Inside the system
Practise what you preach?
CHIEF EXECUTIVES of building societies which boast of their "mutual" status are grabbing handfuls of cash for themselves. These fat cats condemn people who seek windfall payouts, but take windfalls for themselves.
It is not just Nationwide chief Brian Davis, who hit the headlines for taking a 19 percent rise this year to 737,000 a year, who is pocketing vast amounts. Scott Bell of Standard Life, which has just defeated a move to demutualisation, saw his own pay leap by 29 percent last year to 740,000. Andrew Messenger of the much smaller West Bromwich Building Society, which has threatened to throw out hundreds of windfall-seeking members, received 248,000 last year.
Norwich & Peterborough building society gave new boss Matthew Bullock 209,000 and even David Roberts of the little Monmouthshire building society received 143,000. Christopher Rodrigues, boss of Bradford & Bingley, which is about to announce windfall payouts, has got in early. He took a 48 percent rise and now gets 654,000.
FIGURES FOR the royals' budget were released last week. Here are five facts you won't know about the parasites.
- The total budget for the royals last year was 37,813,000.
- Buckingham Palace has 58 bedrooms and 78 bathrooms.
- The budget for garden parties is 424,000.
- The budget for flowers is 30,000.
- The budget for carriage processions is 119,000.
What a ball
THE recent birthday party for royal hangers-on Frederick and Gabriella Windsor was no ordinary affair. Their parents, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, ordered guests to dress in pre French Revolution court costumes for the lavish celebration. Princess Michael herself went as Marie Antoinette complete with three-tier amber necklace.
The glittering audience included the three children of convicted Tory ex-minister Jonathan Aitken, Lady Annabel Goldsmith and newspaper owner Conrad Black. The Orangery at Kensington Palace was turned into a circus fantasyland for the night.
The walkway up to the main building was adorned with "living statues" and a camel was paraded around the garden. There were jugglers, fencers and four people dressed as birds of paradise. The champagne came in endless supply for the guests, served in gold-plated goblets. Miniature ponies pulled carts of food around. The cost, which of course we all pay for, was 100,000.
Whips' mercy tour
NEW LABOUR whips are touring the Commons taking MPs in marginal constituencies aside to counsel them on their career prospects because they believe they are bound to face defeat at the next election. The whips have drawn up a list of MPs' who they think will need help to find work after the election.
Together with junior ministers, the whips examine MPs' past careers and suggest possible jobs. Some MPs have been put in touch with the Industry and Parliament Trust, a cross-party group that links Westminster and business. A ministerial source told the Guardian that Labour believes its majority after the next election will be 50 or 60 instead of the present 179.
KEITH Skidmore was forced to quit his temporary job at a job centre in Evesham, Worcestershire, because there were not enough people without work in his town. But before he left he had to hand out application forms to people wanting his 10,000 a year post.
Now he is on benefits while embarrassed colleagues try to find him a job. If he had worked for just one more week he would have qualified for a full time post.
Tunnel collapse because of cuts
AS PREDICTED in last week's Inside the System, Balfour Beatty has made it onto the shortlist to bid for the London Underground privatisation contracts. This announcement came on the same day an official report said that concentration on cost savings rather than safety led to "one of the worst civil engineering disasters in the last 25 years".
The main company involved was Balfour Beatty. The Health and Safety Executive inquiry found that the collapse of the Heathrow Express tunnels during construction in 1994 had exposed the public and workers to "grave risk of injury".
It was only "by remarkable good fortune" that no individuals were hurt, said the report. Construction was carried out by Balfour Beatty using the "New Austrian Tunnelling Method" which meant spraying concrete onto the walls to make a tunnel.
Low pay boost
LABOUR controlled North Ayrshire council is boasting that people in the area are paid 12 percent less than those in other parts of Britain. The website called Invest in North Ayrshire describes the wage levels as one of the attractions for businesses looking to relocate in the unemployment black spot. Many of the firms which have come to the area are non-union, which helps to explain why the wages are lower.
ONE OF the biggest bonuses ever paid out in the City has gone to Brian Ashford-Russell of the Henderson Technology Investment Trust. He gets 6.3 million. This payout, 20,000 a day, comes on top of his salary.
Things they say
"SO IF you manage to get a quiet moment to yourself today, stop for a second and listen. The noise you hear is the sound of progress. It's the sound of a government working hard to give our older people a voice."
- JEFF ROOKER MP reporting on the Life Begins at 50 campaign's 1999 "Listening Event"
"THIS IS pretty obnoxious behaviour, to rule out any debate here on pensions."
- DELEGATE at the Labour Party National Policy Forum angry at the leadership's block on attempts to reinstate the state pension's link with earnings
"SEX education does not include any significant reference to sexual intercourse."
- Conclusion of EXETER UNIVERSITY report after a survey of 15 year olds
"NOT MUCH less evil than the killer of Stephen Lawrence."
- SIMON HEFFER, Daily Mail columnist, describing critics of police racism
"WE HAVE got to have you. We simply can't manage without you."
- Home secretary JACK STRAW asking Simon Heffer to be involved in the government's review of prison sentencing
"IS IT mint? It smells lovely."
- An MP passing the cannabis plants found growing in Parliament Square two months after the "guerrilla gardening" event on May Day
"SOMEONE who has no experience of the field is exactly what is needed."
- DOWNING STREET SOURCE defending the appointment of new "crime tsar" John Birt, the former BBC boss who retired on an annual pension of 130,000
"They could have stopped the genocide before it began. They knew exactly what was happening."
- STEPHEN LEWIS, one the authors of a report criticising the UN and Western governments' role in Rwanda