Grant Woodward: Time to cut number of Leeds councillors

Leeds must save another �76m in the wake of cuts to Government funding. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Leeds must save another �76m in the wake of cuts to Government funding. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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City is paying the price for Government incompetence, but savings can be made.

BACK in 2012, Barnet Council in north London came up with something dubbed the Graph of Doom.

It plotted the falling levels of Government funding against the rising cost of looking after the borough’s older people and safeguarding its youngsters.

The “doom” part of its name was well-earned. It calculated that by 2022 it would have little money left to do anything else.

No food for stuff like libraries, potholes or luxuries such as carrying out bin collections – which presumably would have been long relegated to once a month events anyway.

Of course, the Graph of Doom is complete garbage. Given the rate of cuts to council budgets we’ll arrive at that point long before 2022.

I know, I know. Local government hasn’t always had a great record when it comes to using our cash.

There’s still this image of people in town halls up and down the country splashing out on lavish lunches and junkets to exotic destinations.

But if you take a look at a month’s spending by Leeds City Council, as I did on their website the other day, there isn’t much extravagance on show.

Ok, so the £29.47 spent at the Red Hot World Buffet, filed under a meeting with a contact, could be open to question, as could the £17.80 outlay at Reds True Barbecue for “subsistence”.

But apart from that, I drew a blank. No two-week trips to the Caribbean to see how they recycle their rum bottles. No bills for Lobster Thermidor at the Lord Mayor’s luncheon.

The vast majority of it went on things like food for hard-up pensioners, furniture for young people leaving care and payments to those looking after dementia patients.

Ah, I hear you say, but what about all the money it wastes on benefits for people who don’t deserve to pocket our hard-earned wedge?

Why don’t they start weeding out the scroungers and layabouts before whining about their dwindling cash pot from central government? We’ve all had to tighten our belts, so why can’t they?

Well, those payments are pretty much all decided by the Government, so it’s up to them to sort the freeloaders from those in genuine need. And besides, that’s kind of missing the point.

At a time when Britain needs all the money it can get, the Government keeps striking disastrous deals that leave us out of pocket.

If George Osborne is really the financial whizz kid he claims then why did he allow Google to fork out just £130m in unpaid tax stretching back a decade?

This for a company whose last financial announcement, published this week, show that Google’s UK sales rose to around £1.2bn in the last three months of 2015.

Forget Corporation Tax of 20 or 30 per cent, experts reckon Google will be paying a tax rate of about three per cent here. It’s the equivalent of “mate’s rates” for the most valuable company on the planet – and it’s costing us dear.

Then there was the disastrous Royal Mail sell-off a couple of years ago that saw the firm undervalued by £180m. And who got first dibs? The banks, hedge funds and portfolio managers who caused the credit crunch which started all this austerity in the first place.

Whatever your political affiliations, that is simply bad business for the country.

It’s worth remembering this when Leeds City Council needs to save another £76m in the wake of a nightmare six years in which its core funding from Government has been cut by £180m.

But although it’s a disgrace that northern councils are bearing the brunt – and by extension so are we – it doesn’t mean there aren’t some logical savings to be made.

I’d begin by cutting the number of councillors by a third and taking a fresh look at the salaries of top officials. It wouldn’t plug this financial black hole, but it would at least send out the right message.

Science is on men’s side

EVERY once in a while, scientists come up with a theory that profits mankind.

I’m talking, naturally, about the research this week that says every man needs a good night out with his mates.

They’ve proved male bonding is more likely to lower a man’s stress levels than a night out with his partner, or time spent with the family.

Scientists from Germany’s University of Gottingen studied groups of Barbary macaques, a type of ape which exhibits remarkably male-like social behaviour (insert your own joke here).

Levels of male stress hormone soared when the male macaques were with their partner or other family members. But when they were in a group of other males, they were much more relaxed.

The males even looked after each other, although I can’t for the life of me recalling picking insects and fleas off each other when I’ve been out for a beer with my friends.

Well, not since that dodgy stag do in Barcelona, anyway.

Of course, most men knew all this stuff long ago. A bit of male bonding is a perfect escape from the unique demands of a busy family life.

The thing is we were just too scared – and stressed out of our minds by the thought of the repercussions – to say it.

Still, it’s nice to know that science, for once, is on man’s side.

And yes, please feel free to cut out this article and pin it on the fridge in the hope it gets you some time off for good behaviour this weekend.

Doesn’t Phil deserve a refund?

TURNS out Phil Collins’ greatest achievement wasn’t his wooden performance in so-so 1980s crime caper Buster, but getting his ex-wife back.

This was made trickier for the singer by the fact that Orianne Cevey had got married to someone else and had a baby with them in the interim.

The pair had been married for 10 years but split in 2009 and Phil handed over £25m in the divorce settlement.

Apparently the secret to Phil’s successful wooing (or should that be re-wooing?) was that he ended his obsession with the Battle of the Alamo, which started when a psychic told him he was the reincarnation of one of its heroes, John W Smith.

Collins even handed most of his $100m Alamo collection to a museum in Texas, which certainly puts my crate of old music magazines clogging up the garage into perspective.

My one question for Phil would be: Did you manage to get any of your £25m back or had she spent it all?

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