Non-job of the week
Nov 2012 14

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.

Outgoing BBC boss gets an eye-watering reward for failure
Nov 2012 12

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.

Non-job of the week
Nov 2012 07

When Windsor and Maidenhead Council installed smart meter in council buildings, energy consumption fell by 15% overnight. Surrey County Council did not go down this route, and instead decided to employ an Energy team. The result: since 2009/10 energy consumption has fallen by 16%. Hardly a great return.

Now the same council wishes to expand its Energy team. It is currently advertising for an Energy Engineer who will assist the Energy Manager to ensure effective management of energy efficiency and water use.  The new post is on offer for £32,519 per annum. Remember Surrey increased Council Tax this year, and we will be keeping a close eye on them again. If councillors feel they have to create mini-departments to tackle issues other councils deal with in a more common sense way, then what else are they wasting our money on?

The West London Mental Health Trust is looking for a Diversity Adviser, paying between £34,811 – £44,508 per annum. Here’s part of the job advert:

The Diversity Unit is looking for a Diversity Adviser for a fixed term period of two years, starting from January 2013.  This post-holder will take the lead in implementing patient Diversity initiatives across the Trust and will report to the Trust’s Diversity Consultant.

As Diversity Adviser, you will be the initial point of contact on patient diversity issues, providing, advice, guidance and support for staff at all levels; promoting good Diversity practice and advocating for change when necessary.

A diversity unit? How many people are working in it? What do they do all day? Everyone should be treated the same and have the same opportunities regardless of where they come from. Of course no-one should be discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, their gender, or sexual orientation, but does West London Mental Health Trust really need a Diversity Unit to ensure everyone is treated fairly?

We pay our taxes to the NHS for as much of it as possible to go to the front line. If the Trust needs to make savings, this is one of the first places they should be looking at cutting; not expanding.

Non-job of the week
Oct 2012 26

Bath University has a Prize Fellow vacancy to look at ‘Corporations and public health: exploring the impacts of corporations on non-communicable diseases and public health policies’. Here’s part of the advert:

Arguably the greatest challenge for public health lies in reducing the contributions of tobacco use, unhealthy diet and harmful alcohol consumption to the rising global burden of non-communicable diseases. Tobacco, alcohol and food related diseases are essentially industrial epidemics.

Christopher Snowdon, who alerted us to this job, has a very good blog on this. Alcoholism has affected many people since the first wineries started production; there were food related illnesses long before the industrial revolution; and lung cancer has been around for centuries too. Is this just an excuse to criticise capitalism?

Nottingham City Council has featured regularly on this website. Until recently it was the only council in England not to publish spending above £500 online. It regularly flouts Freedom of Information laws, and it also has the dubious honour of being the only council to introduce a Workplace Parking Levy. It will not surprise you to read that Nottingham was one of the few councils to increase Council Tax this year, and no doubt will attempt to do the same again next year. It stills finds the cash though to spend on an Equality and Diversity Consultant – between  £30,011 – £33,661, plus pension contributions, to be precise. Here’s part of the job advertisement:

With the aim of improving our performance, you will implement and evaluate equality and diversity initiatives, produce reports and develop policies. This will involve working with senior managers, Councillors and partners whilst suggesting ways of embedding equality and diversity in all relevant areas of the Council’s work.

Along with a comprehensive knowledge of equality legislation as it relates to service delivery and employment issues, you will need experience in the design and implementation of equality and diversity policies and procedures.

If other councils can do without a non-job like this, and still not fall foul of the law, why can’t Nottingham? Perhaps the best part of the advert though is at the end:

An understanding of and commitment to equality and diversity is required for this post.

Good of them to clear that up!



Oct 2012 16

This morning there are reports that Justine Greening, the new Secretary of State for International Development, is going to campaign for British taxpayers’ money spent on aid through the European Union to be spent in poorer countries. The EU foreign aid budget definitely needs reform. We set out a series of potential reforms in an earlier report, Reforming European Development Assistance: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability, but it is sometimes hard to escape the conclusion that what is really needed is to repatriate policy so that decisions over spending are made closer to taxpayers. If that isn’t possible though, here are the set of policies that we concluded would do the most to prevent abuse of European taxpayers’ money in this area:

  • All grants and sub-grants made by the EU and its grantees should be stored on a public website if they total over €25,000 for an individual grantee. This will allow European citizens to effectively scrutinise how their money is spent.
  • All projects and programmes over €150,000 should testify before the relevant European Parliament Committee.
  • All recipients of European Assistance must sign up to a pledge that neither they – nor those they sub grant to – will encourage or promote violence, hatred or the de-legitimisation of any state. A proven breach of this would entail immediate cessation of financial support.

