Sunday, December 14, 2008

News From BOM Correspondents - 12


It's keeping him amused anyway

Latest news and links from BOM correspondents:

Paying for failure

1. Ken Boston - QCA

Our old friend Boston has finally been forced to resign from heading the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) - but only because the forthcoming report into the SATS fiasco (see this blog) is so damning that even someone with his brass neck and impeccable lefty credentials couldn't be kept on.

He has been an utter failure at QCA, presiding over a further dumbing down of exam standards so massive that many private schools are abandoning the state exams altogether. Yet we taxpayers have been forced to pay him handsomely. On top of his £328K pay deal - including a £50k pa rent allowance - we also paid his £2,500 pa membership fees for the exclusive Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and £30k pa of personal air travel for him and his family.

He was left in his lucrative post for 6 disastrous years. (HTPs SK, George)

2. Andy Duncan - C4

Publicly owned and taxpayer subsidised (via free spectrum) Channel 4 is demanding taxpayers' cash to stave off financial meltdown. But that doesn't seem to impact the pay of station head Duncan , who "is poised to receive the loyalty payment of up to £450,000 next summer, taking his total remuneration to more than £1m."

Speaking as taxpayers who are constantly incensed by C4's lefty news coverage, the Major and I wish to state quite categorically that we do not want Duncan's loyalty. We want him to sling his proverbial, pdq, and take the Bishop with him.

Paying for parties

The cash-strapped private sector may have canned Christmas, but in the public sector the party's still on:

1. £2500 per head culture nosh

"Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, spent almost £50,000 on providing hospitality for just 20 guests, who included Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, and Andy Duncan, the Channel 4 boss [er... didn't we just do him?].

A reception at the Walker Art Gallery, in Liverpool, last month was followed by a dinner at one of the city's most expensive restaurants, the London Carriage Works. The dinner, for members of the arts and media world, included £46 bottles of wine and Eton Hall venison.

Burnham's spokesman says: "This initiative aims to boost the UK's creative industries. The benefits to the economy during these difficult financial times will far outweigh the costs". (HTP Alan D)

2. NHS lights up Blackpool

"Health officials spent £30,000 on a black tie party for 420 NHS doctors, nurses and care workers.

Jugglers, confetti cannons, DJs and singers entertained guests at the event, which was held at the Hilton Hotel in Blackpool. NHS staff paid £5 each towards the cost of the celebration, whose cost worked out at about £70 a head.

Joan Humble, Labour MP for Blackpool North and Fleetwood, said: "I'm very proud of the NHS staff, but the question is whether it is wise to have spent £30,000 on a party at a time when people are feeling the effects of the credit crunch, and I can understand people's anger." (HTP Jo)

Paying for luxuries

You may be belt-tightening, but the public sector sure ain't:

1. Art

Having spectacularly failed to raise anything like the required £50m from private donors - surprise, surprise - the National Galleries of Scotland have blagged at least £42m from us taxpayers to buy Titian's painting Diana and Actaeon.

Don't get me wrong - I'm quite partial to the odd bit of Titian myself, and my old Art Master was for ever going on about how Titian was the greatest artist in the history of art. But a) the painting was not facing destruction, and anyway we've got loads of snaps, b) Britain has no God-given right to own this Italian masterpiece, c) we ain't got noooooooo money, honey, and d) taxpayers should never be forced to subsidise art (see many previous blogs).

2. Yachts

Via Pete S and Nottingham is Crap, earlier this year Nottingham Council hired a luxury yacht, moored at a prime spot down in Cannes, and threw a series of junkets for God knows what freeloaders and hangers-on.

According to the Council, the ‘pi├Ęce de resistence’ was its party on the beach for 300 guests... the must-see ‘Nottingham Club’ party was held in a marquee on a section of the beach opposite the Carlton Hotel".

Wonder why Mrs T and I weren't invited.

3. Olympics

The dismal trail of friviloity continues unabated.

First, Tess blurted out that they'd never have bid for the damned thing in the first place had anyone pointed out to them that the good times might not roll on for ever.

Second, there's no private money available for anything, adding billions to the taxpayer bill.

Third, we now know for sure that the much touted economic/regeneration benefits of the Games were never more than fantasy. And our rulers knew it from their own internal reports.

We have been played for fools by a bunch of liars and fantasists, and as we've always said, it will cost us £20bn (see all previous 2012 blogs here).

4. Plush billets

Justice Secretary Jack Straw will be spending £130m of your money doing up his new offices in desirable Queen Anne's Gate alongside St James' Park SW1.

"The remodelling of the tower block, next to St James' Park in London, cost £915 a square foot to complete – around 18 times more than a standard refurbishment would cost in the private sector.

In addition to the refurbishment costs, £2,745,000 was lavished on new furniture and fittings for the offices and £290,000 was spent on artwork."

Nice.

Paying for bubbles lollipops and flipflops

Pete S spotted this:

"A thousand colourful bubble blowers are to be handed out to revellers in Bolton centre.The aim is to encourage drinkers leaving pubs and clubs to focus on playfully blowing bubbles on their way home, instead of getting into scuffles. It is the latest initiative to curb alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.

The blue and orange bubble blowers, which double as pens, will be handed out by Police Community Support Officers and town centre ambassadors on Saturday nights in December.

In recent years Manchester police have handed out lollipops to stop people shouting in the street after nights out. Women in Devon, spotted staggering home in high heels or bare feet, are being given flip-flops."

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