Don’t Mention Cake….

Rod Bluh pager "Workers are revolting, don't mention cake"

I recently blogged about Rod Bluh’s plans for dealing with the black hole in his April 2010 budget by reducing the number of public employees in the Borough of Swindon.

The Swindon Advertiser, also interested in this, began its reporting with:

“SWINDON council has delivered a blow to its staff by announcing that up to 1,000 of them could potentially lose their jobs.”

…and four days later followed up with:

“The largest cuts plans in living memory will lead to the loss of an additional 2,000 jobs in Swindon”

I’m reliably informed that there are 2,679 full time jobs at Swindon Borough Council, a figure which excludes school staff and workers at Swindon Commercial Services.  I don’t know how many people are employed within Swindons education systems, but I can tell readers that SCS employs approximately 960 full-time staff and that its housing maintenance division manages the maintenance of over 11,000 properties in Swindon.  SCS has a turnover of around £58m per annum.

It doesn’t take much mental effort to recognise that, in addition to approximately 3,650 council & SCS workers, almost everyone employed in Swindons education sector is likely to be wondering if their job is secure in a town, our town, which The Times described in 2009 as being:  “The town hardest hit by the recession”, but in 2010, as the rest of the country is retreating steadily from the brink of disaster, Swindon appears to be accelerating towards it. We might wish to reflect on why that is.

Could it be that Swindon is suffering a double-whammy caused by a national economic recession and the toxic effects of profligate and irresponsible council spending?  Does  (what we optimistically call), ‘The Council Leadership’ really know what it is doing, or has it gaily sailed Swindon onto the rocks?  Now that the town is stuck good and fast on the rocks, its politicians seem to be desperately looking for suitable scapegoats upon which to lay the blame for their lack of skills.   Whatever the definitive truth is, one thing has become inescapably apparent this week is that most of the council leadership have jumped ship and ‘escaped’ for a bit.  Yes, when the ‘going got tough’, the ‘tough’ have most certainly ‘got going’ – and have gone abroad, on holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t usually have a problem with anyone going on holiday and I think even politicians need a break now and again, but in this case I was disappointed to hear that Rod Bluh wasted no time in scarpering off to his second home in the Loire Valley instead of staying put, (for the time being at least), to work on alleviating the anxiety being felt by the  families of about 5,000 public sector workers in the Borough who are probably wondering if they’ll still have houses and jobs soon.  I expect the most pressing questions currently on Bluh’s mind are likely to be: “Shall I have Dijon mustard with my Jambon et fromage?” and “White or Red?”.  There are probably many more, but you get my drift.

My own perspective is hardly objective but it is well informed by the ‘holiday or no holiday?’ question.   One of my Brothers died of Cancer in Europe last summer, (much ‘before’ and ‘after’ travelling to and from the continent), then one of Rachaels Grand Mothers died of cancer just after Christmas, (much ‘before’ and ‘after’ travelling to and from Wales), and then  my Father suffered a massive stroke in May, (much travelling to and from Telford), and just this very morning, my only Aunt passed away in Essex, (travelling yet T.B.A).  We have forgone the respite offered by a holiday because circumstances showed that the needs of our respective families outweighed our own desires.

In my opinion this is not a sacrifice and neither are we ‘martyrs’.  I was simply the right thing to do and, were I the leader of the Council, I like to think that I would lead by setting a similar example and would not scuttle off for a bit of luxurious R&R while so many others need to see a genuine and honest demonstration of  “We’re all in this together”,  perhaps we especially need to see this from the man that unashamedly, and continually, promotes himself to the borough as ‘The Man At The Top” who has ‘All the answers”

Unfortunately, the ‘Man at the top’ increasingly reminds me of the Austrian born Marie Antoinette, Queen consort to Louis XVI of France.  Antoinette initially charmed the French peasants with her personality and beauty, but eventually her true nature became apparent and the French came to despise her, often accusing “The Austrian” of being profligate, promiscuous and of harbouring sympathies for the enemies of the people.   Her name, (Marie Antoinette), has become almost the byword for the privileges, luxuries and perks enjoyed by the political elite in the face of national problems and the hardships of those of us who are merely mortal, and the bitter irony of the Bluh and Antoinette’s similarities is easy to define.

When told that the French famine was so severe that the peasants had no bread to eat, Antoinette allegedly said:

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

Or, in English:

Let them eat cake

As the term ‘Brioche’ was used to describe both a luxury bread enriched with eggs and butter and a low-quality cattle-feed,  the statement appears to reflect Antoinette’s obliviousness to the nature of a famine.  As I said, the irony is easy to spot, as is the massive ‘disconnect’ which exists between Bluh and the population he ‘reigns’ over, the scale of the ‘famine’ he has caused, and his inability demonstrate exactly how “We are all in this together”, which we are obviously not, not if some of us are living in a French Farmhouse for several weeks each year.

We can confidently expect Councillor Bluh to back on duty by the 14th of August for his favourite event on the Civic Calendar,  I expect he will be carefully avoiding any discussion of cake eating lest ‘Roderick Bluh’ becomes the political byword for enjoying the rampant profligacy, perks and selfish political elitism in the face of the problems and the hardships suffered by mere mortals.

Discussion topic here on the Talkswindon Forum

Posted on
Monday, August 9th, 2010
Filed under:
Walking & Walkies.
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