Friday, October 08, 2010

Hyatt society

Curious story from the Evening Mail yesterday about the soon-to-be Mayor Whitby, who was apparently booked into the Hyatt Hotel for the duration of the conference, so that he could be close to the action. This £200 plus per night booking is all the more surprising because he has a council-provided chauffeured car and lives just 4 miles down the road from the venue. Security was cited as an issue, but I've never found it to be that much of a bind and only really awkward when you queue to get into the secure zone.

The need to be close to the action didn't prevent him missing his moment in the spotlight at local government question time, when he was called to speak, but failed to appear.

The whole thing is all the more peculiar because of the report on Political Scrapbook that public authorities were supposed to be banned from lobbying other public authorities. As Commissar Pickles put it in July,
We are calling time on the scandalous practice of government lobbying government. It is an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ cash and contributed towards the corrosive culture of spin that Labour cultivated

So you have to ask why Birmingham felt the need to book a suite of rooms at the conference for 'meetings.' If the rumours are true, Birmingham also paid £1 million to the Conservative Party for the privilege of hosting the conference. I've got no particular problem with investing money to bring 14,000 people to Birmingham to spend their money in our hotels, bars and restaurants and putting the city at the centre of the political universe for a few days, but I'm not quite sure how it squares with the Pickles agenda.

Either way, with 26,000 staff at Birmingham City Council on notice to have their terms and conditions changed again and with huge pressure on budgets, you have to ask if this was a good way of spending money and whether it set the best example to the hard pressed front line.

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