Harman’s pay-off would be better spent securing jobs

Former city council Interim Manager Chris Harman.

Former city council Interim Manager Chris Harman.

It’s enough to make us weep – or certainly question why we bother getting up every morning, going to work and then paying our taxes.

Last week I likened the events at the Civic Centre to a pantomime.

I apologise. I was wrong.

There is nothing remotely funny about the scandalous way in which Chris Harman’s absence has been handled by the powers-that-be at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Rarely do those running the largest local authority in our circulation area cover themselves in glory.

But just occasionally, every now and then, something happens which is so very strange, so patently wrong, that it beggars belief.

It is the kind of something which is so unusual that it merits this columnist returning to the same topic.

The fact is, right now there is only one story in town.

A cursory glance at the letters pages of The Sentinel in recent weeks or the comments on our website will tell you what is exercising the residents of the Potteries.

The poor, long-suffering taxpayers of this city are so angry that they’ve run out of adjectives to describe both Mr Harman’s behaviour and the apparent impotence of his colleagues and councillors alike to end this farcical stand-off.

They want to know how it is that a bloke can get away with not showing up for work for weeks on end (even if he does work in the public sector).

They want to know why his period of sick leave coincided with him being told he hadn’t got the job he wanted.

They want to know who has been running the city for the last three weeks.

They want to know why it is that we are even entering into discussions with Mr Harman regarding a pay-off, given that the bloke has a perfectly good job to be getting on with.

In other words: Isn’t it about time he just knuckled down and started doing it?

Mr Harman’s contention that his position at the authority has been made somehow untenable because he was unsuccessful in his bid for the top job is as absurd as it is insulting to our collective intelligence.

Make no bones about it, the only person making his position untenable here is Mr Harman himself as he appears to squirm his way out of his contractual obligations.

There are two scandals being played out here.

The first involves the unwillingness of a man to accept that he didn’t get the rub of the green and move on.

The second, arguably more alarming situation, is the staggering ineptitude of both senior officers and leading councillors who once again seem unable to champion the taxpayers they are supposed to serve.

I have a horrible feeling that we are about to be soft-soaped. Again.

I worry that we are about to be spun a line about how paying Mr Harman off and getting new chief executive John van der Laarschot to take over the reins at the council as quickly as possible was the best outcome for the city.

I have a suggestion. It’s just a thought, mind. How about we don’t pay Mr Harman a bean and, if he wants to quit his job, we point him in the direction of the A500?

Personally, I’d rather we used some of the tens of thousands of pounds it will cost this city to get shot of another high-roller to secure the jobs of a couple of decent, hard-working council employees.

Maybe it could be spent on saving a few of the 430 positions at the city council that are about to be axed through the process of asking for voluntary redundancies.

I’m sure there are many staff employed by the council for whom the threat of losing their job in the current economic climate represents a very dark cloud indeed.

Not everyone is in the fortunate position of being able to bail out when something doesn’t quite go their way.

Mr Harman, and those sitting down to debate his pay-off with public money, would do well to remember that.

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