Last year, when I campaigned against a £364K payment East Riding of Yorkshire Council was about to pay Sue Lockwood's pension pot, I highlighted we would not have known about this payment if it hadn't been for someone leaking the story to the Yorkshire Post. The council was determined to keep this story under wraps.
This month - in our non-job of the week feature - I have highlighted two London councils who are willing to pay six-figure sums for parking managers. We don't know who these councils are, because they are using a recruitment agency. Once again we see councils hiding the truth from council taxpayers.
It's the same old story in Leeds. We were contacted by Maurice Scott, a 79 year-old retired firefighter. He is the embodiment of the 'Big Society' in action, serving as an unpaid director for West North West Homes, one of three Arm’s Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) which run Leeds’ 50,000 Council homes on behalf of Leeds City Council. When he found out three senior employees were about to receive a pay rise - when other employees had had their pay frozen - he complained to the leader of the council and the chief whip. The result: he's getting fired for a breach of confidence!
This is what Cllr Alison Lowe, chair of WNW Homes standards committee had to say in the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“This is an internal matter and it is being dealt with appropriately according to policy. West North West Homes has transparent, open staffing policies which we would be pleased to share on request."
If WNW Homes is a transparent organisation, why has it decided to fire Mr Scott? Re-read my opening two paragraphs. We know councils are constantly trying to hide large pay packets and big payments, but as this is an arm's-length limited company, there isn't an obligation for WNW Homes to publish the individual salaries of senior staff. If you look at its accounts for 2009/10 all you will see is the total employee wage bill. For Cllr Lowe's statement to have any validity, you would have to know three senior employees had received pay rises. The only way you would know is if you were a director, and if you communicate this information - even to the leader of the council - you face the sack.
I have spoken to Mr Scott, and he quite rightly feels he has done nothing wrong. He feels it is his duty to let the public know how their money is being spent. Naturally, we agree with him, and give him our full support.