Those reforms would make a huge difference. But don’t hold your breath waiting for serious reform from the EU.

If Justine Greening really wants to show that she is serious then she could act more quickly on international organisations sending our money to relatively fortunate countries. Argentina is not a particularly poor country. And it has been attacking the right of people living on the Falkland Islands to remain British. They have taken billions in loans from the World Bank and affiliated institutions.

Other countries, such as the United States and Spain, are voting against further loans. But so far our Government are still making decisions on a “case-by-case” basis and have only abstained on some proposed loans. Until Justine Greening makes it clear she will join those voting against World Bank loans to Argentina, it is hard to take this pledge to focus resources on the poorest countries seriously. If you want to help put pressure on the Government to vote against the new loans, please sign the petition at

Aid budget to top police spending by 2014
Oct 2012 16

Spending on international development projects will exceed the amount spent on front line policing, The Sun reported yesterday. Aid spending will rocket to a staggering £12.6 billion per year by 2014, £500 million more than the £12.1 billion spent on policing.

The revelation comes as International Development Secretary Justine Greening prepares to travel to Brussels in an attempt to persuade the EU to stop handing out cash to rich countries like Iceland and Brazil. Over a billion pounds a year of the EU aid budget comes out of the pocket of British taxpayers, around a sixth of total UK aid spending.

However, trying to talk the EU out of squandering billions on pet projects like making sure Turkey receives EU TV channels and funding Icelandic tourism schemes simply doesn’t go far enough. The Police Federation’s Chairman Paul McKeever has claimed the problem isn’t with Brussels as much as it with the Coalition, laying the blame at the Government’s door for its pledge to swell the aid budget while cutting back on higher priorities.

Speaking to The Sun, Mr McKeever said:

The Government’s first duty is to keep its citizens safe. So it is a puzzle the police are subsidiary to a budget dealing with the safety and security of those elsewhere.

Given the extent of opposition to the plans and the depth of Britain’s indebtedness, the Government might try to remember that charity really does begin at home. Taxpayers will rightly be angered by the fact that unaffordable increases for international aid remain one of the Government’s greatest spending blind spots.

Non-job of the week revisited
Oct 2012 11

Do you remember the Future Shape Programme Manager? If you don’t, here is a reminder. North East Lincolnshire Council (NELC) filled this post despite criticism coming in from all corners, however Paul Spencer, the man who eventually got the job, left in August for pastures new. He was due to leave in December.

So how have NELC taxpayers benefited from this £70K per annum post? Here is part of an article from the Grimsby Telegraph giving the details:

During Mr Spencer’s time at the helm, £1.7-million of savings were achieved. Cost-cutting methods included 33 voluntary redundancies, 10 compulsory redundancies and a new, streamlined human resources, payroll, and finance system.

We were told at the time no-one currently employed by the authority had the necessary skills to undertake this work. Are we really supposed to believe there isn’t a senior officer employed by NELC who couldn’t agree on the amount of redundancies and couldn’t streamline human resources, payroll, and the finance system? Apparently we are to believe that, and this is still the council’s position. Here is what Rob Walsh, Strategic Director of Governance and Transformation had to say:

Paul’s role was to co-ordinate a number of projects and to make sure plans were in place to achieve savings and instigate a culture of change within the authority. Future Shape is to mitigate the prospect of elected members having to make very difficult decisions about frontline services, although clearly they still have tough choices to make. We brought him in because there was nobody with the right skill-set within this area and he has now passed his skills on to others so that they can continue the programme.

He may have passed his skills on, but it doesn’t seem like Mr Walsh has received any training because Mr Spencer’s deputy has now stepped up to the plate and has a new expanded role of Programme Manager. It really is just like an episode of the comedy programme ‘Yes Minister!’ where Sir Humphrey employs more staff to carry out a review to find out if the department is overstaffed!

Paul Spencer is now the Shared Services Manager at Wycombe District Council. I wonder what pearls of wisdom he’s passing on there?


Manchester Council squanders £425,000 putting on a pop concert
Oct 2012 11

Last month, a most unusual pop concert took place in Manchester, headlined by Grammy Award winner, Alicia Keys. For a start, the gig – MTV Crashes Manchester – took place in the city’s cathedral. But more worryingly, it was entirely funded by taxpayers.

