I nearly spilt my tea while reading last week’s Mercury. Derbyshire County Council is advertising the post of chauffeur. A full-time job, mind you, with the possibility of overtime.
The basic salary? A tad over £16,000 at the top of the grade. Not a king’s ransom, but not to be sneezed at in these straitened times. Quite an attractive position for the right person, in fact.
The advertisement says the candidate will largely be called upon to drive elected members and senior officers across the region and beyond.
Is this the same local authority which last year announced it was cutting £84m over the next four years on top of the £10m of cuts this year?
Surely if services to the needy and vulnerable in our communities are to face a squeeze then the council’s top nobs should consider making their own way to functions without a uniformed driver to smooth their journey?
As the post is being advertised it has clearly become vacant – nobody needs to be thrown out of a job – so here is the ideal opportunity to make a small saving on behalf of the hard-pressed Council Tax payer.
The authority’s stated Vision and Aims, proudly proclaimed on its website, say it will ‘provide value for money’ and ‘work to cut costs and deliver the services you need’. Fine sentiments, but how exactly does a chauffeur fit with this mantra?
Presumably the chauffeur is not driving the top brass around in a second hand Ford Focus. What car is provided for the purpose, I wonder? I am imagining a leather-upholstered, walnut-dashed vehicle which the councillors-in-chief and their mandarins presumably think befits their station. A Jaguar, a Daimler, a stately Rover perhaps? Of course it may be an energy-efficient hybrid bubble car. No matter. How much does it cost to run? There will be additional costs of road tax, insurance, servicing, tyres and of course regular valeting to ensure it meets the highest standards expected of a car carrying the elite.
I can almost hear County Hall’s protestations from here: “The most cost-effective solution… essential to the effective running of the council… comparative to other similar authorities”.
I think for the sake of prudence the council should drive a harder bargain.
Counterpoint by Scott Freeman.