The shameless sense of entitlement of quangocrats

Leaving do’s. I imagine we’ve all had one, and probably a number. In all of mine, it’s been me who’s paid for food and drink. Occasionally, the organisation I was leaving allowed time for the ‘do’ on their premises.

What a shameless sense of entitlement that quangocrats exhibit. The departing chairwoman of the Arts Council has held her leaving ‘do’ this week, which has been paid for by the taxpayer. Not only does Dame Liz Forgan berate the government for cutting the Arts Council subsidy, but in the ‘so called’ straightened times of the Arts Council they can still find £8,000 for a leaving do.

I imagine that Dame Liz would have no problem funding that herself. Hell no. When the Arts Council asked government for approval for such an event, the government, is reported, to have said no. The Arts Council went ahead anyway and organised an event that they called a ‘thought leadership piece’. I’m indebted to Toby Young’s article in the Daily Telegraph, for his reproducing the quote from the Arts Council that appeared in the Daily Mail. Here’s the piece of drivel from the Arts Council:

“An Arts Council spokesman denied the event was a ‘leaving do’, saying it was a ‘thought leadership piece which will help stimulate debate’, and that costs were ‘kept to a minimum’.”


Posturing about budget cuts: Blue Plaque Scheme

I’m inclined to view English Heritage’s cutting of its Blue Plaque Scheme as posturing to make a political point about having to work with less money.

Mine is a view from the backwoods, for we in Surrey Heath have no English Heritage Blue Plaques. The reason for this says English Heritage HERE is, “the scheme has historically been focused on London only, and this continues to be the case today. However, for a number of years – between 1998 and 2005 – English Heritage trialled a national plaque scheme putting up plaques in certain cities.”

The Daily Telegraph report that it costs English Heritage around £120,000 yearly to administer the scheme. Surely there must be ways to save money, and yet retain the marvellous blue plaques, which do so much to inform, and enliven streetscapes in London.

Now that I think about it. Rather than cut the service, it should be extended nationally. Not simply for London.

The other thing that mildly irritates is that Stephen Fry is one of the panel of judges. Is it only the great and the good who can be one of the judges that meet three times a year? Lets have a bit more egalitarianism, please. I’m happy to see that the panel will be dissolved. There’ll be many capable of taking their place.

Again in the Daily Telegraph, Harry Mount, perfectly points out the value as “the world’s oldest and most imaginative heritage project” in “One of the more delightful coincidences of London history can be seen in Brook Street, Mayfair. From 1723 until his death in 1759, Handel lived at No 25. Next door, at No 23, Jimi Hendrix was in residence from 1968-9.”

If English Heritage aren’t interested in promoting the Blue Plaques, then let another national body run the scheme. Like the National Trust, whose chairman, Sir Simon Jenkins, should be applauded for wanting to save the scheme.

Quango culling continuing apace – one example reviewed

Forget the squeals from the quanocracy about their loss of income and influence. Culling quango’s is what is needed to help reduce the cost of government.

Much of the quango sector has grown fat on government largesse, with only marginal democratic oversight and legitimacy.

If these changes worry you, they shouldn’t. Looking at Jeremy Hunt’s decision yesterday to abolish a number of Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s [DCMS] quangos, it’s fairly easy to see why.

Let’s take the UK Film Council, which is to be abolished. It’s mostly funded by the DCMS and receives an almost equal aamout from the National Lottery to support the UK film industry. My, isn’t it amazing the things the Lottery supports. I thought it was all for good causes, apparently not when you see what they fund.

I’ll let you roam around its website. But, I’ll save you the effort at looking at its annual report and accounts. Executive pay and staff pay are a good indication of how much money is sloshing around. The UK Film Council employ 92 staff [excl directors]. Senior managers earn around £150,000 a year excluding pension contributions.

Ok, so what happens to the work of the UK Film Council? Oh, by the way, it’s not all that old, established in 2000. Well, Jeremy Hunt thinks that much of its work can be done by the British Film Institute, founded in 1933.

Methinks he’s spot on here.  I’ve had a look at the BFI’s last annual report and accounts. What a difference. The governers waived their emoluments, or drew minor expenses, while the highest paid employeee earned £129,000, and that’s for managing 437 staff.

Compare the work of both bodies, and consider which is more closely aligned to the UK film industry. Yep, you’ve got it. In my opinion it’s the BFI. What doesn’t surprise is that many in the film industry cry ‘shock, horror’ at the change. But naturally, they didn’t read that Jeremy Hunt said that the change “would support front-line services while ensuring greater value for money – Government and Lottery support for film will continue.” Although he didn’t announce how much.

Update: Silly me, got my figures wrong on UK Film Council’s director’s pay. Must be more careful. Have removed offending sentence.

Oneplace: a place for facts on Surrey Heath

There’s a new government sponsored website, called oneplace. It provides independent information about how councils, police, health services and others are tackling the major issues in every area in England.

There’s lots to see in the site. Do take a peek. You can see other local boroughs or elsewhere in England, and see how they are performing. Surrey Heath isn’t doing as well as others.  Mainly because we’re perhaps the borough most affected by the Thames Valley Heaths Special Protection Area, which has meant we’re unable to meet our house building targets and the things that are connected with that.

I’m expecting our 2009 audit report to show improvement as the, Atrium is now complete, new recycling system is substantially pushing up our recycling rates, and it looks like we’ve some SPA mitigation strategies now in place.

Good work on uncovering the number of Quango’s

Even before I looked into the reasons for the disastrous foot and mouth outbreak at Pirbright in 2007, I’ve been concerned about the democratic deficit of Non Departmental Public Bodies, otherwise known as Quango’s.

It’s no easy task to investigate the activities of Quango’s, their operation, their funding and particularly their costs. As I said, looking deeper into the causes of the foot and mouth virus leak from The Institute of Animal Health’s laboratories at Pirbright was involved and time-consuming.

So, we must thank the good work of the TaxPayer’s Alliance for their latest work: Guide to the UK’s Semi-Autonomous Public Bodies.

I’ve added Public Bodies as a new category to this blog, as I’m keen to see how effective David Cameron is in abolishing quango’s.