Lesley Martin: How can 2 weeks’ work earn £57k?

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JUST when the country seems – almost – to be of one mind over the inappropriate timing of a salary hike for MPs, up pops another moral dilemma in the shape of Edinburgh City Council’s Chief Executive Sue Bruce.

Sue is already paid more than the First Minister. She collects £158,500 for running our council and anyone in the sector or even vaguely in the know, will say she thoroughly deserves it.

She’s hugely qualified with an exemplary track record and was the first public sector leader to get the Prince’s Ambassador in Scotland Award for “commitment to 
responsible business”.

We may not realise it but our local authority is the envy of others in Scotland, whether they admit it or not, because we have her at the helm.

The unions are upset, although senior councillors see no problem, with her acceptance of a second part-time job as non-executive director with energy firm SSE for which she is to receive £57,000.

It will mean her missing two weeks, or one and a half days a month, of council business, not enough of an absence to make the man or the woman in the street feel short-changed, especially as presumably she will remain in touch and informed about anything important going on at Edinburgh HQ.

So much for the positives. The glaring negative for a lot of people, me included, is that anyone, even someone as talented as she is, should be collecting that sort of money for two weeks’ work.

As with MPs’ pay, it’s not a matter of whether or not she’s worth it or whether SSE and their customers are prepared to pay for her.

But it is insensitive, some might say immoral, and an indication of the horrifying wealth gap in this country that, at a time when more and more people are using food banks in Edinburgh, so many are losing their homes through mortgage default, and some of the poorest are being penalised because they have a spare bedroom in their council house, a local authority boss can pick up £57,000 for a fortnight’s gig. That’s more than double the national average annual wage.

The unfairness of fat cat remuneration packages, including that of Lothian Buses’ Ian Craig which has already caused a stooshie, is becoming 
obscene – and confusing. For example, never ready to condone anything the Tory party does, I had to agree that a cap on family benefits of £26,000 a year was a good idea. What could possibly justify such a state hand-out, equivalent to gross earnings of £35,000? Those most affected it’s said – apart from Londoners where rent is ridiculous – would be“large” families. That’s not three, or four children but six, seven or ten.

Nominal Catholic though I am, having five or more children in this day and age is a lifestyle choice that has to be backed up with a handsome working salary – in the absence of which the best idea morally, socially and economically is to keep one’s legs crossed.

On the other hand, as we now know, £26,000 is equal to less than a week’s wages for a highly-paid public servant – who ironically is in charge of paying out those housing benefits – and has a wee extra job.

If you don’t ask you don’t get paid

PAUL Edie’s column last week about nuisance sales phone calls rang a bell with me. I’ve tried everything from denying I’m me, to asking if they have an appointment to speak to the lady of the house, to no avail.

The most astonishing result came when, invited to take part in another survey, I said if they wanted my information they could pay for it. I heard a mumbled “idiot!” as the caller disconnected – only to ring back ten minutes later asking me how much I wanted!

If it cools down I’ll be right as rain

WELL, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick of watering the garden every night. My make-up won’t stay on in the heat. My greyhound can’t lie out in the garden without getting uncomfortable and dehydrated. A good night’s sleep is a distant memory as the remorseless hot, sticky nights continue. I’m fed up with salad, the hot sun is curling the paint off the garage and the office is like a furnace. I haven’t quite mastered the art of rain dancing, but I’m working on it.

Find happy medium

AFTER its eighth consecutive decline in fashion sales Marks & Spencer has rediscovered sleeves. Now if it can just get back to filling the gap between on-trend stuff for skinny 20s and granny’s elasticated slacks, it could be on to a winner.

Competition with English is ingrained

ALEX SALMOND and Andy Murray have found common ground thanks to the critics who made such a hue and cry about Eck waving the Saltire at Wimbledon (tres amusingly, behind David Cameron’s head). Andy knows what it’s like to fall foul of the small-minded when he dared to make a casual joke about not supporting the English football team. The sour-pusses went on about it for years. Judging from the Wimbledon outcry – which is still dragging on – you’d think Alex had been waving a nude picture of the Queen. We’re Scottish. We may like English people but national competition with them is ingrained in our DNA. The only way to avoid that is to emigrate.