‘Overpaid, bullet-proof, and they don’t seem to care…’

Go For Broke by MB Games.

Go For Broke by MB Games.

I remember one Christmas receiving a board game called Go For Broke from my parents.
I came across it in a cupboard at my mum’s house the other night.

If you’ve never heard of it, the aim of the game is to lose a million dollars as quickly as possible.

The first person to fritter away this enormous sum of money is declared the winner.

As I recall, methods of wasting your dough included donating to the poor, playing the stock market and visiting the casino.

I have a theory that senior officers and some elected members at the city council wasted their youth on this game.

Although, if memory serves me correctly, ‘giving a £65,000 golden handshake to the council’s chief executive for doing precisely nowt’ was not an option when I played Go For Broke.

Maybe they were playing the advanced version.

You can almost hear the groans from the Civic Centre, can’t you?

“Oh, for heaven’s sake. He’s not still whining on about the Chris Harman pay-out, is he? Change the record, Tideswell.”

Actually, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not.

Because just when I thought the whole outrageous affair couldn’t annoy me any more I read some of the comments to come out of the council’s burgeoning press office and from our elected members as they attempted to spin and defend the indefensible.

So as much as it would perhaps please the likes of council leader Ross Irving and the members of the nine-person human resources committee which approved this deal if myself and many, many Sentinel readers just let it lie, I feel there are a few things still worth saying before this sorry episode is swept under the carpet.

Firstly, I was struck by a quote from an unnamed council spokesman when details of the pay-out were first publicised.

He said: “In leaving now, Chris (Harman) has agreed to waive his notice in his current role, delivering a saving for the council.”

Hmmm. Or he could just have left, seeing as how he was so unhappy, and not taken any money from the taxpayers of Stoke-on-Trent.

Of course, no-one has yet answered the pretty straightforward question as to why Mr Harman was paid anything at all – given that it was him who decided to leave the authority.

According to that clever old political fox Mr Irving, the legal confidentiality (AKA a gagging clause) was necessary to prevent sensitive personal information about Mr Harman being made public.
How very convenient.

Mr Irving told fellow councillors: “The money paid to Mr Harman was nothing more than the entitlement under his contract.”

One wonders just how many Sentinel readers – or city council employees, for that matter – are enjoying the comfort of such marvellous contractual security in this harsh economic climate.

“I have enjoyed my time with Stoke-on-Trent and have made many new friends,” said Mr Harman, by way off signing off.

Yes, well don’t be expecting too many Christmas cards from the Potteries, old fruit.

How refreshing it would have been if Mr Irving et al had said “no” to any suggestion of a pay-out to a bloke who patently doesn’t deserve a bean having “had a cob on”, as we say around here, since he didn’t get the job he wanted.

However, I have long since lost faith in local politicians in positions of any real influence to stand up for taxpayers.

The fact is, no matter what fiascos The Sentinel uncovers, there is an elite tier of ludicrously overpaid senior officers within local government who don’t seem to care about the taxpayer and are bullet-proof – despite their eye-wateringly poor performances.

Indeed, one wonders what these people are being paid for at all when PR disasters like the Dimensions debacle and the sale of the council’s stake in the Britannia Stadium are allowed to happen in the first place.

I actually feel sorry for a few elected members who freely admit that they are better informed by their local newspaper as to what is going on at the Civic Centre than by the senior officers who are supposed to guide them.

Such officers may appear untouchable, but some councillors will hopefully find that voters have long memories and that their handling of Chris Harman’s departure hurts them at the polls.