Aberdeen City Council have been in the news a lot recently with up to 900 council jobs facing the axe in a desperate effort to balance the books of a City in financial ruin after decades of apparent civic mismanagement by successive administrations of varying political hues. The Budget Meeting to decide where the axe falls will be held on Thursday, 10th February at 14:00 and, as required, the agenda for the meeting has been published on-line.
While scrutinising the supporting material, I was shocked when in the Common Good Budget (Report Number CG/11/016) I saw the amount of money being spent on “upkeep of the civic car“.
£59,746 budgeted for 2010/11 – looking like £55,688 spent
£50,249 budgeted for 2011/12
£50,249 budgeted for 2012/13
£50,249 budgeted for 2013/14
The new, low, figure of “only” £50,249 a year works out at around £967 a week. That’s quite a lot of money in anyone’s books … let alone a city where 900 staff are facing the axe. Couldn’t the car go and some jobs / services stay?
What if the provost had his own car and claimed mileage for using it on official business – but not to commute to his normal place of work, mind. HMRC rules would let him claim 40p a mile for the first 10,000 miles then 25p a mile after that … by my reckoning, using those numbers he’d need to drive 185,006 miles on official business before the cost to the council was the £50,249 spent each year on the car.
Now, as to whether or not “upkeep of the civic car” should really be funded from the Common Good is another matter. Us mere plebians are not privy to information such as what a civic car is used for, perhaps it is used to help citizens go for their messages, though I doubt it. Across the land, Provosts are keen to keep details of how civic cars are used quiet when, in my opinion, details of every journey should be published openly – how else can citizens judge if their money is being spent wisely?
We all know that Aberdeen’s Lord Provost likes a bit of largesse – remember how he billed taxpayers for £10,000 of clothes and shoes?
Now, we should also bear in mind that while funding this largesse – car and clothes – Aberdeen City Council also deprived an ex-servicemen’s charity of a vital funding lifeline in order to bolster its own coffers. In many people’s eyes Common Good money would be better spent on a charity supporting the welfare of returning servicemen than on the upkeep of a showy car to pamper the provost.
Is a flashy car really needed to uphold the “civic dignity“? This particular Lord Provost qualifies for a free bus pass anyway, so he could travel by bus at no cost to the council taxpayers and this would let him meet the citizens he supposedly represents and give him a citizen’s view of how well the bus system functions in the city.
Does parking the civic car illegally “uphold the civic dignity“?
The registration plate stays the same though the car may change 😉
Come to think of it is hanging on to the registration “RG O” really so important? Shouldn’t the City sell this vanity plate to the highest bidder before it considers cutting a single job or service?
Why does Aberdeen need a BMW or a Jaguar anyway? Aberdeenshire’s Provost makes do with a Skoda Superb that cost £17,000.
If the City feels that it needs a flash car to try and impress visitors, it can surely just hire a limo for the day from one of the local hire companies? Full publication of all the journeys made by the civic car would allow the citizens to decide whether or not funding a full time car was merited.
At a time of belt-tightening, should £50,249 a year continue to be taken from the Common Good budget to fund a car? With jobs and services under threat there are surely many causes more deserving of funds from the Common Good than pampering the Provost.