The self indulgent, self rewarding class of politicians is strongly represented today by Dame Jane Roberts, Chairman of the Councillors Commission. Having been charged with looking at how to improve local democracy, she has studied our newly released figures showing that a staggering 3,500 councillors have jumped on the Local Government Pension gravy train and has come to a shocking conclusion: it's "disappointing" that so few local politicians are cashing in.
Rarely are there such flagrant and brazen examples of political piggery. The vast majority of people have found it shocking that thousands of local politicians, already well rewarded for their role in local government, have climbed on board the gold plated Local Government Pension Scheme. The LGPS is costly enough without politicians taking advantage of taxpayers' generosity, too. But Dame Jane doesn't just defend councillors who cash in, as some local spokesmen have done, she actually laments that "only" 3,500 councillors are taking the benefits and urges others to sign up and start raking the money in.
Perhaps it's not surprising that a professional politician and now quangocrat thinks profiteering is a virtue, but the Councillors' Commission which Dame Jane speaks on behalf of is meant to improve the standing of local government. If she doesn't realise how harmful it is to the image of local democracy for politicians to grab every penny of taxpayers' money they can get at any given opportunity then she is clearly the wrong person for the job.
That said, the Councillors Commission has always been a total turkey, and this latest outburst proves it beyond doubt. It's one of those "independent" reviews established by the Government that just happens to be anything but independent. Let's have a look at the qualifications of Dame Jane Roberts:
- Croydon Councillor for 16 years
- Leader of Croydon Council 2000 to 2005
- Currently working for: the Improvement and Development Agency (taxpayer funded quango), Local Government Leadership Centre (taxpayer funded quango) and OfSTED (taxpayer funded quango). She is also an Assistant Fellow at Warwick Business School's Leadership Development Programme (runs taxpayer funded training courses). She's also a Trustee of the New Local Government Network (where the majority or perhaps all of her fellow Trustees derive their income from taxpayers' money via local councils). She is also Director of Quality and Performance at Islington Primary Care Trust - and there's no need to mention where the money for that comes from.
So there we have it, a long term politician and now quangocrat, appointed a Dame by a Government of her own Party in 2004 for "services to local government". She is an establishment figure through and through, and seems to make large amounts of money courtesy of buttering up local government. A truly "independent" voice for how to reform the role of councillors!
Dame Jane - and her Commission - are simply another arm of the political class. In her case she's done even better than many of her elected colleagues, as most of her work is funded by the people but she never has to account to them for it. It's entirely predictable that someone like this should think that the gravy train should be made as plush as possible for local politicians - she, her friends and her colleagues are all aboard the First Class carriage. What time does the buffet car open?