By John Sangster.
A new government with new thinking, a new way of looking at things? This is what we were told when an agreement was made between Tweedle Cameron and Tweedle Clegg. We were told that the first thing we must do is save money, make cuts, every single penny we save is good for the country. So taking my role as a model citizen very seriously I have come up with an alternative budget.
We are constantly being lectured by councils about the need to be frugal, invoking the old Scots expression “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”. Local councils tell us they must close homeless shelters, old folks’ homes, community drug projects, swimming pools, parks and gardens. The new notion at the moment is that if you are rich then you must be a genius, a person of vision and you must be given the right to ignore democratic decisions made by we, ‘the plebs’. This is clearly no way to run a city and the longer it goes on the more the problems for Aberdeen will mount up, so I have taken it upon myself to bring forward ‘The Peoples Budget’.
We have long been burdened with local councillors who, apart from a few notable exceptions, disappear into the Town House only to re-appear four years later looking for your vote again. There are a staggering forty-three councillors in Aberdeen alone, allegedly looking after thirteen wards, so I make that three to four councillors per ward. These councillors are a drain on the community budget. They cost a whopping £877,555 in salaries alone and cost the council taxpayer £14,464 in travel expenses and a further £21,978 in telephone communications and information technology.
In fact, the tax payer has the honour of paying a total of £935,447 for the ‘services’ of a local councillor. This is unsustainable and puts a huge hole in the budget for community services. We should halve this total immediately, therefore having only two councillors per ward and dropping the total number to twenty-six. This would incur savings of half a million pounds just in this alone. We should also remember that we would not be making any of these people redundant ; they would just be able to give so much more to their first job, whatever that may be.
In Aberdeenshire there are a further sixty-eight councillors, with again around three or four per ward. They cost a huge £1,683,374,74p to the taxpayer, £124,360.15p in travel and, wait for this one: – £98,413 .81p in employers national insurance and £156,212.75p in pension schemes, a right denied to thousands of workers up and down the land. All this costs the council tax payers of Aberdeenshire the grand total of £1, 683, 374, 67p. Cutting them in half would save almost £800,0000 which could be used for other more useful things.
Add to the mix five Members of Parliament and an incredible sixteen MSPs, yes, sixteen – nine from constituencies and an amazing seven from the list vote. We could halve that immediately, saving upwards of £512,000 in salaries alone and if you add in all the perks etc. the actual saving to the taxpayers could be close to £1,000,000 in the North East alone.
So! In the North East corner alone the taxpayer could make annual savings of £2.3 million by cutting the amount of unnecessary councillors, MPs and MSPs. Then would be the time to start looking at the cost of having a provost of both City and Shire, the cost of other expenses, overseas trips, the cost of running civic cars, the cost of the bureaucrats in both Woodhill House and the Town House. Cutting back on all of this could be close to saving the taxpayer of the North East the sum of £5.million. Yes! £5 million per annum. This money would be freed to spend on community projects, to cleaning up the city and giving the people of Aberdeen pride back in their city, it could even restore people’s faith in local democracy. It is a radical budget and I commend it to the community.