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£780,000 sweeteners to buy some loyalty?
IS IT a political double-bribe, or is it grass-roots democracy at work?
Hampshire County Council reappointed leader Ken Thornber’s promise to Tory members to increase their personal grants to spend on local projects in their constituencies has raised eyebrows and a few hackles.
King Ken pulled the £780,000 rabbit from his election hat as a sweetener to Tory councillors if they returned him to power (see right).
It was a shrewd move.
Tory councillors will have seen the massacre of their political colleagues in other authorities facing the electorate this month. (The county did not have elections this year). How they must have shuddered.
By increasing their grant to spend on local good causes from £8,000 to £18,000 per councillor, members now have a powerful weapon come the next election.
Spent wisely, it – they must hope – will buy the loyalty of their electorate.
True, the grants are available to all councillors, including Liberal Democrats in opposition. But I doubt if the Tory group cares if their foes retain their seats, so long as they keep their own.
Hampshire and Kent are the only authorities to dole out tax-payers’ cash in this way. The process has critics, but many approve, pointing out elected councillors really can assist truly local causes and make a difference.
All well and good, but where has the £780,000 come from for this splurge of generosity from the Dear Leader? Not from the savage cuts the authority has been forced to make, says Our Ken, but other efficiencies. Which is treating us all as idiots. You don’t have to be a spin doctor to point out that cuts need not have been so deep and job losses so hard and services so reduced if cash from those efficiencies had been used to offset them.
Personally I think local grants are a good idea. But let’s see them for the double bribe they are – sweeteners to Tory members to support Ken, that will be used to sweeten the electorate next year.
But hey, that’s politics.