10 October 2010

Cars And Councils

In the UK, whenever a council buys a new car for the Mayor, a section of the community insist it must be a green Prius or a low cost car to reflect fiscal responsibility.

BBC Leicester recently reported that a union criticised Leicestershire County Council for leasing a new Jaguar despite needing to make cuts of £94m. The council is apparently leasing a diesel Jaguar for £13,000 a year to transport the chairman to civic events.
On the one side, Josie Nicholls from Unison, said it was disgraceful at a time when the council was having to make job cuts. Ms Nicholls said: "It's arrogance. It's saying 'we're more important' than home carers who are looking after vulnerable people or teaching assistants, who are low-paid and don't need a 'Jag' to do their work. In this period, it's wrong having vehicles such as this when people are losing their jobs."
The other point of view is from Nick Rushton, deputy leader of the council, who said it was essential to have a prestigious car for civic events. The article noted the council was 'Conservative-run'. Mr Rushton said the car replaced a petrol Jaguar and would save £11,000 a year on fuel. He said: "We've always had a car for civic and official engagements. A diesel Jaguar is not meant to be super posh. We do need a civic car for the head of the civic services for the county council. I'm proud that the head of our civic duties is conveyed around in a car that carries prestige."

So should those who attend civic functions turn up in a nice car, or an everyday hack? Will a nice car mean that carers for the aged and teaching assistance be thrown out of a job because of it? Clearly, wasting money that could be better spent is bad. All the same, someone with an important post undermines their position if they turn up in a Skoda. That is why company CEOs drive prestige cars. It does make a perceptional difference whether we like it or not. Buying a cheaper car wouldn't actually save much at all.

What it means to me: While I'm all for restraint when spending public money, purchasing a good car may be necessary when image is important.

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