Isn’t it the newly-minted millionaire’s dream to walk into their local and proclaim, the drinks are on me?
Oh, the giggly laughter that follows as fizz is splashed and friends, family and strangers say “cheers” and “bottoms up” and have a right old shindig.
Because they’re not paying, nobody minds if the fizz is spilled so that the carpet’s sticky or if the glasses crack when they’re chinked. “Hey”, says the millionaire, “there’s plenty more where that came from.” And so on it goes, chink-chink, splosh-splosh.
However when it comes to our money we are much more careful. Should we indulge in a bottle of fizz to celebrate a special occasion, the bottle will be brought ceremoniously to the table.We will dig out the ice bucket and the ‘for best’ glasses. We are paying for this champagne and we will savour it and make sure we don’t spill a drop. We have earned it.
That is the difference between how public money and our payday money is perceived.
Yet public money is our money. It’s gone from our pockets and pay packets via taxes into the public purse. Yet once there it can often be treated with the carelessness of the new millionaire.
Take, for example, Martin Shipton’s recent story about how thee Assembly, when faced with the horrible task of making job cuts in order to save money, came up with the brilliant wheeze of doubling the redundancy payments.
How very generous it has been to its civil servants… with our money. In the real world, i.e. not the public sector, managers would have to get their hands dirty with the hideous, yet realistic, route of redundancy via selection. Not wanting to do that, it came up with double your money.
Now civil servants already do pretty well compared with the rest of us in these situations. Most of the private sector get the statutory minimum of one week’s pay for every year we’ve worked. They get one month’s pay. Under the double your money scheme they got two.
An Assembly spokesman defended it saying they would save £305,000 a year in wage bills. Indeed. Would it not have saved more if, for example, it had given the former Chief Operating Officer Dianne Bevan the nine months’ redundancy pay she should have got after her nine-year-stint at the Assembly instead of the 18-month £187,662 she did walk away with?
In all, the 16 employees left with £674,000 between them. Am I being very tight-fisted by suggesting that maybe they could have left with half that?
I am also struggling with the idea that the thousands of party-goers who raved with Rihanna at her Millennium Stadium Diamonds concert and who then had work in Cardiff the next morning would have thought they could check themselves into a hotel and expect the taxpayer to pay the bill. Doesn’t that sound preposterous? As far as I am aware only one Rhi Rhi fan did. Step forward Bethan Jenkins AM who was working at the Assembly the next day and so, presumably, thought we wouldn’t mind paying for her good night’s sleep the night before. I don’t know about you, but I mind, very much.
Bethan’s leader Leanne Wood wanted her to refer herself to the Standards Commissioner but Bethan, despite paying back the money, isn’t going to do so.
She’s been supported by Assembly Commission chief executive Claire Clancy, who said she saw no reason to refer Ms Jenkins’ claim to the Commissioner.
So presumably then, as long as our AMs go to the Assembly the next day they can put themselves up in a hotel and we pay for it regardless of the fact they weren’t at a function related to their Assembly work at all the previous evening.
And then there’s Caerphilly Council whose top two officers have been arrested in a secret pay rise scandal. Chief exec Anthony O’Sullivan recommended a £26,000 a year pay rise for himself. The Assistant Auditor General for Wales ruled he’d acted unlawfully. It is now a police matter.
Meanwhile, the council is looking for a replacement at the same, inflated salary (between £142,524 and £158,360) that caused the scandal in the first place…
Wow. I am not a new millionaire. I doubt you are either. We have not swaggered into our local shouting the drinks are on us. Yet somehow or other it appears it’s our round. Again. Chink-chink. Splosh-splosh.