There's one of those classic news stories today that raises your eyebrows and then explains itself all in one sentence. The kind that starts off "that's politically interesting" and ends up feeling slightly more predictable than "dog bites postman". This time, it's all to do with Eric Pickles' laudable proposals to help councils reduce the number of high-paid Chief Executives.
Here's the first bit:
Conservative plans to reduce the number of council chief executives lack support among grassroots Tories...
Sounds interesting, no? If there is a genuine movement amongst Tory councillors to support the existence of this well-paid (and rising) class of senior executives in local government, many of whom earn more than the Prime Minister, then that is a serious issue. Who has revealed this startling split?
...the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers has claimed.
This isn't just dog bites postman, it's "Postman likes being bitten by dog and wants more of it, says dog".
Still, let's look at the story - what's the detail? Actually, there is none - it's literally just on their say so - there are no numbers, estimates or even an anonymous survey. As it happens I have spoken to a lot fo councillors (and not just Tories) who support this plan to the hilt or would go further and abolishing the post altogether to make clear that the elected council are meant to run the local authority. Interestingly, even the quote from the group, which calls itself SOLACE (presumably in reference to their shared emotion when the pay cheques land on the doormat), is notably vague:
"On the one hand you have got Eric Pickles [the shadow communities secretary, saying this] and on the other you have got local Conservatives saying nothing of the sort," said Graham Taylor, director of communications at Solace.
Leaving aside that there even is a director of communications for SOLACE, it's interesting to note he isn't even willing to actually say that "local Conservatives oppose this", just to imply it. Boil it down and what have we really got? The group representing Council Chief Executives releasing their own, vaguely worded, totally unsubstantiated opinion that local councillors actually all like them really. As Cilla Black would say, surprise, surprise.