500 this year”. That was bad enough, but the lengthy justification that was volunteered somehow made it worse. This is what the NCC Leader, Cllr Derrick Murphy, said: -





[caption id="" align="alignright" width="156" caption="Can't let Shelagh miss a party"][/caption]



“The Chairman’s Summer Reception provides NCC, as it does nearly all Norfolk’s borough, district and town councils, with a unique opportunity to introduce Norfolk’s civic head to the many charities, businesses, military personnel, community groups, stakeholders, faith representatives and neighbouring county council civics (sic) who come into contact with the Chairman and county councillors during a year of office. This is a historical, civic tradition and provides a real opportunity not only to promote the Chairman’s theme for the year but is also a repayment of hospitality given and to be given by others in the year ahead.”



(Forgive me if I interject here to say that it sounds like a lot of mutual partying by the good and the great at our expense.)

“The cost of hosting such a reception, at around £4,500 this year, equates to significantly less than one penny per Norfolk resident and is exceptional value for money. I have much respect for this ambassadorial role which not only supports the traditions of Norfolk as a whole but also provides a fitting platform to showcase all that is good about Norfolk”



How many times have we heard the old excuse “This only costs each resident a farthing”? I suppose that I wouldn’t get so worked up about the £30 million that NCC is still trying to recover from the failed Icelandic banks if I simply viewed it as £35 for every man, woman and child in Norfolk. Perhaps NCC would have an easier time if it set out its annual accounts using that formula.

I suppose that we have to accept that the role of a local councillor is a very important one, and that the role of the chairman of a council is an even more important one. But we can’t afford all of this flummery, and if local authorities want it they should go out and seek sponsorship for these events, rather than dunning the public. But if they have to dun us, could they spare us the excruciating attempts at justification?

TPA supporter John Martin remains unhappy with Norfolk County Council’s approach to spending its residents’ money.





Some months ago, we endured “Norfolk’s Big Conversation”. This was the formal title given to the consultation exercise carried out by Norfolk County Council (NCC) before making a series of savage cuts in frontline services with a view to saving £155m over three years. Needless to say, the exchange was a bit one-sided and those who put in their four cents’ worth didn’t expect much notice to be taken.

One of my suggestions was that the NCC Chairman’s budget of £68k for “civic and ceremonial duties” should be scrapped. It may not amount to much in the grand scheme of things, but I find the idea of spending money on pomp – even low-level pomp – a bit offensive in these difficult times. Nothing happened, save possibly the gift of an index linked uplift for the current year.

Then, a friend of mine decided to ask a question of the NCC Cabinet at its last meeting. She was curious to know the cost to us all of the “Chairman’s Summer Reception”. The answer given was “around £4,500 this year”. That was bad enough, but the lengthy justification that was volunteered somehow made it worse. This is what the NCC Leader, Cllr Derrick Murphy, said: -





[caption id="" align="alignright" width="156" caption="Can't let Shelagh miss a party"][/caption]



“The Chairman’s Summer Reception provides NCC, as it does nearly all Norfolk’s borough, district and town councils, with a unique opportunity to introduce Norfolk’s civic head to the many charities, businesses, military personnel, community groups, stakeholders, faith representatives and neighbouring county council civics (sic) who come into contact with the Chairman and county councillors during a year of office. This is a historical, civic tradition and provides a real opportunity not only to promote the Chairman’s theme for the year but is also a repayment of hospitality given and to be given by others in the year ahead.”



(Forgive me if I interject here to say that it sounds like a lot of mutual partying by the good and the great at our expense.)

“The cost of hosting such a reception, at around £4,500 this year, equates to significantly less than one penny per Norfolk resident and is exceptional value for money. I have much respect for this ambassadorial role which not only supports the traditions of Norfolk as a whole but also provides a fitting platform to showcase all that is good about Norfolk”



How many times have we heard the old excuse “This only costs each resident a farthing”? I suppose that I wouldn’t get so worked up about the £30 million that NCC is still trying to recover from the failed Icelandic banks if I simply viewed it as £35 for every man, woman and child in Norfolk. Perhaps NCC would have an easier time if it set out its annual accounts using that formula.

I suppose that we have to accept that the role of a local councillor is a very important one, and that the role of the chairman of a council is an even more important one. But we can’t afford all of this flummery, and if local authorities want it they should go out and seek sponsorship for these events, rather than dunning the public. But if they have to dun us, could they spare us the excruciating attempts at justification?

Latest Blogs: