Small business owners believe it’s crucial to get the right mix of individuals with the skills needed to develop and expand a business. With a lot of small businesses starting to see some shoots of recovery, they find themselves in the fortunate position of being able to recruit. They syphon off some of their valuable time advertising, filtering and selecting candidates, some of whom have been unemployed for prolonged periods of time.
However, business owners like myself are facing fresh frustrations when individuals who apply for a job simply don’t report for interview. After reading countless CV’s, calling what seems to be an even greater pool of filtered candidates, and for these apparent candidates not the show up for an interview, would beg to question their original intention.
I myself have five vacancies available. Ironically two of these positions have been vacant for nearly twelve months. On Wednesday five candidates were invited to attend interviews, but only one turned up. In total, six business hours that could have invested elsewhere were taken up selecting and telephone screening the candidates.
This scenario is not a new issue for business owners, but the DWP’s approach doesn’t seem to match their rhetoric. Mark Hoban MP, the Employment Minister, states that “jobseekers who are serious about looking for work will get all the support they need from us. But in return for receiving Jobseekers Allowance they must prove they are doing everything they can to find a job.”
However a very different impression of the government’s approach is created when proactive business owners who now call their local jobcentre to report candidates for failing to turn up, are told nothing can be done unless a date of birth or NI number can be provided. Apparently a name and address simply won’t do.
If a thief were to break into a house and a name, as well as an address, could be supplied, I am sure the police could make contact. This leaves me to ask: why is it that if someone refuses to take the burden off an evidently overburdened public purse, can similar measures not be incorporated?
Surely it is time to call time on benefit abuse and aid businesses leaders and the taxpayer?
Lambeth Borough Council is looking for a Senior Policy Equalities and Performance Officer, paying £40506 – £43152 per annum. Once again the council says ‘this is a key role supporting Lambeth’s transformation to become the first Cooperative Council’, although how many key roles there are or can be, is anyone’s guess. Whilst most councils cut back on recruitment, Lambeth seems to continue undeterred. Here’s part of the job description:
To give a flavour – projects which you will be working on range from supporting the implementation of the Cooperative Council to understanding and mitigating against the impact of welfare reform, promoting the council’s vision, supporting the local strategic partnership -Lambeth First and improving the organisation’s reputation. As this role reports directly to the Chief Executive, you will be comfortable working with senior leaders and with a range of often competing stakeholders.
The flavour of the job seems to imply welfare reform is bad and the employee will spend their time assisting the council’s PR department in communicating this message. Is that worth over £40K of Lambeth taxpayers’ money?
HS2 Ltd is once again recruiting more staff. This time they are looking for a Social Media Officer, paying over £35K per annum, plus benefits. Here’s part of the job description:
Specifically, you will be responsible for promoting HS2 across social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo and YouTube. You will develop and implement a social media strategy and engagement programme, and stay abreast of the latest social media trends. Your remit will also require you to monitor, analyse and report on the effectiveness of our social media presence, and build relationships with key relevant online influencers and opinion formers.
So the next time you watch a new HS2 YouTube video, or see HS2 arguing with someone on Facebook or Twitter, you know who’s doing it and what they are getting paid. A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd told The Bucks Herald they have ‘advertised for a social media officer to carry out the necessary communications work required for a major infrastructure project of national significance to the UK, as the project moves forward and into the Parliamentary process’.
With a reply like that, it’s just as well a desirable criterion for this post is the ability to respond to a challenge with maturity and resilience, considering the majority of the public are against this costly scheme. As my colleague, Dominique Lazanski, commented yesterday, the Government is also getting desperate by claiming HS2 will help deliver superfast broadband, even though by 2026 we don’t know what new technologies will be developed. Not to mention the fact between 70 – 90% of homes along the proposed route already have access to superfast broadband, something that seems to have escaped the Government’s attention.
As I said last year when HS2 recruited a Senior Press Officer, two Policy Advisers, a Parliamentary Bill Assistant Manager, and a Parliamentary Bill Evidence Manager, expect more of the same as the HS2 spin machine goes into overdrive.
Rochdale Council recently announced its intention to increase Council Tax by 3.5%, however using a loophole in the Localism Act, it intends to deny residents a say in a local referendum. Rochdale may not be the only council in Greater Manchester thinking of doing the same.
Employing people in non-jobs is one of the many ways councils keep Council Tax bills high, and some councillors are receiving special responsibility allowances for positions that at best can be described as dubious. I’ll use Tameside as an example.
There are fifty-seven councillors in Tameside who each receive a basic allowance of £11,640. Fifty-one of those councillors also receive a special responsibility allowance. In 2010/11, Cllr B Holland pocketed an additional £8,352 for the posts of Assistant Executive Member – Carbon Reduction and Chair of Carbon Reduction Panel. Cllr Smith also got £8,352 for the onerous task of being an Assistant Executive Member – Policy Advisor.
Tameside has eight district assemblies where councillors meet with local people to discuss matters affecting them. Many councils have similar committees, however what other councils tend not to do is pay outrageous additional allowances to councillors to act as chairs and deputy chairs. Part of the role of a councillor is to serve on these committees, and as the district assemblies in Tameside met no more than six times during 2010/11, acting as a chair or deputy chair is not an all consuming task. Despite this, taxpayers had to fork-out an additional £9,581 to each of the eight chairs, and £3,194 to each of the eight deputy chairs.
Waste disposal and transport are not services provided by individual authorities. Instead, Greater Manchester councils pool their resources. As a result, waste is the responsibility of the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA) and overseeing transport is the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee (TfGMC). Serving on these committees should be part of the role of a councillor, however councillors are paid extra for attending a few meetings a year.
Members of GMWDA are paid a basic allowance of £2,100. The Chair is paid £12,000; Vice Chairs are paid £5,400, and Deputy Chairs of Committees are paid £2,600.
TfGMC members are paid a basic allowance of £3,825. The Chairman, Andrew Fender, pockets £28,250 on top of his Manchester councillor’s allowance of almost £16,000, whilst Vice Chairs/Chairs of the Sub-Committees are paid £14,125, and Deputy Chairs of Sub-Committees are paid £5,050.
The above are just examples. There are many more when you start digging. If you are a resident in one of the Greater Manchester councils and your council wants to increase Council Tax, remember some councillors are being paid extra for dubious sounding non-jobs, and for simply fulfilling their council duties. Are they willing to cut their perks before they raise your taxes?
The fact that taxpayers are facing a bill of £126 million a year because of the inability of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officials to answer the phone is totally ludicrous.
Last year a staggering 20 million calls to HMRC’s phone line went unanswered. People who did manage to get through on average had to wait five minutes to speak to someone, with some 6.5 million callers being made to wait an extraordinary ten minutes or more.
The National Audit Office (NAO), which discovered the shocking statistics, also found that HMRC compares unfavourably to the tax offices of other developed countries, finding that HMRC answered its phones slower than any of the other seven agencies it was assessed against. For example, Canada’s Revenue Agency managed to answer 80% of calls in 2 minutes while in the UK just 46% are answered that quickly.
Margaret Hodge, Chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, stated that it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that HMRC uses expensive 0845 numbers to profit while the taxpayer waits. She attacked the call answering targets the organisation has set for itself as ‘far too soft and way below industry standards’, pointing out that HMRC has set itself the dismal target of answering just 58% of calls.
TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: “This NAO report exposes a shameful level of service at HMRC. It’s no wonder people have to call the revenue so often, given that – at 17,000 pages – our tax code is one of the longest and most complicated in the world. It is high time that politicians acted to simplify the tax system and make it far less burdensome.’
As the NAO’s report observes, getting in touch with HMRC isn’t an option, it is something that taxpayers have to do. As such, it is ridiculous that we are being provided such a shoddy service.