That’s right, despite enjoying the branding of the international music channel MTV, the entire event cost taxpayers through the good offices of Manchester City Council an eye-watering £425,000 (and, believe it or not, some of that came via a European Union budget).

And the council didn’t even sell a single ticket for the concert: all 1,000 places were given away for free. According to the Manchester Evening News, the Council defends the spending on the basis that the event would “showcase Manchester around the world”.

On that basis, can Manchester United now look forward to a big taxpayer subsidy from the council in return for all they do for showcasing the city around the globe? Of course not.

The Manchester Liberal Democrats are absolutely right to be challenging this spending of nearly half a million pounds. Apart from questioning why MTV weren’t paying for the event, it is beyond doubt that private sponsors would have been queuing up to support the event, which people would in turn have paid good money to attend.

When councils are having to make difficult decisions about how to use scarce resources and make savings, Manchester City Council needs to be reassessing its priorities as a matter of urgency if it thinks this spending is justifiable. The BBC is now reporting that the spending is to be investigated by the council’s finance scrutiny committee. I look forward to reading its report.

Non-job of the week
Oct 2012 04

Last week I commented on Croydon Borough Council’s search for a new Equality Officer, paying £37,179 – £38,961 per annum. I wondered at the time if this was a replcement officer, or if they were swelling the ranks. I have the same question today.

The same council is now looking for an Equality Manager, paying £46,050 – £47,907.  According to the job advertisement “this post reports to the Head of Equality and Community Relations and is a key role within the organisation, driving forward an ambitious and far reaching equalities agenda.”

Considering many councils do not employ equality and diversity officers, it will be interesting to find out just how many officers there are in the Equality and Community Relations Department in Croydon. How much do they cost taxpayers? What do they do all day?

It’s not just the NHS who have cash to spend on Environmental Sustainability teams. The University of Sussex is looking for an Environmental and Cultural Change Manager, paying £37,012 – £44,166 per annum. Here’s part of the job advert:

A brand new opportunity has arisen within our Sustainability team to formulate and implement sustainability, environmental and carbon reduction initiatives across the University of Surrey estate. You will be responsible for working on a programme of events, projects and activities to reduce the University’s energy consumption, greenhouse gases and costs.

Professionally qualified to degree level (or equivalent experience), you will need to bring with you a broad level of experience within a similar role and either an environmental and/or sustainability qualification or possess membership of an appropriate institute related to buildings and the environment.

In return we offer a generous annual leave entitlement, pension scheme, excellent development opportunities, childcare assistance and discounted leisure facilities.

Instead of concentrating on the obvious solutions there are to reduce energy consumption, and thus reduce costs, the university decides to create a new job opportunity with lots of perks. It makes you wonder how we ever survived without sustainabilty officers. Perhaps we just used our common sense instead?

Non-job of the week
Sep 2012 27

In our 2010 report on Unnecessary Jobs, we discovered Croydon Borough Council employed five equality and diversity officers. Neighbouring Bromley didn’t employ any. Croydon either wants a replacement or is about to swell the ranks as it advertises for another Equality Officer paying £37,179 – £38,961 per annum. Here’s part of what the council has to say:

The Council is seeking to recruit an Equality Officer. This post will report to the Equality Manager and has a key role within the organisation, supporting an ambitious and far-reaching equality agenda. A main purpose of the role will be to support the improvement in performance and practice throughout the organisation by ensuring equality is embedded in all of the council’s activities.

Many councils like Croydon have created mini-departments to comply with the Equality Act 2010. The fact that others have not proves there isn’t any evidence that hiring specific staff is necessary.

The London Borough of Sutton was mentioned by me just three weeks ago. Readers may remember Sutton Council was looking for a Community Involvement and Innovation Officer. This week the council is looking for two Locality Lead Officers, paying £38,961 – £41,610 per annum each. So what exactly will they be doing to earn their salary? See if you can work it out by reading the following  job advert:

It’s been an inspiring summer with the Olympics and Paralympics raising all of our expectations and levels of attainment. Here at the London Borough of Sutton in South West London we are already leading the race for gold with our One Planet programme and we’re a contender too in education, with some of the best performing schools in the country.

We want you to work with us now to become a pace-maker for neighbourhood and locality working across the country and as a model for others to follow.

We have two roles for innovative managers with a passion for delivering a range of services more locally, and who can help us achieve excellence and transform our ambitions into the highest possible standards.

