Thursday, November 17, 2011

The elective rip-off

In what should be the death knell for the very idea of elected mayors, we read in the Daily Fail that former MP Sir Peter Soulsby, and now mayor of Leicester, is in line for an 80 percent pay rise.

This is despite his own council making £70million-worth of spending cuts, and cutting back 1,000 council jobs, in a move that could see his pay go up from £56,000 to £100,000. Soulsby's deputy could more than double his salary from £34,000 to £75,000. Six assistant mayors would pocket 65 percent increases from £26,000 to £40,000, and all 47 city councillors would see their basic allowances go up 20 percent from £10,000 to £12,000.

Therein lies the ultimate outcome of the misplaced vogue for "democratising" local government by adding yet another layer of highly-paid elected officials to the structure. One can well see why the political classes like the idea, but all one ends up with is another layer of highly-paid elected officials to the structure, with no demonstrable enhancements in standards of government.

The problem, of course, resides in the fatal confusion between elections and accountability, it being assumed that the need to get re-elected exerts a restraining influence on the greed of ambitious officials. But given that, as an MP, Soulsby employed his two daughters, Lauren and Eleanor, as junior secretaries and his wife, who earned £25,000 a year as office manager, there was never much chance of such restraint.

Wittering for Witney explores further the failings of representative democracy here, arguing that change is required to our system of democracy. And as long as there are troughers such as Peter Soulsby around, he is not wrong.

It really is about time somebody did some serious thinking about the nature of this democracy of ours and where we are going, breaking away from the simplistic notions that currently govern our structures. Not least, we need to recall that politics is about power, and the ability merely to select one's tormentors (very often from a rigged list) without any means of controlling them is no democracy at all.