Since writing about Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) appointing friends to well remunerated jobs last week, the press has been full of reports about more PCCs appointing deputies and assistants. In many instances the only qualification there seems to be is you have to be a friend of the PCC you are about to work for. Whilst many PCCs don’t feel they need a deputy (such as Ann Barnes in Kent and Sir Clive Loader in Leicestershire) others appear to have gone on a taxpayer-funded recruitment drive, building up an empire around them.
One PCC I referred to was Adam Simmonds from Northamptonshire. I noted he had appointed four assistants, each earning £65K per annum. He denies he is empire building, even though under the old police authority there were seven members of staff which he intends to increase to seventeen. Ironically, one of his new appointments is a value for money officer!
I also mentioned Humberside, which covers the area where I live in East Yorkshire. The new PCC is Matthew Grove, an East Riding of Yorkshire councillor. He has decided to appoint his friend and fellow councillor, Paul Robinson, as deputy. In a bizarre turn of events, Mr Grove stated in the Yorkshire Post that he wasn’t the best man for the job.
When the issue of police and crime commissioner came up I didn’t actually consider myself as the first person I would put forward; I actually wanted Paul to be the police and crime commissioner and spent a lot of months trying to push Paul to stand as the Conservative candidate, so he was my first choice as PCC.
Is he saying Mr Robinson should be appointed deputy because he really should have had the top job? It would appear so, and since giving that quote he has been unavailable for comment!
On Wednesday the Police and Crime Panel (PCP) held a meeting and decided to hold Mr Robinson’s confirmation hearing on Friday 21 December at 1.00pm. On BBC Look North, PCP chairman, David Rudd (who is also another Conservative East Riding councillor) said the panel had quite a few concerns, and those concerns have been brought forward by our leader of the council and other people within the community of the Humberside policing area. He went on to say the panel did not have any doubts about Mr Robinson’s competence, but what they were concerned about was whether he would have time to fulfil the role. Presumably he was referring to the fact that Mr Robinson is insisting on remaining an East Riding councillor whilst working as the Deputy PCC.
The PCP is made of up representatives from the four local authorities that make up the Humberside policing area: North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, East Riding of Yorkshire (ERYC) and Hull. When Mr Rudd referred to our leader, he was referring to the leader of ERYC, Stephen Parnaby, who said on BBC Radio Humberside last week that Mr Robinson should resign as a councillor.
The PCP chairman is supposed to be neutral, however in a quote to the Yorkshire Post yesterday, Mr Rudd gave up on all appearances of neutrality. “We have an election in three and a half years and we don’t want to offer meat and drink to the opposition parties,” he said, and further raised the issue of cronyism.
Trying to find out information from both the PCC’s office and from the PCP is like pulling teeth. If the public is to have trust in PCCs, and the PCPs which hold them to account, they must be open and transparent. Unfortunately, the following message on the transparency page of Matthew Grove’s website sums it up: this page is under construction!
Some Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) are in the news this week, however it’s not for their crime fighting plans. In a report in the Mail on Sunday, 16 out of 41 PCCs have said they will appoint deputies. The legislation does allow for this, however it appears the way the legislation is interpreted varies from one PCC to another.
Adam Simmonds, Northamptonshire’s PCC, is a former senior officer at Northamptonshire County Council. Before the election he said he would be a progressive, considered, and modern thinking commissioner, although there appears to be nothing modern about his decision to appoint four assistant commissioners at £65K a year each. One of his assistants will be his former election agent, Kathryn Buckle. This has lead to accusations of cronyism, which is hardly surprising. It looks like Mr Simmonds is trying to build an empire around him, despite the fact he already has paid staff he inherited from the old police authority.
West Midlands PCC, Bob Jones, has appointed Yvonne Mosquito as his sole deputy. She will be paid £65K a year for a 32-hour working week, and will continue as a councillor earning a reported £27K – a total package of £92K. West Midlands is a large police force area, so he may need some additional help, but how did he decide on a salary of £65K for the equivalent of a four-day week? If she is serious about her new role, how will she find the time to continue as a councillor? How much of her time will be diverted away from being a deputy PCC to fulfil her council roles?
