by Colin Campbell
A SENIOR council official has pushed his golden wheelbarrow away from Glenurquhart Road HQ for the last time.
It contains a total severance package of almost half a million pounds.
And there’s only one word to describe that – obscene.
It would be a stunningly excessive so-called “golden handshake” at any time. But in the current situation where so many people are facing hardship, unemployment and financial despair, it depicts a “them and us” culture which is sickening.
William Gilfillan left his role as director of community services after 20 years with the council as part of a “restructuring of senior management”.
He may have been a dedicated and efficient employee. He may have directed community services north, south, east and west and all points in between. He may have been a human Satnav when it came to steering those “community services” in the right direction.
But that doesn’t make his departure payload of £475,000 any less obscene.
There’s council justification for it, of course. There always is. The Gilfillan golden wheelbarrow is filled with “pay in lieu of notice, redundancy costs, added years compensation, pension payments made by the council, and an actuarial valuation of the total cost of any annual added years payments that will be made to the employee in future”.
In other words, layer upon layer of publicly-funded largesse to give a departing top official the best payoff imaginable.
The kind of money the rest of us on leaving a job couldn’t even begin to dream off. So much for departing with two or three thousand pounds – or much less – that might get you halfway through the winter.
That’s not the world our beloved council fatcats live in. They inhabit an entirely different universe.
Of course it’s all legal and perfectly legitimate, no boxes left unticked when it comes to fixing the deal. You can be sure of that.
In the upper echelons of local government there’s one thing at least they’re good at. Looking after their own.
And why does it seem so likely that the next “top official” to depart at a time of his or her choosing will be pushing another golden wheelbarrow filled with more money than they know what do with?
That is, the next time there’s another “cost-saving management restructuring”.
A manoeuvre that’s presented and shamelessly hyped up as being in the best interest of the public as a desperate attempt to cut costs when the council is struggling so heroically to make ends meet and avoid slashing yet more public services.
And if another “senior official” walks away with half a million pounds, that’s “cost-efficient” as well, isn’t it?
As the Satnav man of community services basks in his new life of free time and riches is there any trace of embarrassment among those left behind about his £475,000 “golden handshake”.
Do council chief executive Donna Manson or council leader Margaret Davidson have any sense that this doesn’t feel quite right?
Or will they simply dismiss the public outrage this has provoked as yet more rumblings and mumblings from the poorly-informed hoi-polloi, the people on fifteen or sixteen grand a year who just do not grasp how “the system” for senior council officials works?
Suffice to say, I doubt if they’ll lose any sleep over it.
They set the standard with the Gathering Place. And yes, an announcement about work beginning on that £300,000 “priority project” riverside monstrosity that no-one apart from a tiny council clique wants and thousands are opposed to should be arriving any day now.
They don’t give a damn about what people think. They couldn’t care less as to how they’re perceived. In their insular little bubble they think they can do anything they please.
There’s no money for basic services and they’re tens of millions in debt, we’re told repeatedly as the poverty-pleading and whining goes on.
But when it comes to vastly expensive vanity projects and £475,000 “golden handshakes”, it’s all so different.
It’s “them and us”. And it is indeed obscene.