Based in our new Environment and Neighbourhood Directorate you will be working with council colleagues, residents and partner organisations to commission services locally. You will be adept at engaging and involving residents and working with them so they have more of a say. Working with local councillors you will break new ground with our local committees, bring the very best practice into neighbourhood and locality working and help to create increased opportunities for residents to take part and take pride in the life of the borough.

It’s rather lacking in specifics, is it not? We know Sutton is ‘going for gold’ in the ‘Council Olympics’ and whilst tailoring services to meet the needs of those who use them is good, what exactly are those services going to be? What new ground is going to be broken? Why do councillors need two Locality Lead Officers to break it with them?

It all seems just a little airy fairy to me. I’m sure councillors will know by talking to their constituents what their local needs are. These two jobs, and the job of a Community Involvement and Innovation Officer, appear to be box ticking exercises, and I very much doubt residents will notice any real material difference.

Sep 2012 20

Earlier this year I wrote about the Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association (CPOSA). This is the ‘trade union’ for Assistant Chief Constables and above. It was revealed that taxpayers not only pay the individual subscriptions of senior officers (£275 per year), but we also pay an additional £2,197 per year for each senior officer to provide them with legal cover.

As I said at the time, it can be argued that CPOSA offers protection to those senior officers who may get sued (at times mischievously) whilst doing their job, and it is only right to insure against that risk. However, the insurance policy also pays the legal bills for those officers facing disciplinary action. This is what happened when Grahame Maxwell, the former Chief Constable of North Yorkshire, used the fund to run up a £250,000 legal bill before eventually admitting gross misconduct. Mr Maxwell’s actions were not without consequence. The amount all police authorities pay into the fund, per officer, has almost doubled from £1,130 in 2011/12 to £2,197  in the current financial year.

Today the Yorkshire Post has revealed that Sean Price, Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, is also benefiting from this taxpayer funded scheme. He is currently suspended from his job and is on police bail on allegations of fraud, corruption and misconduct. He is alleged to have used “undue influence” to appoint the daughter of former Cleveland Police Authority chairman Dave McLuckie to a junior clerical role in the force. He also faces 18 further gross misconduct allegations, including misuse of a corporate credit card and misspending on foreign travel, but no dates for hearings have been set.

Now Mr Price is trying to stop disciplinary hearings by mounting a judicial review in the High Court. Judicial reviews are not cheap – this one could cost £50,000 – and once again we would be picking up the bill. Judicial reviews also take some time to reach a conclusion, and because his contract expires in March next year, if he is successful he may never face disciplinary hearings for the various gross misconduct allegations.

How Mr Price spends his own money is up to him; however he is not spending his own money – he is spending our money. The more he racks up in legal bills, the more taxpayers will have to pay in insurance costs. Julian Smith, Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon said taxpayers will look on with “disbelief” at the latest revelations. The Association of Police Authorities has said it is urgently reviewing the situation. But what is there to review? It should be simple. Taxpayers’ money should not be used to both prosecute and defend a senior police officer facing personal gross misconduct charges. They should pay for their defence out of their own pockets.

On 15 November (unless you live in London) we go to the polls to elect Police and Crime Commissioners. I hope every candidate states that if elected they will stop this abuse of taxpayers’ money. They should also stop us paying the individual subscriptions for senior officers to CPOSA. It is their professional association, and they are more than capable of paying the fees themselves.

Sep 2012 20

A quick glance at the NHS jobs website will tell you there are over 150 executive vacancies. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you think they are all essential, however when one of the new Commissioning Support Units requires two Customer Services Directors, paying £115K each, it does make you wonder.

The University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust is looking for a new Head of Environmental Sustainability. This is all to do with the Trust’s desire to reduce its carbon footprint in line with the Department of Health’s report ‘Saving Carbon, Improving Heath‘. This report was published in 2009 by the Sustainable Development Unit.

The fact the Trust is looking for a new Head of Environmental Sustainability implies the new recruit will not be working alone. How many people are in the Environmental Sustainability team? Do all PCTs have a similar team? How many people work in the NHS Sustainable Development Unit? I ask these questions because reducing energy consumption naturally brings with it financial benefits, and this is outlined in the job advert.

What concerns me is that rather than do the simple things like ensuring lights are turned off when no-one is using a room, computers are switched off when no-one is using them, or the heating isn’t belting out at full blast when most of the windows are open, the NHS instead employs an army of bureaucrats. I’ve said it before, and I won’t apologise for saying it again, when Windsor and Maidenhead Council installed smart meters energy consumption fell by 15% overnight. They did this without employing climate change officers, environmental sustainability officers, or whatever you want to call them. Food for thought as the NHS continues to look for financial savings.




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