It is reported in the Hull Daily Mail that Humberside PCC, Matthew Grove, has appointed a fellow Conservative councillor, Paul Robinson, as his deputy on £45K a year. He said that Mr Robinson will have a contract of employment and very specific requirements to help deliver his targets and manifesto pledges. He also said it will be a full-time job and not some political jolly. We do not know what those specific requirements are, as they have not been published. and although Mr Grove has said it will be a full-time role, Mr Robinson has claimed he will be working four days a week. This would mean the deputy’s full-time salary is £56,250. Mr Grove will resign his East Riding Council seat in the New Year, but Mr Robinson will remain as a councillor. If being a deputy is a full-time role (as Mr Grove insists) it makes you wonder how Mr Robinson – just like Yvonne Mosquito – will find the time to continue as a councillor.
There is also a conflict of interest as councils appoint members to the new Police and Crime Panel. Mr Robinson could find himself being ‘grilled’ about decisions he has made by friends and colleagues who sit next to him in the council chamber. The same goes for Ms Mosquito.
At the moment, PCCs are inundated with work. As they are new, the media is interested in them, and they also have to write five-year police and crime plans. After that, who knows how busy they will be. It seems that many of them are simply appointing their friends and colleagues to well remunerated positions without any clear idea about what they will be doing, what hours they should work, or what a fair salary should be.
There is then the problem with accountability. PCCs were scrutinised through the election process. The same cannot be said of their deputies. Although Police and Crime Panels will interview prospective deputies, they cannot block their appointment. Basically, PCCs can say they note the panel’s recommendation, and then do what they like. This is not healthy for democracy. More information on the legislation can be found here.
The upside is unlike unelected police authorities, in three and a half years PCCs will have to go back to the voters and ask for another mandate. Mr Simmonds in particular needs to remember this. Those PCCs who appear to be more interested in empire building, and awarding potential non-jobs to their friends, rather than addressing local priorities, will hopefully be shown the door.
The NHS Commissioning Service in Leeds has a range of opportunities on offer that are supposedly designed to make the patient experience better. Whether this will mean Mrs Jones gets her hip operation sooner rather than later, is yet to be seen, although if her operation is cancelled, she can rest assured the Commissioning Service is recruiting a team of highly paid staff dedicated to making life better for all of us who use the NHS.
The first role up for grabs is the Head of Insight and Feedback. This job pays anywhere between £77,079 – £97,478 per annum, and whoever gets the job will be accountable to the Director of Insight. Here’s part of the job description:
The post holder will have expertise in market research/forward-looking insight gathering techniques, and will be responsible for ensuring the information gathered is used effectively by the NHS CB and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to ensure that the views of patients and the public inform improvements in care. The post holder will also act as a point of expertise and advice to CCGs in developing their own local insight programmes.
The post holder will support the Director of Insight across the full range of team responsibilities, including programmes of work on gathering patient feedback through surveys, the Friends and Family Test and other real-time patient feedback techniques.
Then there is the Head of Strategic Intelligence, earning the same as the Head of Insight and Feedback, who will report to the Director of Open Information. Here are their key responsibilities:
The post holder will have responsibility for the strategic and operational development of the strategic intelligence requirements for the Board and CCGs. Plans to achieve the Intelligence Strategy will be underpinned by the delivery of short to medium term objectives.
- Ensure the strategy is formulated, understood by all stakeholders and is delivered utilising all available resources efficiently and effectively.
- Ensure the development and management of plans, within the Sector.
- Ensure appropriate system and processes are in place to enable the implementation of the strategy plans in the new organisations.
- Proactively manage the key risks and issues associated with ensuring appropriate actions are taken to mitigate or respond.
- Monitoring and establishing accountability on the overall progress of the strategy to ensure completion within agreed timescales.
- Manage the budgetary implications of activity.
- Avoid the destabilisation of business as usual.
