Asylum seekers! A very warm welcome to the UK!

THOUGHT that headline would get your attention! Just like all those headlines in Britain recently about the jobless asylum seeker, Saeed Khaliif. Yes, that one! The one who moved from a semi-detached house in Coventry to a six-bedroom house in West Hampstead allegedly worth £2 million on a £2,000 a week lease to be “nearer friends”.

But headlines can be so misleading, can’t they? And lead to hundreds of racist comments of the Enoch Powell “rivers of blood” variety AND mudslinging at the current government.

In fact, only if you bothered to read further did it mention the family had taken advantage of housing benefit rules introduced by the last Labour Government and since amended by the Coalition. The cap on housing benefit stands now at £400 per week.

This, then, raises two points. Firstly, the cap came on AFTER this family was re-housed. Secondly, this wasn’t a decision by central Government. It was the sole responsibility of, and a decision by, the local council. Since the Government laid down limits to housing benefits, the local council, Camden, obviously ignored them and local ratepayers will be picking up the bill. (Though I never realised “wanting to be near friends” was a reason for spending more ratepayers’ money …)

And another thing while we’re on the subject. Local councils in Britain: bloated with management and resources with Chief Executive Officers on equally bloated salaries. But is this value for money? The argument of paying for talent really doesn’t wash. Why does the UK need CEOs on £200,000 with responsibility for emptying bins, street lighting, local planning? It’s a straightforward job, no shareholder pressure, comfortable pensions, longwinded meetings before any decision can be made.

Where’s the urgency, time pressure, challenge, risk of being sacked?

There’s no competition in the public sector whereas private companies compete against each other for business so more strategic decision-making is required by their CEOs.

While it’s true that decreasing the pay of council CEOs wouldn’t cover the £6.5 billion cut to council funding, it’s also true that they’re escaping relatively unscathed from the very cuts they’re implementing. Frontline council workers on low pay are losing their jobs while others are being transferred to the private sector where their terms and conditions will be even lower.

Admittedly, a few forward-thinking councils are sharing services, cutting consultancy/ back-office costs and minimising front-line service cuts.

But cuts should happen from the top down – starting with those bloated CEO salaries …

Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code ( available at Amazon in paperback and as eBook. Profits to Cudeca

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