Councillors in Stoke have expressed their disgust as the local authority spends over £700 on umbrellas for senior staff and councillors in spite of the fact services are being cut whilst staff elsewhere in the council are being told to save money (The Sentinel).
It’s not so much the amount spent – with £700 hardly registering on the Richter scale – but the principle at this current time, with finances at this disaster-prone council in a particularly dire state.
The umbrellas themselves are to commemorate the centenary of the federation of Stoke, an occasion that will also be marked by a civic dinner that the rebel councillors are refusing to attend on account of its cost – reportedly over £25,000.
Cllr Joyson told the paper:
"We don't intend to go to the civic dinner, which we have been told is costing the taxpayer £25,000.
"I don't think its right that the taxpayers of this city should be paying for councillors' umbrellas.
"We all feel that the community out there should benefit from this money, not councillors and senior officers."
The paper reiterates something that seems quite evidently to have come from the council press office, stating: “The free brollies, which are worth £4.95 each, are for use at events which are likely to draw regional or national media coverage, such as royal visits, Tatton Park horticultural show in which the authority enters flower bed designs, and the Tour of Britain cycle race through the city”. But even if you consider this to be a highly effective promotional tool (hmm), you still have to concede that it has a major flaw in that it’s unlikely to make an appearance unless it’s raining (and despite the British weather we can’t completely rely on that happening, we do have summer coming up after all…).
No-one is saying ‘don’t celebrate your centenery’, but in the current climate there should be some obligation to cut the frills. Celebrating in style using the cash of those who can ill-afford is, after all, pretty crass.