- Manage and actively promote the relationships with key stakeholders.
If none of the above works, then maybe the Director of Improvement Capability will come to the rescue. They will be paid £110K per annum, and here is what they will be doing to earn their salary:
As part of the reform of the health and health care system it has been agreed to review and rationalise major aspects of national improvement and innovation activity. As a consequence a new national Improvement Body will be created which will draw on the best of what has been done before but at the same time be radically different in terms of its impact, ways of working and ambition.
The three senior posts will report to the Managing Director to form the senior team of the nIB. Together the team will play a key role in helping to transform the NHS, creating the conditions and momentum for change at an unprecedented scale and pace, so that programmes and interventions are commissioned effectively, outcomes can be delivered and cost and quality improvements can be achieved across the entire NHS system.
The above are just three examples of many similar jobs on offer. Perhaps I am being unkind and we will see vast improvements in healthcare, however I am far from convinced. It all seems like a huge and expensive box ticking exercise to me.
TPA activists are on the streets of York today to protest about the propsed Council Tax hike in the city. Here are a few snaps from the day so far.
Councils wasting our money isn’t anything new, but they do keep finding new and imaginative ways of doing so. And they don’t come more imaginative than this new role at Northgate High School in Suffolk: they are looking for a team of “Proof Readers and Copy Editors” who will be paid £14.02 per hour to correct spelling and grammatical errors in the pupils’ school reports written by the teachers.
Here’s the (non-)job description in full:
“Working 15 – 20 days a year. The school reports to parents on a regular basis about how well their child is progressing at school. We are looking to recruit a team to check and amend the electronic reports to ensure that they are well written and complete before being released to parents. The work needs to be completed within a tight timetable at different times throughout the year. If you can be flexible when you work and have a high level of skill in written English, including spelling, grammar and punctuation, are scrupulous about detailed work and have the good judgement to gauge which changes are appropriate, please download full details.”
First and foremost, this is an exceptional waste of taxpayers’ money. It is totally unnecessary: schools have been sending home reports since time immemorial without the need for Proof Readers as Northgate High School seeks.
It is, of course, incredibly insulting. The very existence of the role suggests that the teachers are unable to display the same skills that they are employed to teach the children
And if teachers are unable to use proper grammar and the correct spelling, does it not beg the question as to whether they should be teachers in the first place?
The London Evening Standard reported last week that councils in the capital spent £23 million on publicity last year, including advertising and publishing free newspapers. Tower Hamlets spent £3.2 million on publicity alone last year, while Kensington and Chelsea also made the list of 11 councils that spent over £1 million.
Local authorities are making necessary spending cuts. That means local politicians must prioritise. Many councils are handling smaller budgets very well, but others need to focus relentlessly on getting value for money on services, not spending it on their own marketing.
Many of the publications produced by these boroughs are wholly unnecessary. Free council newspapers, for example, are aplenty in London. Tower Hamlets, who spent the most of any local authority with a £3.2m bill, has a publication called East End Life. This magazine includes news stories, events in the area and even restaurant reviews. That content can be provided by an independent local press; online bloggers are also doing an increasingly good job of this. Taxpayers shouldn’t pick up the bill for it.
It’s legitimate for local authorities to inform residents of their own activities, relating to service delivery. But these kinds of publications rarely have anything negative to say about the Council. Scrutinising spending by councils and holding them to account is one of the crucial roles that local papers play, which can be crowded out as a result of the expensive, taxpayer-funded magazines that councils are providing. Taxpayers should also be able to run the rule over how their money is spent, so greater spending transparency is also vital.
Local papers, independent magazines and other media such as internet blogs are extremely successful in keeping Londoners informed about what is happening in their local area. They are becoming more innovative too, making increasingly good use of smartphone technology. That makes such a large publicity bill for taxpayers entirely unjustified.
