Monday, 4 June 2012

Freebies for whom?

Some years ago, when the statue to Conan Doyle was erected, Crowborough town council had a bit of a bunfight to celebrate. They invited the great and the good from across the globe to eat, drink and be merry. The taxpayers of Crowborough were, of course, not on the guest list. We just paid for it.

I remember wondering if our councillors would have been so keen to attend if they’d had to pay for themselves – not from their expenses, since, apart from the Mayor and possibly the deputy mayor, it was hardly essential that they attend.

This year, to celebrate the Olympic torch coming through, there’ll be another shindig. We will feed and entertain visiting VIPs. Again, you and I, the ordinary people, aren’t invited to the feast.

I wonder. Who’s paying for it this time?

I have no objections to entertaining visitors to our town. I don’t object to the costs coming from my council tax, provided their visit is pertinent to the occasion, and of course the mayor and deputy mayor should be there to greet them. Perhaps others, too – Crowborough sporting representatives, perhaps, or some of those who have volunteered to help with the Olympics.

I’m less happy to pay for others. Those who are known as “Local Dignitaries”. Local, they may be. A Dignitary, even. But are they essential to the Olympics, or Crowborough’s involvement with the Games? If the answer to that question is no, should the taxpayer pick up the bill for them? Or should they pay for their own ticket to the table? 

At a time when we’ve stopped raising the flag to save money, and when our District council wanted to charge for collecting grass cuttings, surely all “Dignitaries” should lead by example and refuse to take council money when it’s not absolutely vital?

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