Lambeth Borough Council is becoming the country’s first co-operative council. As part of this change, it appears more staff are being hired, although with the following example, priority will be given to redeployees. The council looking for a Young Lambeth Co-operative Membership Manager, paying £37,851-£40,506. Here’s is part of the job description. It is one of the finest examples of council gobbledegook you could want to read:
Lambeth Children and Young People’s Service is recruiting a Young Lambeth co-operative Membership Manager to work in the CYPS Co-operative Council Team. The establishment of the YLC by April 2013 is the second phase of the CYPS co-operative council programme. This will involve the council working with the community to develop a new independent entity which will have a role in the commissioning and the delivery of children and young people’s services in the borough. The success of the YLC programme will be dependent on the ability to engage with the community and develop trust and strong working relationships to ensure strong involvement in the programme. The Membership Manager post is key to this.
The main purpose of the role is:
- To lead on developing and implementing an engagement plan with stakeholders and registered individuals to support the co-production of the YLC, with a specific focus on working with young people.
- To support the development an YLC Membership scheme to reflect the different stakeholders in the YLC, with a specific focus on young people.
- To develop an YLC membership recruitment and engagement strategy to ensure it reaches its recruitment, engagement and retention targets.
- To develop, manage and implement a communication strategy for YLC members, including a focus on working with young people
One of the essential requirements for those thinking of applying for this post is the ability to understand exactly what the job is. And why are there references to a specific focus on working with young people? Isn’t that obvious when the job is working for the Young Lambeth Co-operative?
The NHS has recruited a new Head of Brand, paying up to a very tidy £97K a year. At a time of budget reductions, you would have thought this was a luxury we could not afford. You would be right, and it would be a waste of money even without budget reductions, but this hasn’t stopped the NHS Commissioning Board in Leeds splashing out on this appointment.
Unsurprisingly, NHS Chief Executive, Sir David Nicholson has defended the appointment. Speaking to the House of Commons Health Select Committee, he said the position was needed to make sure private providers “understand what it means to be part of the NHS… the culture and the values and treat their patients accordingly”.
His comments didn’t impress MPs, and they don’t impress me. Next time you hear of an operation cancelled through lack of staff, remember where some of your money is going.
The news that outgoing BBC Director General George Entwistle is to pocket a whopping £450,000 pay-out will shock and appal taxpayers everywhere. Mr Entwistle was in his job for just 54 days, meaning that for every day he served, he’ll receive an incredible £8,333. The pay-off is on top of the £877,000 pension pot to which Mr Entwistle is also entitled.
Given that his brief tenure was marked by a series of catastrophic errors, most taxpayers will be left scratching their heads as to why the ex-Director General will be enjoying such a massive payday. The fact is that Mr Entwistle’s brief time at the helm of the BBC saw the corporation lurch from one crisis to another and it is ridiculous that failure should be so generously rewarded.
The BBC’s decision to award the payment is particularly egregious given the outcry that accompanied their awarding Greg Dyke a similarly massive payment of £488,416 when he resigned in the wake of the events that led to the Hutton Inquiry. The BBC’s culture of rewarding incompetence with extravagant pay-offs cannot continue at a time when taxpayers are tightening their belts.
The news has been rightly attacked across the political spectrum. Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman described the pay off as a ‘reward for failure’, while Tory MP John Whittingdale, who chairs the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, summed up the views of many taxpayers when he asked: ‘How can somebody who has had to leave in these circumstances, as a result of a serious failure, nevertheless get a whole year’s salary?’ Those at the BBC responsible for this decision must understand that it will be unfathomable to the public and will harm their efforts to rebuild lost trust.
The BBC Trust is supposed to be looking out for licence fee payers’ interests and ensuring their money is not misspent. As far as this sorry saga goes, it has monumentally failed to do so.
It is especially disappointing that Mr Entwistle is set to take this mammoth pay-off when the early signs were so good about his understanding of the need to be careful when spending other people’s money. Indeed, when he took on the job on a salary 40 per cent lower than his predecessor and dumped his chauffeur-driven car in favour of using the tube, the TaxPayers’ Alliance made him our Pin-Up of the Month.